Great Waltham CC – The 1990s

Great Waltham CC enjoyed some of its greatest success in the Mid-Essex League in the 1990’s with three titles coming in the last four seasons.

There hadn’t been any strong indication at the start of the decade that this would be good period for the club. Waltham had lost an integral figure following the untimely death of Bruce Harman; remembered fondly each year through the Harman Memorial Shield match. Meanwhile, Ollie Hopkins was forced to retire, but was thankfully able to channel his enthusiasm for the game as a respected league umpire. Despite the captain Martin Broome moving out of the county in 1994, there remained a nucleus of player s from the 1980s; five of whom grew up in the village - Jim Young, Neil Harman, Mark Chapman, Stuart Reeve and Graham Reeve. The team had been bolstered during this period by the arrival of Phil Whettell , Graham Barber, Gary Bloom and Paul Allen from Langford and the emergence of teenager Chris White.

By the start of the 1995 season, wicketkeeper Rohan Horner and all-rounder Calvin Shaw completed what would prove to be a formidable squad to be led by Phil Whettell.

 The First XI - 1995

That summer started in phenomenal fashion with only one defeat in the opening nine games. Gary Bloom, who had converted from a bowling all-rounder into a leading opening batsman, struck 112 in a 61-run win at Writtle in week one. A devastating spell of 6-23 by Mark Chapman led to a six-run success over Great Baddow and a two-run loss to Old Chelmsfordians on May 20th in week three would prove tobe the last defeat for 11 weeks . Wins over Hatfield Peverel , Little Waltham and South Weald followed, but it was victories over the two dominant teams of the period, Galleywood and Stock, which served notice the squad’s potential . Stuart Reeve had abandoned seam bowling in favour of off-spin to good effect this summer, but it was with the bat that he was to prove decisive at home to Galleywood . With three runs needed off three balls and only one wicket remaining, Reeve struck a six to the relief of his team-mates, and especially non-striker Jim Young, who had earlier returned the frugal figures of 11-5-10-2. The 75-run victory at Stock came after Waltham recovered from 98 for 5 in the 25th over to 286 for 6 thanks to Calvin Shaw (88), Neil Harman (58no) and Paul Allen (48no) hitting a combined total of 16 fours and 6 sixes.

The second-half of the campaign began with fifties for Graham Barber and Neil Harman in a 98-run win over Writtle , a 200-partnership between Gary Bloom (133no) and Phil Whettell (85) in a high-scoring 16-run success at Great Baddow , and four wickets apiece for Paul Allen and Jim Young and another half-century for Neil Harman (58no) in a nail-biting last-over triumph against OCs. Despite this amazing run of form keeping Waltham top of the table, they were effectively being matched wi n for win by Galleywood , and cru cially the gap was closed the following weekWaltham had made 200 for 6 at Hatfield Peverel led by Gary Bloom (63) and Phil Whettell (50). Mark Chapman and Paul Allen then reduced Peverel to 24 for 4 before a thunderstorm forced the abandonment. A 27-run win against Springfieldwith Stuart Reeve taking 5 for 24 set up a top-of-table clash at Slades Lane on 12th August, 1995.

The Essex Chronicle wrote: “After winning the toss the home side were well-placed at 91-1 with Peter Blackman scoring 43, but then Jim Young (5-22) instigated a collapse which saw Galleywood dismissed for 164 in the final over. Mark Chapman took 3 for 28. “Gary Bloom (31) and skipper Phil Whettell (29) had Waltham coasting at 80 for 3 but the jitters crept in as wickets began to tumble. “Calvin Shaw (56) stood firm and a six off Bernie Morss took them within reach but he was bowled the next ball leaving the last pair six to win in three overs. An lbw decision in favour of Dave Loxley ended matters with Waltham five runs adrift on 159.” That defeat put Galleywood 10 points clear at the top with three matches remaining. 

Waltham hit back the following week with Gary Bloom (94) top-scoring in a 50-run triumph in the Waltham derby, before a 19-run victory in a low-scoring affair at South Weald. The final day of the campaign was marked by heavy rain and Waltham needed to defeat Stock in a game reduced to 25 overs at Dunmow Road, and hope that relegated Great Baddow could upset Galleywood . Stock reached 137 for 5 and despite 54 from pinch-hitter Calvin Shaw, the match hung in the balance as Waltham’s reply stumbled from 93 for 2 to 123 for 7. However, with four needed off as many balls, it was left to Graham Reeve to hit the winning boundary for a two-wicket win. Regrettably, the result was to prove in vain and despite a n unprecedented 14 wins in 18 league outings, Waltham had to settle for second place as Galleywoodheld their nerve at Baddow .

