The 1981 season was anything but glorious. Indeed during the season not once but TWICE the 1st XI scorecard read ‘highest scorer – extras’, the side’s season in The North East Devon League got off to the worst possible start, a six match losing run! The season though began with a win, in the 18 overs of 8 ball competition BROSSLEY HOMES KNOCK OUT CUP when thanks to Gary Newall’s top score of 19 in a team total of 82-9 we got home by the slimmest of margins, on fewer wickets lost with a last ball success over Thorverton, Tim Dewes taking 2-5 to put us into the next round and a game against Tiverton Heathcoat.
Before that Cup Tie the League campaign began with a crushing defeat at the hands of Alphington who bowled us all out for 70 and then got the required runs for the loss of just four wickets, again that man Dewes starred, this time as top scoring batsman and Roger Miles topped the bowling honours with 2-17. Next up was the local derby match with Cullompton in another 18 overs of 8 ball match and again we were involved in a thriller going down by just seven runs, John Freeman top scoring with 24, Tim Dewes taking 3-10.
The first touring side to visit Bradninch that season, Wibbandune, saw us a win a twenty over game. Mike Foan hit 64 as we closed on 126-4 and then Francis Baker topped the bowling with 2-4.
Another friendly followed, Manaton being the visitors and Bradninch were shot out for just 16, YES, SIXTEEN, with the top scorer being extras with 7, the game was over quickly, very quickly, despite Dave Mitchell’s 1-4.
Braunton provided league opposition next and the poor form continued, we were shot out for 71, Mike Foan top scoring with 23 and then John Wingrove took 3-20 as we were beaten by seven wickets.
Next up was the second round of the Brossley Home Cup and Tiverton Heathcoat gave us a savage beating, scoring 140-5, (Gary Newall taking 3-31 ) and then reducing us to 76-7, Derrick Foan top scoring with 16.
This little losing run was now past three games but it was about to get a lot worse. Kilmington thrashed us in a friendly, they made 226-3 (Steve Birley 2-66) and then rolled us over for 102, (Gary Newall 37) and defeat number five in the run came courtesy of a six wicket league defeat at the hands of Braunton who held us up at 159-6, a typically fluent 68 from Jonathan McKinnel, and then got the runs for the loss of four wickets despite the efforts of Charles Low with 3-27.
Dave Mitchell top scored in the next game, against Stoke Vale, ‘Mitch’ scoring 25 and then Steve Birley took 3-34 as we slumped to a 5 wicket defeat having set the visitors a paltry 62 to win!
Ten games gone, two wins and eight defeats, and it kept on getting worse. Next up was a rain affected League game reduced to 30 overs each. We managed 94-8 thanks mainly to John McKinnel’s 43 but Nondescripts topped that losing just 2 wickets, both taken by John Wingrove in figures of 2-55.
Filleigh gave us a pasting next in a friendly after racking up 199-7 (Roy Nott 2-26) they then had us all back in the pavilion for 66 with Steve Birley top scoring on 22.
Back to back league defeats followed, first against Bideford who scored 148-7 (Roger Miles 3-30) and then knocked us over for 90 with Mike Foan top scoring on 28 and then despite John Freeman’s 49 (a little jug evasion there perhaps!) and Roger Miles 5-62 we suffered yet another defeat but got oh so close to that first success for after scoring 137-7 Alphington beat us in the last over with 138-9, but that elusive first win was on the way and it duly arrived in the very next game against Victoria Park who were bowled out for 108 thanks in part to John Wingrove’s 4-38 and with John McKinnel hitting an unbeaten 48 we got home with seven wickets to spare and tasted the sweet taste of success after a run of eleven successive defeats in the various competitions and friendly matches that we had played.
Next up on the cricket agenda for 1981 was the HAMPSHIRE & DORSET TOUR a four match tour that saw not too many wins on the cricket field but many a boat race win in the bar afterwards and if that touring side can claim to have been good at anything it was in the drinking stakes!!
But we were there for the cricket and duly won the opening game of the tour. We scored 122-7 thanks to Paul Nott top scoring with 33 and the Michael Birley taking 2-7 to reduce Minstead to 102 all out. Match number two was against Burridge. They scored 167-5, Steve Birley taking 2-38 and then Bradninch replied with 140 all out. Guest Rob Turner top scoring with 39, a Gary Newall knock of 74, the Club’s highest individual score of the season to date, was the highlight of tour match three, this one at Flamingoes, we scored 133-9 but lost by four wickets despite Paul Nott’s 2-54 and in the final match of the tour, at Witchampton, Paul Nott hit 54 as we totalled 160-4 but the hosts got home with seven wickets to spare, (Steve Birley 1-33).
