It may not be the biggest sport at St Andrews but cricket is growing. Both on and off the pitch, the club is improving dramatically and is in very capable hands as it looks to continue its skyward trajectory.
On one of those exquisitely beautiful St Andrews afternoons, down at C1 prior to an unfortunate loss against Stirling, club secretary Hector Loughton and another senior cricketing member spoke passionately about their obvious love of not just the club but the sport itself.
On the pitch, this year has been good but there are high expectations for it to be great. At the time of writing, three wins out of four represent a decent start but the simple fact that two wins in their last two games see ‘The Seagulls’ crowned league champions means there is still all to play for. After losing out to Edinburgh on run rate last year the team has gone from “strength to strength” and hopes that come next year it will be playing as holders, rather than the nearly men.
Continuity has been fundamental to the good start, with eight of the starting 11 having already played last year. Although the team did lose three key members to the world of work, they have been more than adequately replaced by several freshers. Chris Cash and Charlie Buchanan-Smith have added to both the bowling and batting department while Robert Chadwick has been an absolute “revelation” with the ball.
‘Chadders’, as he is known, was described as a “gem” by a senior member of the team, who said that his 10 wickets so far have come as a pleasant surprise after some rather indifferent bowling during the winter nets. “He bowled left arm c**p all winter and then rocked up in the first game and bowled left arm heat”.
Well, I guess that’s better than the other way round.
Anyone who has played cricket on Scottish wickets will know that putting together a good run of batting form is difficult, yet there was special mention for TJ Beattie who has made a significant contribution, especially towards the start of the year against Freuchie CC and the University of Edinburgh.
Yet, the much maligned damp, slow Scottish wickets have been far from the most difficult the cricket club have played on. At the start of May ‘The Seagulls’ carried on a 25-year-old tradition by heading down to Elie to play The Ship Inn on a beach wicket.
This was not a strip of Astroturf placed on the beach with only the outfield consisting of sand; this was a case of bowling on sand. Admittedly, towards the beginning of the innings the sand was very compact allowing decent scoring but by the end of the 20 overs the wicket was a “minefield”. Hector went on to describe playing on a beach as “bizarre”.
Although they won an extremely close fought encounter by four runs thanks to a splendid last over from club president Ali Stokes, according to the senior member of the team “no one was focussing on the result”. Everyone simply wanted to enjoy playing cricket in a “brand new environment”. Both men were in agreement that the whole day was “really good fun” as many spectators came down to enjoy a day of beach, Barbeques, beer and cricket.
The club are dedicated to continuing what it views as a very special tradition.
There were special thanks for the AU which has been instrumental in facilitating the growth of the club. The club are “very grateful” for the new scoreboard and outdoor cage whilst the next step is acquiring some covers, an absolute “necessity” for any cricket ground. They are planning several fundraisers in order to acquire the covers which they hope to have by next year.
Away from the pavilion there are “many committed members” who “put a lot of time” into helping the club function. Max Arthur and club captain John Lowe have put a lot of time into coaching both the women and complete beginners. Despite the absence of a recognised coach there is enough “knowhow” in the club to iron out any technical deficiencies of the players.
Even for those who didn’t play cricket in school, of which there are not a lot due to the demographic of students at St Andrews, there are opportunities to learn. Third team captain Michael Turkington had never picked up a bat three years ago yet now he’s “learnt how to bowl and bat half decently”. Promising for someone who’s never received recognised coaching.
Socially the club is very active, with regular socials being held at the Balaka. Despite incessant probing the only official description I could get of them was “infamous” but from what I hear they are a lot of fun. The club also played host to the ‘Seagullian Open’, a golf tournament around the Eden course. Speaking as a participant I can confirm that it was a great day out and many within the cricket club are keen to keep it going and hopefully expand it if possible.
Even though a relatively brief chat, it was clear to see that everyone associated with cricket holds the sport close to their heart. The laughs of both men as they recalled the “carnage” of the winter indoor six-a-side tournament in Aberdeen summed up in an instant everything the club stands for. Yes they love being competitive. Yes they love having fun. But most importantly, they love playing cricket.