It was the first time Waltham had finished runners-up since 1984 , the question was could they go one better the following season?

The First XI - 1996

After their runners-up finish in 1995, Waltham entered the 1996 campaign as one of the favourites to lift the Premier League title. Calvin Shaw had moved on from the 1995 side , but the squad had been strengthened with the arrival of Neil Parrish; a n opening batsmen whowas highly regarded in the area and had proved a scourge of the Waltham bowling attack during many seasons at Roxwell.

Whereas the 1995 campaign saw Waltham and Galleywood race clear of their rivals, the 1996 season was to see a much more open race for the title. Despite defeats at Galleywood and at home to Tillingham Waltham , now back under the leadership of Jim Young, were top of the table after eight matches. The first three win s could be attributed largely to sharp fielding and tight bowling. Waltham defended modest totals of 173, 172, and 178 at Springfield, Stock and at home to Broomfield. In each reply two of their opponents  key batsmen were run out and Paul Allen, Mark Chapman, Jim Young and Stuart Reeve could be relied upon to return miserly figures. It was the fifth week of the season when the devastating potential of the opening pairing of Gary Bloom and Neil Parrish was first witnessed in league cricket. Chasing 217 to defeat Hatfield Peverel , Bloom (93) and Parrish (61) put on 145 to set up a seven-wicket victory. Neil Parrish then mustered back-to-back unbeaten centur ies in June, scoring 127 and sharing an unbroken stand of 118 with Chris White (37no) in a 28-run win at OCs,and putting on 100 with Phil Whettell (58) and reaching 101 with the winning boundary at home to Writtle . Parrish top scored with 55 in the derby in week nine as Great Waltham totalled 180 for 7. Stuart Reeve (4 for 62) had been instrumental in reducing Little Waltham to 150 for 8 but could not unseat Sohail Termezi (61no) , and with a six needed off Reeve’s final delivery, Termezi duly dispatched the ball over the boundary to hand Little Waltham an astonishing two-wicket win.

Waltham needed to bounce back from this reverse but were severely depleted at home to Springfield the following week and needed to call up 17-year-old Simon Richardson, experienced wicketkeeper Derek Richardson and Rob Kearney and Ashley Vickers for their first-team debuts. Mark Chapman (3-36) and Jim Young (3-20) restricted Springfield to 125. Vickers bagged two wickets while Simon Richardson took two exceptional catches to remove Bob Lightfoot and Simon Moon. In reply, Gary Bloom (58) and Graham Reeve (42) batted sensibly in overcast conditions against a swinging ball to set up a seven-wicket success.

However, the hopes of a first premier league title looked in tatters a fortnight later. A one-run defeat at Tillingham with Jim Young bowled off the penultimate delivery was followed by a comprehensive seven-wicket home defeat by Stock. Nevertheless, despite five losses in their first 12 matches, Waltham remained in the hunt for honours alongside Stock, OCs, Hatfield Peverel and Broomfield. When only 126 for 9 was managed in the next fixture at Broomfield, a third straight defeat looked on the cards, but tight bowling from Mark Chapman (11-2-18-2) and Jim Young (10-4-13-2) was backed up by four wickets from the unlikely source of Neil Parrish as Broomfield could only reach 86 for 9. The following week Waltham recovered against Hatfield Peverel from 37 for 4 to reach 197 for 9, thanks principally to Phil Whettell(85no), before Jim Young bagged 5 for 34 in an 11-run victory. Gary Bloom (121) then recorded his first league century of the season and shared an opening stand of 141 with Neil Parrish (58) in a 23-run triumph over doomed champions Galleywood.

With their rivals suffering unlikely reverses, Waltham’s three-game winning burst had left them top of the table and with their fate in their own hands. Bloom was to match Parrish’s achievement of back-to-back centuries with 126 not out against OCs, sharing an unbroken third-wicket stand of 167 with Phil Whettell (79no). OCs finished 70-run adrift and results elsewhere meant Waltham only needed to pick upbonus points at Writtle to lift the title with a week to go. Once again Bloom (40) and Parrish enjoyed a commanding opening stand, putting on 79, and Parrish was to reach three figures (111) for the third time that summer as Waltham posted 225-3. Writtle never looked like challenging that total and subsided to 168 for 9, with Jim Young once again instrumental with four wickets.