Back in Bradninch ‘post tour’ but no signs of alcoholic or cricketing fatigue in the very next match, a league game against Raleigh who made 150-7, John Wingrove 2-20, then John Freeman’s unbeaten 47 got us home by a single wicket and winning became a habit as we won the next two games.
First a John Freeman 48 gave us a single wicket win against Galmpton after Eddie Andress had a ‘five for’ 5-26 putting the visitors back in the pavilion for 116, and then Cullompton were beaten in a league game by a seven wicket margin. Roger Miles had 3-52 as Cullompton were dismissed for 122 and then John McKinnel again delivered the goods with the bat and top scored with an unbeaten 73, but the winning habit then stopped abruptly and we lost the next five games on the bounce.
Ealing Wanderers, a regular touring outfit to visit Bradninch were bowled out for 131. Steve Birley with 3-41 and then Mike Foan’s 26 saw us get close, but not close enough as we closed on 108.
Chichester next and they scored 184-7. Roger Miles taking 3-66 but then we were rolled over for just 81 with M Boyle top scoring on 19.
In the next game EXTRAS WAS THE TOP SCORER on a Bradninch batting card for the second time in the season. A friendly against Ottery St. Mary saw them score 221-1, Roger Miles claiming the sole wicket to fall, at a cost of 102! And then we were quickly all back in the pavilion for 51 to suffer a 171 run defeat.
It did not get any better when we then met Dawlish who scored 89-8, P. Brown with 3-4 in that game but then we were shot out for 82 to lose by seven runs John McKinnel top scoring in this game with 25.
A ten wicket defeat next, in league action against Braunton who rolled us over for 123, Dominic Cox top scoring with 27 and Braunton raced to a ten wicket win, but another long run of defeats ended with a visit from touring side, Old Coulsdons as their 75 all out saw Charles Low return the season’s best bowling performance with 7-26 and then John McKinnel top scored with an unbeaten 43 as we won by seven wickets.
McKinnel top scored also in the next game, his 68 not out seeing us to a six wicket friendly win over Countess Wear after another Charles Low haul. 3-29 had seen the Exeter side all out for 116.
A mid-week friendly next, against The National Trust and Neil Chambers top scored with 34 and took 1-2 as the Trust posted 71-5 and we got home for the loss of three wickets.
Stoke Canon were literally shot out by Roger Miles in the next match as Roger took 6-17 and the Stoke men were out for just 36, Gary Newall hit an unbeaten 23 as we got home by eight wickets.
As the season drew to a close we suffered yet another heavy League defeat, this time to Sandford who had us all out for 52 (Gary Newall 22), John Wingrove (1-18) took the only wicket to fall as Sandford won but the next match, another league fixture saw a rare win, by six wickets and most satisfyingly against neighbours Cullompton, they made 178-6 with Paul Nott taking 4-30 and then Dominic Cox hit a season’s top score of 75 not out, to see us to a six wicket win.
Whitmore provided friendly opposition next and scored 125-9, Roger Miles returning 6-26 and George Retter then top scored with 36 as we were bowled out for 92. Next up was the final league game, against Thorverton and it saw us win by six wickets. Roger Miles took 4-48 as we restricted them to 174-8 and a John McKinnel 52 led us home with six wickets to spare, and the curtain came down on a thoroughly forgettable year with a game against Honiton RBL, batting first we made 136-9, Mike Foan top scoring with 54 and then Paul Nott took 2-6 but the Honiton RBL side did what so many other teams had done that season, beat us, this time we lost by four wickets.
So there we have it, 1981 what a year. 36 1st XI matches, 13 won but 23 lost. No one hit a ton and there were not too many half centuries but at least some ‘youngsters’ began to come through, John McKinnel, Paul Nott, Gary Newall to name but three whilst the more experienced campaigners, Eddie Andress, John Wingrove, George Retter and John Freeman, oh yes and of course the Foan brothers Derrick and Mike played their parts at various spells. Perhaps the greatest single memory of the summer of ’81 will be that tour, now that was fun!