The Twickenham CC 5ths went in to the 2019 campaign in a new league and with a new skipper. The 1987 League (may it rest in peace) had passed on as all its member clubs joined the Middlesex County Cricket League (MCCL) en masse. The 5ths subsequently found themselves facing a new challenge in the newly configured Division 6B.
May the 1987 League rest in peace
One of the main attractions of re-organising Middlesex cricket was that divisions for the 4s and 5s could be regionalised. The hope was that fewer hours lost on the North Circular might lead to more people turning out to play.
It's probably too early to pass definitive judgement on the success or otherwise of that, but games were still cancelled (although not by Twickenham, it must be said) and at times it was still very difficult to get 55 players out on the field (that definitely did apply at Twickenham!). A last day postponement by Wembley 5s was a particular disappointment, largely as it came so late in the day. That certainly wasn't the way that the 5ths wanted to end their campaign. Maybe it would have been worse in the 1987 League, but it's clear that cricket's participation problem is certainly *not* just down to having to travel a bit farther to away games.
Even with regionalistion, you have to feel a bit for one of the sides in Division 6B in particular. On account of where they finished in 2018 Winchmore Hill 4s were placed in Division 6A. That meant that their fives couldn't be placed in the same division; regionalisation or no regionalisation, Winchmore Hill 5s had to go in the 'other' Division 6. That meant schleps of a significant order for the Hill and fair play to them for getting through the season without cancelling too many games.
Hats off to Chris Wylde
The Ts finished 6th (see here). On the face of it, that is a decent performance. Availability shocks are always going to hit the 5s hardest, but skipper Chris Wylde made getting sides out every a week a question of honour. That included that long trek to Winchmore Hill at the height of the holiday season (Week 16). The 5s lost at the Paulin Ground that day, but they definitely did so by doing things the right way.
One of Wylde's key aims for the start of the season was to get a core group of players together who'd play more or less every week. That in turn helped generate a fantastic team spirit and a real feel-good factor around the side. Kev Cavilla, fresh from playing in week 17 against eventual champions Kensington & Chelsea, was quick to point that out on a recent episode of the TCC podcast that "the fifths have really got it right. They don't take themselves too seriously, but they play for each other". Respect due to the skipper for helping generate that.
Donelan and Harmeet stand out
On the field, the Ts also showed that on their day they could be a real force to be reckoned with. K & C, for example, won the league, but they were well beaten by the Ts on 29 June. Andy Donelan (35no) batted through as the Ts chased down 157 following an excellent spell of bowling by the rejuvenated Harmeet Singh (5-53).
Indeed, Donelan and Singh - two stalwarts of the TCC scene - both enjoyed their best seasons for a long time. Donelan lead the batting statistics with 415 runs at 34.5 whilst Singh was the bowling starlet with 32 wickets at 15.7. Impressive consistency.
Others also made important contributions. Anil Bhatt would have taken more than the 15 league wickets than he did had he not been called up to play in the 4s. It was nonetheless with the bat that the Ts showed most consistency; Jonty Hunt's 298 runs helped him form an impressive opening partnership with Donelan, whilst Jon Bosier scored 200 plus runs at a rate of knots.
Onwards and upwards
"The 5s as a side showed great commitment and spirit" commented Wylde to Sky Sports when asked for his thoughts on the season late on Saturday night. "I was a bit frustrated that a number of tight games ended up not going our way, but we should actually use that as a positive moving forward. We were always competitive and with a bit more luck next year we may be able to push for a place near the top of the table".
All in all, the 5ths did the club proud.