So despite winning two fewer matches than in 1995, the title was assured and Writtle honoured the new champions with a tray of lagers delivered to their dressing room at Paradise Road. What had marked Waltham out from their rivals in a very open competition was that, allied to the skills of certain individuals, as a team they had ground out results and emerge victorious from matches that had been in the balance for long passages. After the heartbreak of 1995, there was more a sense of relief when the champions returned to Dunmow Road to accept the plaudits from the second XI that the efforts of 1995 and 1996 had not gone unrewarded. Now, was this a one-off or could the same group of players repeat the feat?

The First XI - 1997 & 1998

After the title success of 1996, hopes were high that Waltham could repeat the feat in 1997.

Two weeks into the season and the omens were good. Gary Bloom scored 92 in a 67-run opening-day win at Broomfield. This was followed by an exhilarating chase of 216 in a rain-reduced 35 over game against Springfield at Dunmow Road which was completed with two overs to spare (Bloom 62, Phil Whettell 51no, Rob Kearney 41). We had seen the future champions that afternoon, although it was actually the defeated part, who would go on to claim the first of Springfield’s Premier Division titles.

What followed for Waltham was just five wins in the next 16 weekends and, after a run of four defeats, at one point the prospect of following Galleywood’s example of being relegated as defending champions. The change in fortunes was precipitated by the arrival from Slades Lane of teenager Rob Wybrow, who made his debut in the crucial basement battle at home to Broomfield.

Set 202 to win, Waltham were languishing at 80 for 5 after 25 overs when Rob came to the crease. He then smashed eight fours and four sixes in his 78 not out, sharing an unbroken stand of 127 with Neil Harman (48no) that saw the hosts home more than five overs to spare. This would actually prove to be a mere appetiser for an even more impressive counter-attacking innings during the 1998 season.

The following week saw a humbling 181-run defeat to the champions elect, but victories in the second half of the season against Bentley, South Weald and Hatfield Peverel ensured mid-table respectability.

So expectations were not as great when the 1998 season dawned, although an all-star Hatfield Peverel were despatched by 10 runs in the season opener at home, thanks to 87 from Phil Whettell and four wickets apiece for Paul Allen and Neil Parrish.

Despite 67 from Parrish and a four-wicket haul from Mark Chapman, the following week saw a loss by three wickets at Old Chelmsfordians. Few would have predicted at this stage that it would be another 13 weeks before Waltham were to suffer another defeat.

In Week Three, Phil Whettell continued his fine start to the campaign with an unbeaten 109 in a 13-run victory at Bentley. The following week, bogey-team Tillingham were the visitors, and Stuart Reeve took four for 45 in restricting them to 200 for 7.

An early victory for the second XI up the road at Little Waltham meant a bumper crowd was in attendance to see the Waltham reply struggling at 179 for seven. With Tillingham’s Steve Chapman confident of his prowess ahead of bowling the final over, it was left to Waltham’s Mark to hit a towering six off the last ball of the 44th over to draw scores level to cheers that could have been heard at Broads Green. Captain Jim duly did the honours off the next ball.

The drama the following week ahead of the Waltham derby actually began that morning on the line from Liverpool Street. Chris White was stuck on a train to create a late selection headache. Having just returned from University, Rob Wybrow was elevated from the second XI to make an incredible impact.

Set 203 to win, Waltham were in dire straits at 62 or five. Wybrow struck nine fours and five sixes and had personally added 100 out of the 124 scored before departing for his first century. An unbroken eight-wicket stand of 36 between Mark Chapman (19no) and Michael Church (12no) saw Waltham to victory with Chappy finishing with a consecutive four and six. That match also saw the debut of a wicketkeeper-batsman Dave Clout (11). More of him later.

Week Six saw a four-wicket haul for Chappy and a lot of bruise toes and torsos courtesy of future Essex bowler Andrew McGarry, as Neil Harman (44no) guided Waltham home in a five-wicket win over newly-promoted South Woodham Ferrers.

Only 12 overs were possible at Galleywood the following week, before Gary Bloom (56) hit his first half-century of the season as Waltham chased down 181 against Stock. Neil Harman (37no) again the finisher. Rain at Springfield in Week Nine guaranteed Waltham reached halfway as league leaders.

Week 10 was all about Dave Clout making himself known to the Premier Division. To this point, Clout had kept wicket and wielded willow, but it was when he had ball in hand at nets during the week, that people realised he had another effective string to his bow.

