2003 Review

2003 will live long in the memory as a great season. We didn't win anything, none of our teams gained promotion, but 2003 can be seen as a turning point in RCC fortunes. There were record breaking performances, record breaking weather, the return of The Tour and the first match on the new RCC ground.

April/May

Things started off well at the beginning of the season, despite the Firsts being thrashed at Hornchurch, the team went on to win four out of five league games to leave them at the top of Division 4, with Willie Leadbeater signalling his intent with 114 not out in the opening league match at Fairview. However the good start was clouded by a broken arm to Paul Dudmish leaving a big gap in the Rayleigh batting.

The Seconds had a mixed start, but it was good too see the batting start to come together and some big scores being posted - 254-4 vs Tillingham and 276-4 vs Woodham Mortimer, with Steve Adams scoring tons in both matches. The Thirds once again had a shakey start with only one win, a 12-run win against Hullbridge after only posting 86 all out, with Rob Osbourne taking 5-16.

The Fourths made a good start under new skipper Danny Curwood, helped somewhat by new signing Tom Osborn to strengthen the batting, and an early bid for the Bowling Cup by Mike Humphrey with 6-29 at Westcliff. The Sunday XI likewise had a new captain - Danny White - who lead the team from the front and raised the batting and bowling standard to turn the Sundays into a competitive side once again. They had some close matches and really should have walked away with a few more wins.

Player of the Month: Willie Leadbeater (302 runs & 15 wickets)

June

Early hopes of promotion for the Firsts and Seconds started to evapourate in June as both sides just picked up one win apiece, the low point being the Seconds dismissal for just 58 at Margaretting after at one stage having the opposition in all sorts of trouble earlier on. Craig Baird was the architect of the Seconds victory versus Purleigh with a majestic 85 not out, his career best. Danny White also struck his highest league score of 87 in the Firsts' win against Ecko Monarchs, but overall it was a disappointing month.

Things looked better for the Thirds - two wins in a row and a great all-round batting performance against Ecko, posting 259 for 7. However it was the Fourths that shone in June - four wins and one draw, with some great individual performances helping them to keep an unbeaten record - Mike Humphrey's 6-42, Mike Hillis's 70, Danny Curwood's 5-67 and Nigel Jones's 92.

Results weren't going the way of the Sundays despite some battling team efforts. Darren Smith's 92 against Wickham Bishops was the highlight, followed by the humiliation of Benfleet II's taking only 26 overs to reach Rayleigh's earlier score of 239.

Player of the Month: Danny White (348 runs)

July

July was a long and hot month - the First and Seconds were still struggling, with again only one win each in the month. It was starting to look like relegation battles all round again. Paul Dudmish came back from injury to score 64 for the Seconds, followed up by 92 the next week for the Firsts - the Doc was back! The Thirds could only manage one win as well - Geoff Roberts's 82 against Hullbridge helped the Thirds to their only victory.

The Fourths kept up their unbeaten run, albeit with three draws - Tom Neaves rearguard 44 not out vs Chelmsford helped them to keep their record intact. The Sundays finally got some wins, but also succumbed to their heaviest defeat as they were carted for 306 in just 40 overs by Ingatestone on a baking hot afternoon.

A mid-week game in Herongate's cricket week saw the usual run-fest, with Rayleigh just losing out by 1 wicket when victory looked assured, with Simon Harwood failing to hang on to a huge skier from the Herongates No. 11. RCC also travelled mid-week to Leigh-on-Sea, but failed to give a good account of themselves. willie1

The RCC Tour was resurrected after five years absence - this time the touring party travelled to Norfolk, all capably arranged by tour manager Willie Leadbeater, and what a feast of cricket he had sorted out for us. Unfortunately the weather was not the best, but the quality of opposition's grounds was superb.

Monday - Great Melton - a picture postcard ground and a good even game of cricket, with Rayleigh losing by 26 runs. Tuesday - Old Buckenham - a very strong opposition on another fantastic ground, so Rayleigh fielded arguably its strongest side. Willie's masterful 105 helped Rayleigh to a defendable total, but the rain late afternoon forced an end to the match. Wednesday - Garboldisham - a 2-innings match, superb lunch, hog-roast for tea - a great day, Rayleigh were outclassed but we had a lot of fun. Friday - Fakenham - an 11-run loss in another tight game as Rayleigh fought it out with an opposition of high calibre.

Player of the Month : Mike Humphrey (14 wickets)

August

smithy August - what a month - the culmination of what had been building up throughout the season. Whilst results had not being going Rayleigh's way, the performances and team spirit were good and something big was being promised. The weather had a few surprises too - record UK temperatures were reached, and that ensured good, hard wickets and fast outfields.

The Firsts started finding their winning form - 3 wins out of 4 to take them away from the relegation zone. At Little Waltham, Rayleigh went through the 300-run barrier for the first time in their history. Chasing 298, Willie Leadbeater hit a season's best 151, and supported by the rest of the top order, Rayleigh scored 301 for 4. But the best was still to come - the following week Rayleigh posted an incredible 322 for 5. Danny White and Jon Cook lead the way with a 190 2nd wicket partnership, with Danny going on to score his debut senior century with 112. Great Waltham could only manage 98 all out. waltham

Not to be out-done, the Seconds were scoring big too - 288 for 9, with an opening partnership of 151 from Duncan Ferguson and John Suckling, against Woodham Mortimer broke the Seconds record for highest total scored. Another win against Purleigh was enough to leave the Seconds with mid-table respectability. But in a season dominated by the bat, the tireless and accurate bowling of young Mark Cane earned him the players player of the year award.

Unfortunately, things didn't go so well for the Thirds - one more win left them in 8th place. However, more importantly the Thirds played host to Pegasus & Corringham on the RCC new ground, the first match to be played there. The Fourths continued their run with 3 more wins and no losses, their most impressive victory being a 101-run win over Stanford-le-Hope.

The Sundays kept on winning, but the match of the season came against Wickham Bishops. Batting first on the hottest day of year with temperatures nudging 100 degrees, Rayleigh scored a Sunday record of 292 for 5, with John Suckling scoring a career-best 131 not out. But that peformance was eclipsed by young Matthew Nobes, who took 9 for 29 with his leg-spin, the best bowling figures returned by a Rayleigh player in 70 years.

The RCC cricket 'weekend' took place, with Herongate visiting on Friday and winning by six wickets. The usual fun and games ensued over the road by the pool, with Darren Smith introducing his new game of fluffy bunnies. The President's Day on Sunday was a great success.

Player of the Month : John Suckling (477 runs)

September

nave With the league season over, the usual friendly matches took place. The Fourths unbeaten run was finally broken by Wickford, but they finished with the best record of all RCC teams with Won 9, Drawn 4 and Lost 2. Steve Adams snatched the batting cup away from Willie with 155 against Ransomers at the last moment and in the most unexpected bowling spell at Herongate, part-timer spinner Mike Griffiths took 5 for 77. A long season finally came to an end with a win for the Sundays at Navestock, followed the next week by the RCC Awards night at the Arlington Rooms in Leigh.

Player of the Month : Steve Adams (279 runs)

The Results
Pld Won Drawn Lost N/R
First XI 23 9 0 12 1
Second XI 22 9 1 11 2
Third XI 20 5 0 13 2
Fourth XI 15 9 4 2 0
Sunday XI 15 10 1 8 0
Other Matches 9 1 1 7 0
Total 104 43 7 53 5