Saints Cricket: preview of the upcoming season

As the temperatures once again plummet towards the typical Scottish frigidity, the time for that most summery of sports is nearly upon us. After six months of indoor practice and maybe even a smidge of fitness in the gym, the BUCS Cricket season is finally at hand. With four BUCS teams across the men’s and women’s leagues, and nearly 70 members, St Andrews cricket has never been in a stronger position going into a BUCS season. So, team by team, lets see what the season has to hold:

Men’s first XI

The highest ranked of all teams in the cricket club, the Men’s fist XI came within one victory of winning BUCS North A last season, which would have resulted in a trip to the National Finals and potential promotion to the National league, where they would have faced the likes of Cambridge’s and Oxford’s MCCUs. A thrilling campaign to watch on the field, the highlight has to be the one wicket victory over Loughborough on a C1 which played more like Faisalabad than Fife.   

Under the new leadership of captain Ben Kempley, a new professionalism has been brought to training, guided by Scottish International wicketkeeper-batsman Craig Wallace, as the club pushes for performance status in the AU. The attack remains very spin dominated, with the likes of Henry Portman, Alex Sachak and James Earnshaw (upon his return from a wrist injury) likely to bowl a large portion of the side’s overs, while fresher Garmon Dyfri brings pace which should help run through batting lineups on the flatter English decks. In the batting department, the losses of opener Caspar Everett and middle order hitter Jacques Sharam may prove to be big, but proven names such as Shujaa Khan and Tom Simpson will hope to step up to fill in those much needed runs.

Captain’s Report: Ben Kempley

“Having scouted some exciting first year and post-graduate talent, maximised our newly-gained access to the Performance Suite and S&C training, and been coached since September by the Scottish international Craig Wallace, the first XI are hoping to become the first Scottish university to win BUCS Northern Prem A. We’ve enjoyed a pre-season tour to Barbados, have an upcoming warm-up fixture against Highlanders, and are ready for our opening fixture against Durham on 24 April. Keep a keen eye out for our progress and results in The Saint!”  

One to watch: Cameron Fyfe

An unassuming batsman at the crease, Fyfe leaves no one in doubt of his talent as soon as the ball is bowled. A top score of 66* in his Saint’s debut against Edinburgh in this year’s varsity game showed all watching why he has represented Durham at the u-19s level. Look for him to score many, many runs this season, particularly in the season opener back on home turf in Durham.

Men’s second XI

As reigning BUCS Scots 1A champions, the Men’s twos are looking for another season of domination in Scotland. The graduation of veteran keeper-batsman James Crooks leaves a gaping hole in the middle order, but the likes of captain Loyd Horner, returning former skipper Tom Hales and fresher Max James will look to provide the necessary runs, and, in the case of the latter, glovework, to replace the experienced Kiwi. Similarly to the Men’s ones, the attack is largely spin dominated, with Hales, Milo Skelton and outgoing Men’s president Matt Watson on hand to provide with both bat and ball. That’s not to say that the pacemen are anything approaching mugs, with Seb Reed and Chrissy White’s pace combining with Ed Preston-Bell’s and captain Horner’s consistency to provide a well-rounded attack. Look for them to be once again challenging for the league title.  

Captain’s Report: Loyd Horner

“Despite a number of second XI stalwarts graduating last year we still have a multitude of club legends spread through the team, there’s certainly no lack of experience of Scottish uni cricket in the team. I expect the likes of Hales, Portig, Watson and Preston-Bell to use their cumulative 18 years of second XI cricket to step up and score the runs and take the wickets needed to retain our title. Saying that, we also have an exciting group of freshers desperate for some C2 action and I’m excited to see how they fare this year. A win against the threes should see the season start positively come 24 April.”