Dave had top-scored with 53 in Waltham’s total of 217 for six, but Peverel appeared to be cruising at 103 for one before Clout the bowler came to the party. His figures of 0-25 off five overs ended up as six for 48 in 11.1 overs as incoming batsmen could not cope with his unexpected pace. Peverel were reduced to 159 for nine and after a tenth-wicket flurry finished 26 runs short.

Waltham were well set at 65 for 1 after 12 overs in the following week when chasing 206 against OCs, only for rain to intervene again. Dave Clout again the pick of the bowlers with three for 31.

Neil Parrish had had a quieter season by his standards to this point, but he stepped up in Gary Bloom’s absence to hit 119 against Bentley, ably supported by Chris White (57) and Dave Clout (56). Despite some lower-order hitting, the total of 246 always looked defendable and Bentley were 19 runs adrift at the close with three wickets each for Chapman and Wybrow.

The trip to Tillingham has always had a sense of foreboding, but on this occasion the match had to be relocated to Latchingdon. A miserly spell of four for 23 in ten overs from Jim Young and two catches for teenager Simon Richardson saw Tillingham succumb to 140 all out. With Waltham in trouble at 41 for four, Rob Wybrow once again countered with a 61 that contained a half-century in boundaries. Phil Whettell anchored the reply with 44 not out and victory was completed in the 33rd over.

Only five overs were possible in the second Waltham derby, although there was time to claim a bonus point as Little Waltham ended 13 for two, with Dave Clout taking a fantastic catch at extra cover.

South Woodham Ferrers had been on a strong run in the second half of the season and the trip to Saltcoats was viewed as a potential banana skin. While Rob Wybrow once again scored more than a half-century in boundaries in his 68, only Graham Barber (27) made any other score of note in an all-out total of 173 that looked below-par. McGarry, who had hinted at his potential in the reverse fixture, had reduced Waltham to 23 for three and ended up with figures of five for 45.

Despite the early dismissal of future Waltham second-teamer Steve Gilliland, Woodham always seemed in control of their reply thanks to the brothers Rayner and Bridger with Chris Rayner (59) and Matt Bridger (51no) the key components in their seven-wicket canter.

If that defeat wasn’t totally unexpected, the following week’s reverse to bottom-placed Galleywood certainly was, with Waltham only managing 143 all out in 40 overs. Although Dave Clout (four for 45) and Paul Allen (two for 20) reduced Galleywood to 81 for 6, stands of 33 and 31 settled the match.

Back-to-back defeats for Waltham meant champions Springfield usurped them at the top. However, with the two sides meeting in the finale to the league campaign, two victories on the last two Saturdays would guarantee a second title in three years.

Chris White saved his best-batting display of the season to the best possible time, as with Gary Bloom and Neil Parrish falling for single figures, he batted 37 overs for 89 to set up a total of 225 for nine. Jim was at the forefront of the bowling display, dismissing the dangerous Raeburn and Garms and then cleaning up the tail to record figures of six for 38 a 22-run win.

So everything was now set up for the winner-takes-all clash at Dunmow Road. Given the two defeats in the previous three games and the fact the visitors were the title-holders, the neutral observer would probably have viewed Springfield as the favourite.

What transpired was arguably the most disciplined Waltham fielding and bowling performance of the season. Against the best opposition yet, the six-strong attack refused to let Springfield’s top-five get on top. While a Jimmy Symonds (51) and Bob Lightfoot (47) occupied the crease, the rate didn’t get above four an over until the final six when Simon Moon and Paul Woodward took them to 203 for six.

Given the conditions, this didn’t look like an adequate total, and it was proved thus. While Chris White’s dismissal for 13 left Waltham 27 for one, across the next 26 over Gary Bloom (88no) and Dave Clout (75) set about the much-heralded Springfield attack in a 152-run stand. Both batsmen finished with 13 fours and a six and Bloom was joined by his erstwhile opening partner Neil Parrish to see Waltham to victory and the title with a full 10 overs to spare.

So a second-title in two years and truly a team effort. Rob Wybrow managed 274 runs and yet he was seventh in the scoring list behind Neil Harman (276), Neil Parrish (294), Phil Whettell (321), Chris White (352), Dave Clout (356) and Gary Bloom (408). The honours were similarly shared in bowling with Mark Chapman leading the way with 23 wickets followed by Jim Young (17), Stuart Reeve and Dave Clout (16 each), Paul Allen (15) and Rob Wybrow (14).

While there have been great individual players before and after the 1998 season, it is hard to argue that there has ever been a better first XI to take the field for Waltham. I consider it a privilege to have watched them play.