The 1986 season saw the Club competing in The Devon Cricket League ‘D’ Division, but it was not to be a particularly good year for the side. Of the eighteen fixtures played, eight were outright wins, three ended in losing draws, five as outright defeats and two fixtures were weather ruined. One of those, at home to Chelston didn’t see a ball bowled and the other, also at home, against Feniton was abandoned during the innings, before tea.
The League season started on Saturday May 3rd with a trip to Feniton, and if the season had carried on as that first game ended then it would have been one of record breaking proportions! That first day we batted first posting 170-7. There was a debut from Martin Sutton who had joined the side from neighbours Thorverton and he struck a faultless half century.
Robert Acton got stuck into the bowling in his usual style and hit a quick fire 37 and Derrick Foan chipped in with 21 before being run out. That score was not considered a winning one at tea time but boy did things happen after tea as the two Pauls, Nott and Freeman tore into the home batsmen and sent them all back to the pavilion for just 38!
Paul ‘peanut’ Nott had 3-15 and Freeman 6-17, whilst during the rout the first catch of the League season was taken by Derrick Foan as the side returned to Bradninch with a 132 run victory.
The side travelled again the following week to Kingsbridge, with the home side batting first and totalling 200-8 in some dreadfully windy conditions. Indeed at times the wind was gale force and the air temperature decidedly cold. The home target was too much for Bradninch as the weather worsened and it was thanks to a resilient Mike Foan innings who ended unbeaten after a long stay at the crease for 22. Denis Godley had earlier made an impressive debut for the Club taking 2-31with the ball, and there were also a couple of wickets each for the previous week’s bowling heroes, Paul Nott and Paul Freeman.
The third match clashed with the showing in the Club of the FA Cup Final, and to be fair most of the players did want to watch the match and so they could as the weather came in and the game never saw a ball bowled!
Game number 4 of the 1986 season was probably the one game of that season that will remain in the memory of those involved, but not for the action out in the middle. The fixture at Shobrooke Park clashed with the marriage of Brigette Nott and Chris Acton, and a large number of the Club’s playing staff were invited to the wedding. Whilst they were all making merry at a superb reception, a ‘weakened’ team took to the field. Once again Martin Sutton led the line well, the opener top scored with 44 but sadly no other batsman got into double figures and there were no less than four ducks!
Mind you that was fitting. The amount of ducks for the game was halted at one stage for players to see a ‘whale’ swimming in the Shobrooke Lake, an overspill from the wedding reception, Bradninch’s 84 was never going to win the game though Denis Godley did his best to keep hopes alive. He took 3-13 but the home side won with five wickets to spare.
Seven days later the side returned to winning ways, entertaining Okehampton, and dismissing them for just 95 with Tony Haynes making a tremendous debut taking 5-37, and then John Freeman hit a superb unbeaten 46 to see the home side home by five wickets.
On June 7th the side travelled to Lydford and recorded another fine victory. The home side batted first and once again Tony Haynes was at his best, nipping out seven batsmen to return figures of 7-31. In reply, despite losing John Freeman for a duck, the remainder of the batsmen played their part, in particular Mike Foan, who stuck around with great resilience for the second time in three weeks as he scored an unbeaten 21 supported well by Simon Bailey who had the second best knock with 16.
With two successive victories ‘in the bank’ it was a visit from Totnes next and hopes were high for another win. The visitors batted first scoring 162 all out. Paul Nott grabbed the bowling honours with a tremendous haul of six wickets from a hostile fourteen overs for figures of 6-40, whilst left arm spinner John Wykes turned his arm over for the first time in the season and took 4-42 in 11 overs. In reply there was a solid start from Martin Sutton and John Freeman who put on 69 at three runs an over before Freeman departed for 23. Sutton passed his half century but there followed a middle order collapse as five wickets fell as thirty runs were added. At the start of the last over with skipper Simon Bailey still at the crease having tried to hold things together – hope sprang eternal, but in that last over, there were two run outs and even a losing draw was lost as the side slumped to defeat.
A week later and another thriller, this time at Ashburton where the home side put Bradninch in and then dismissed their visitors for a paltry 81. Indeed had it not been for a superb last wicket stand between John Wykes (not out 9) and Paul Freeman (14) then things would have been much, much worse. As it was that 81 proved to be a match winning score as Tony Haynes took a ‘seven for’ haul for the second time in the season. He finished with 7-23 in 15.2 overs as Totnes were blown away for 59 proving just how vital that Wykes/Freeman last wicket stand had been.
Bottom side St. Marychurch were the next opponents and they travelled to Bradninch to face the might of Tony Haynes, and once again the pace man ‘hit wood’ taking 3-21 and there were a couple of wickets for both Chris Acton and Paul Freeman. The visitors were shot out for 57. It was then down to unbeaten knocks from Simon Bailey (17) and John Freeman (16) as an eight wicket win took Bradninch right into the thick of the promotion picture.
Saturday July 5th saw Kingsbridge as the visitors and with Haynes absent, Bradninch could not dismiss the opposition. Denis Godley 3-19 and Colin Fildew 2-48 were the only bowlers to success as the visitors closed on 185-6; Paul Nott suffering an injury that prevented him from bowling. John McKinnel making a first appearance of the season scored a typically elegant 32 and Mike Foan a solid 26 but the home side failed to get anywhere near the required amount despite Rob Acton crashing one enormous six in a brief fling of 17. So it was left to bowlers Godley and Fildew to shut up shop and take the losing draw.
