Wanstead & Snaresbrook’s cricketers will be very proud men when they take the field against Ormskirk in the Royal London Club Championship Final at Chelmsford on Sunday. But they will also be men on something of a mission.
Five years ago a very young Wanstead side was well beaten by York in that year’s national knockout final. And only last Saturday Joe Ellis-Grewal’s team were pipped for the Essex Premier League by Chelmsford, who won their game while Wanstead were losing a rain-soaked affair they had needed to win.
Six of the losing team in 2012 are in the current side and they are now mature cricketers. They are members of a tight-knit group of players who have become used to achieving success partly, one suspects, because they never take it for granted.
“Winning the national knockout would be the biggest thing that’s happened to Wanstead & Snaresbook.”
“I reckon that winning the national knockout would be the biggest thing that’s happened to Wanstead & Snaresbook,” said Ellis-Grewal. “We’ve had a lot of good sides over the years and people talk about them when they come and watch us now.
“It was a bit of a surprise to all of us when we reached that final in 2012 because we scraped through a few games. This year we’ve played brilliant cricket all year and a lot of our guys are very experienced. It’s a great achievement to get to the Royal London Club final but we’ve also got to the last eight of the national T20 and if things had gone our way last weekend we’d have won the league.
“We’ve even had to play two cup games on the same day because we were running out of Sundays. We split the teams and got knocked out of both competitions.”
Of course Ellis-Grewal has done his research and so he knows that Ormskirk are in a similar situation. The Brook Lane team have been forced to share the Lancashire Cup with Lowerhouse because both attempts to play the game were ruined by rain and they will even be playing their 2017 league knockout semi-final in the opening weeks of the 2018 season.
Ellis-Grewal is also well aware that bad teams do not get to the last stages of the national knockout. But he remains hopeful that next Sunday will be a great day for a club that runs six Saturday teams plus a Ladies XI and which has 300-plus youngsters on its books in teams from Under 9 to Under 19.
“We’re one of the biggest clubs in East London,” he said. “Last year was our 150th anniversary and we have a very proud history. We’re very much a family-orientated club and we like to develop all our own players. We don’t pay anyone, ten of the 12 players in the squad for Sunday’s final are home-grown and the other two have been with us for 20 and ten years respectively.”
Inevitably, a lot of attention will be focused on the Wanstead cricketers with county experience such as the Essex batsman Kishen Velani and their left-arm spinner Aron Nijjar. But Ellis-Grewal also has a soft spot for the slow bowler, Mohammed Fayyaz Khan, who is 50 years old and “still class” in the view of the skipper.
One advantage Wanstead & Snaresbrook will have is that the final is taking place only 40 minutes up the road from their own patch. Moving into a different time-zone is unlikely to be a problem and Ellis-Grewal’s men should be able to cope with the jet lag.
“I suspect there’ll be a lot of people down for the game,” said the skipper. “We’re really excited that we’ve reached this stage and it’s a question of us playing the cricket we can play. Winning the Royal London would far outweigh being the best club side in Essex and that’s what we’ll be going out to achieve.”