One to watch: Seb Reed

Reed is somewhat of a stereotypical Aussie cricketer, bowling heat with the ball and smoking sixes with the bat. His appointment to the position of social secretary for the past year says everything you need to know about his importance to the team culture. Of him, captain Horner says “Criminally under-utilised last year under the Portig regime, Aussie Seb Reed is my player to watch. When not playing frisbee he bowls a heavy ball and hits a long one, could be described as a beta Marcus Stoinis. Not the most cultured of cricketers but Seb could certainly be a match-winner for the second XI. Go well champ!”

Men’s third XI

Now in the third year of its current incarnation, the third XI comes off the back of an unbeaten league season to achieve promotion from Scots 2A to join the twos in Scots 1A. The fact that only two league games were actually played due to the vagaries of a congested BUCS season is irrelevant; this is a side that, while not being the most talented players in the club, put in as much time and effort as anyone, a mindset instilled by outgoing captain Alex Haines and continued by this year’s appointment Henry Ford. A batting unit led by the likes of Dan Armstrong, Tom Fines and Harry Dean has been drilled throughout the winter by coaches James Earnshaw and James Crooks and is well complemented by an usually pace-dominated attack for the club, with Haines, Adam Elliott and fresher Lachlan Rigby leading the way with the ball. As newcomers to the league, avoiding the drop could see scenes reminiscent of the league win last season. For details, do ask Mr Haines what he remembers…

Captain’s Report: Henry Ford

“This season in 1A will be the toughest challenge the threes have faced yet. We won a hard-earned promotion last year after going undefeated, but we are aware of the task that lies in front of us: from the outset, we knew we were up against high-quality teams, including our own second XI.  

Nevertheless, our main objective for this season is to stay in 1A as this is a fair reflection of the talent and cricketing ability we have as a team. From September the squad has trained extremely hard, developing a positive work ethic. We are working to be in the best position going into this season and are excited to get stuck into our first warm-up fixtures in mid-April.”

One to watch: Rob Spedding

One of the few men in the third XI who’s batting technique might be described as elegant, Spedding will play an attacking role in the early middle order to complement the more, shall we say, dogged approaches of those batting around him. With the ball, he provides more than competent part-time off-spin bowling, much needed in a threes side which is potentially a frontline spinner light. Ford agrees, saying “Since he came to the side he’s looked in excellent form, and a really solid batsman who will be a major part of the club in seasons to come.”

Women’s first XI

With the women’s club having doubled in membership in a year, the one and only women’s BUCS team has a glut of talent to choose from this season. Reigning champions of the Northern 1A league, the side were just two Edinburgh wickets away from promotion at the end of last season. A side dominated by all-rounders, this is a team on the up and up, with the majority of players now going into just their third year of competitive hard-ball cricket. Look for captain Justine Blake to take control at the top of the order, with able support down the order from the likes of Sophie Taylor, Kelly Varnell and Vi Komedova. With the ball, the pace of Carys Sheard and Grace Taylor should trouble many a batter, with the spin of Jess Leach and Libby Hawkins crucial on slow Scottish pitches.

Captain’s Report: Justine Blake

The Women’s team has grown a lot in the past year, with our club more than doubling in numbers of members. As such we aim to increase our successes in our league this year. As a team we have high ambitions of becoming champions of the Northern 1A BUCS league whilst also producing consistent performances with respect to our fielding and bowling figures. We have a huge range of batters this year and so our goal is to produce higher average totals as well as have runs scored throughout our entire innings and not just by a select few.

One to watch: Dhruvi Shah   

A fresher, Dhruvi immediately impressed on arrival in St Andrews. As is typical for the women’s side, she is talented with both bat and ball, bowling medium pace with consistency up there with the best in the club. With the bat, she shows a defensive technique tailor made for the top of the order, and her dogged determination to keep her wicket intact is up there with the likes of Sir Alastair Cook. Look to see her anchoring many an innings for the women’s side this year and for many years to come.  

So those are all the BUCS sides that will be competing this season, but that is far from all the cricket taking place in St Andrews. The men’s Development XI is travelling all over Scotland, while the Staff and Postgraduate Club will hope to continue its fantastic performances over the summer. It promises to be a bumper year for cricket in St Andrews.

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