In the next match rain played a major part in proceedings. Bradninch batted first and totalled 155-7 when the heavens opened at tea and denied any further action. In that 155 Simon Bailey top scored with 45, Derrick Foan 40, and the pair put on 77 for the third wicket. Later in the innings Paul Nott added a useful 20, but then came the rain.
Having been denied the chance to take precious points off promotion rivals Feniton with the intervention of rain a week previously, a trip to Chelston next and points were vital. Batting first, Bradninch tabled 175 with Derrick Foan top scoring, a superb 70 from his bat. Another 50 from John Freeman and together the pair added 87 for the second wicket. Chelston had little desire to chase the runs and indeed had little answer to the spin of John Wykes who bowled a 14 over spell and returned excellent match winning figures of 5-54. With Paul Nott’s injured shoulder still keeping him out of the bowling attack, it was left to Chris Acton to take the opening spell – a job he did very well with 2-21 in 14 overs.
Next opponents were Shobrooke Park, one of the Division’s bottom clubs and on paper, at least, this fixture should have not caused too much alarm for Bradninch who were now engaged in a full on drive towards promotion. The visitors batted first and posted 157. Paul Freeman took 3-24 but Paul Nott led the bowling honours on his return from injury with a fiery spell that earned him figures of 4-21 as inside 34 overs the hosts were shot out, but that target of 157 proved too much to Bradninch who would surely have lost the game but for a tremendous fighting knock from Pete Hardy whose unbeaten 24 meant Bradninch earned a losing draw closing on 125-9.
With just five matches to play it was crystal clear that nothing other than a winning run through to the season’s conclusion would bring the desired promotion and it would be fair to say that the forthcoming fixtures gave the Club every chance of making it. Okehampton provided the first hurdle, batting first they were bundled out for 109 with Paul Freeman and Chris Acton both claiming three wickets and there were two for Paul Nott, and one for Colin Fildew. In reply Bradninch looked to be in big trouble with the Foan brothers Derrick and Mike both back in the pavilion – both with ducks! But from a desperate 59-5, debutant Mike Butler and Chris Acton, the latter batting at number seven, swung things round and just one more wicket was lost as victory was won. Butler scored 46 and only ended with victory in sight, Acton was unbeaten on 28.
Lydford visited Bradninch next. This was a vital promotion head to head. Batting first Bradninch crashed to a horrible 25 for 5 and then 48 for 6 before Bill Wells took centre stage. He struck five fours and two sixes in an unbeaten knock of 62. Paul Nott struck a sweet 22 before being given out to a disputed catch and Pete Hardy played his part in a fighting eighth wicket stand with Wells, which realised 39 runs as the innings closed on 140. In reply Lydford were never really in trouble. Paul Nott took 2-19 in nine typically aggressive overs but not one bowler could inflict too much damage on Lydford who cruised home with five wickets to spare to inflict terminal damage on the Bradninch promotion bid.
Next up was Totnes and after the previous week’s defeat it was a case of ‘win or bust’. Batting first Totnes were looking in trouble on 127-7 and the situation looked rosy for Bradninch but then the home side plundered 45 runs from the final five overs to leave Bradninch needing 163 to secure a vital win. In reply after the early double blow of losing both the Foans, Derrick and Mike, a 56 run partnership between Mike Butler and Dave Richards gave the visitors hope. Indeed Butler batted to within a single blow of a maiden half century for the club and after the game, took a lot of stick for what was being called ‘jug evasion’. Once both Butler and Richards had gone whilst the run chase still gave hope, wickets continued to fall. The last four of them for just seven runs and for the second time in three weeks defeat had been snatched from the jaws of victory and the promotion bid was in tatters.
The penultimate game of the season was a bizarre affair, played in continual drizzle. Visitors Ashburton were put in on a miserable Bradninch afternoon and were dismissed for 58 after 41 painstaking overs! There was never any doubt that Bradninch would record a victory but the closing overs of the game were played in heavy rain, Mike Butler with 20 and John Freeman with 15 set the foundations whilst Derrick Foan and Paul Nott saw the side safely home after just 21 overs. Earlier Chris Acton had 3-21, and there were a couple of wickets each for Paul Nott, Paul Freeman and skipper Simon Bailey. Sadly, even with that convincing win under their belts, news that promotion rivals Kingsbridge, Feniton and Lydford had all recorded good hauls of points made it clear that only a minor miracle on the last Saturday of the season would see Bradninch earn that coveted promotion place.
However, in the knowledge that ‘miracles do happen’ Simon Bailey travelled to last day opponents and wooden spoonists St. Marychurch, determined to end the season with a win. It should have been a comfortable game and looked like being so when the home side were all out for ‘nelson’ 111 but that figure was to prove a match winning one as Bradninch surrendered to 81 all out, despite some lusty blows from John Wingrove (13) and Richard Letchford – these two being the only Bradninch batsmen to score into double figures and the season’s final game ended in a most inglorious defeat.
Post mortems for the 1986 failed promotion bid, point to the fact that 30 different players were used in the campaign, far too many for a settled side to establish itself. The loss of key players at crucial times proved terminal. Had both Martin Sutton and Tony Haynes been available right through the season then surely promotion would have been a formality? However the averages point to another problem, not one player managed to pass 250 runs. Indeed only three managed to get past 200 and so it was to be another season that ended most unlike the way it had begun.