The 2013 season presented a new challenge to the young Reed 1XI after the highly successful 2012 campaign. This was a return to life in Herts Division One for the club after four seasons of consolidation and gradual progression in Division Two to make the necessary steps to make the top two in that league (never an easy task).

For one reason or another, the pre-season preparations were not as strong as they had been in previous years, but despite this things got off to a positive start. One player who certainly hit the ground running was key all rounder Tom Greaves who scored two important fifties in the first two games, that saw us unlucky to be rained off when in control of the game against Luton Town and complete an excellent run chase against Flitwick (with five sixes in a row!) to put us top of the league two games in. A disappointing defeat at Old Finchleians followed with poor preparation not helping our chances, but the right response came in bowling out Hitchin for 98 at Reed and then comfortably beating St Albans to sit nicely in the top three after five games.

In amongst the opening games, despite comfortably seeing off Eaton Bray, the National Village Cup defence didn’t last long due to the only really poor all round display I can remember from the 1XI in the last 2 seasons away at Wheathampstead.

Returning to the Division One campaign, we were unfortunate to be rained off at Ampthill when we had them 28-2 and then to lose the toss to Totteridge Milhillians on a wet day which made it hard for our bowlers against a good batting side. Although we showed some character with the bat with Jack Tidey and Ed Garrott almost seeing us to 200, we lost ground on the leaders. Following this we then had a string of 4 games where we batted well but lacked some luck and perhaps at times quite the right intensity or penetration needed to grind out the wins at this new level. However, we were generally performing admirably against good sides.

When it seemed the season was heading towards one of commendable consolidation at a new level, we then picked up our form again and strung four wins together to go 2nd with 3 games to go. This run included demolishing Old Finchleians at Reed, a memorable run chase at Hitchin (a must win having put them in) and defeats of St Albans and Ampthill. A massive game against Totteridge was then rained off so we needed one win and a good draw in the last 2 games to go up. Unfortunately the Hertford game was always going to be difficult to win, particularly when Captain Gale found his best form and we were on the wrong end of

umpiring decisions for the 2nd game time against the league leaders. This set things up for a must win game against a rejuvenated Langleybury which was always going to be a big challenge with them fighting for survival and having added a few players to their side that we played at Reed. So it proved and we narrowly missed out on the run chase.

Individually, with the bat, Chris Jackson, Stuart Smith and myself averaged in the 40s whilst Tom Greaves, Joe Curk and William Heslam averaged in and around 30. Many others also made very important contributions at key times. With the ball Tom Greaves led the way with 44 wickets followed by Jack Tidey and Mitchell Cooper with 26 and 17 respectively. Jack and Tom also recorded the stand out bowling averages around the 20 mark. Rupert Martin, Lee Johnson, Bernie Morss and Joe Curk also produced important bowling contributions across different periods of the season and it was good to see Toby Fynn look at home making his 1XI league debut.

Overall, on reflection, with a bit more luck we could have finished 2nd and the boys can be proud of their efforts last season to get so close to promotion in our 1st season back in Division One. With many young players in the side, the experiences of last year can only have helped them (and us all) to develop and understand what is required to be successful at this level of cricket.

Also, significantly, we now know the best bit of news for the 1XI since the position we were in with 3 games to go last season. The breakaway of Hertfordshire clubs from the Home Counties Premier League means our eventual 3rd position is in effect a promotion winning one. We have secured a place in the newly formed “Hertfordshire Championship” which is a great achievement for the club and it means for the first time Reed CC will be playing Premier League format cricket including a mixture of the all day style matches and 50/50 power play matches designed to develop top level cricketers.

So….here’s to what will no doubt be a highly challenging but very exciting 2014 campaign!

It would also be nice to have another (better!) pop at the National Village Cup and a return to Lords, Marriott Hotel, Sky Sports News, Tailor-made suits etc!!