Captain and Chairman look to the Future
By Neil Goulding
CHESHIRE skipper Andy Hall will jet off to Australia this winter knowing that he has done a great job re-building the county side.
Hall, who took over the captaincy from Ian Cockbain, saw his side lose just once this season in a successful run in the Minor Counties Championship Western Division.
The former England schoolboy was also at the helm to mastermind a gallant victory away to Berkshire, this year's MCCA Knockout Cup winners, at Falkland C.C.But Hall is adamant there is plenty more hard to be done as his county go in search of silverware after three seasons of transition. "We are improving all the time, but success does take time and we are prepared to wait a while until it happens," said Hall.
"We are building a good, young side, which has the makings of something very special in my opinion. "It's important we try and maintain the same nucleus of players for the next few seasons. If we can do that I'm sure we can be successful."
Hall's winter last year was ruined when he nearly died in a freak accident in Geelong. A stone hit him in the head, fired off a lawnmower which had no safety guard on. But this time around Down Under, Hall is hoping for a far less traumatic experience - the only thing on his mind is scoring runs.
"I'm just hoping to have a good season with the bat and then to come back fresh for Cheshire and my cub next season," added Hall.
"It's a big year for Cheshire next season. We know we've got to win more games if we are going to win honours, but I think we are heading in the right direction."
A view echoed by Gerry Hardstaff, the Cheshire chairman, who is hoping for big things in 2005. "We've had a good season, but we know we can improve - and I'm sure we will do. "It's not easy keeping the same bunch of 13-14 players together, but I think we must do that if we are going to start winning things. "The players want to win, the committee want us to win...and so do the supporters."
2nd Article by Neil Goulding
CHESHIRE skipper Andy Hall is confident
his team have matured considerably in the last season - and he
believes that quality could help yield honours in the coming years.
Hall's side only lost one match in the Minor Counties Championship
Western Division this year, but draws from matches Cheshire could
have won, have meant they missed out on a chance to challenge
for the outright Minor Counties Championship title.
But Cheshire have implemented a solid foundation for success, especially in their batting department. "We've improved as a team," said Hall. "These things take time. We are trying to build a team which can win the title, but it's not going to happen overnight. "I think we've got a good, balanced side at the minute. There's nine players who regularly have a place in the side, but we need to try and sure up those other two spots.
"It is difficult finding the time to play because of work commitments and in the last couple of years we have had to make late changes.
"Ideally you'd like to keep a settled side - we are slowly getting there." Hall is adamant that the longer he can keep a settled side together, the better Cheshire's chances of winning silverware. "We've got a good team spirit and everyone wants to win, but it's vitally important we keep the team together. You develop as a team and get used to playing with different players. It's good to be able to gauge everyone's ability and respective talents," added Hall. "If we can keep this team together for the next few seasons, and everyone performs like I know they can, then I'm sure we can be successful."
Indeed, a view echoed by Gerry Hardstaff, the Cheshire chairman, who has been very pleased with Cheshire's season. He, too, believes time and a settled side are two of the key ingredients which make a successful side.
"The county has gone through a transitional period since Andy took over as captain - and in some ways that is still continuing," admitted Hardstaff. "We have got to be patient and as a chairman, my job is trying to make sure we have a settled team and the best 11 players that are available to us. "It's not always very easy because you get lots of cry-offs, but we have managed to field some strong teams this year, especially towards the end of the season. "Graeme Archer (the former Notts and Staffs batsman) was a good signing for us and then Neil Cross (the Oxton all-rounder) played in the last two games of the season, but unfortunately the weather was against us in both of those matches. "It's important we try and keep this team together for the next few years. They are developing and growing in confidence. I've been very pleased with our progress."
Hardstaff feels there is only one area where his side are lacking - the bowling department. He singles out the absence of a strike bowler as one of the main worry areas. "The big problem is having a bowler/s, who can bowl sides out on any type of wicket. We are just short of being a very, very good side," added Hardstaff. "There isn't anyone available to us who will get 25-30 wickets a season. "Robin Fisher and Dave Pennett have been our two leading bowlers this season, but we still need to find someone who can bowl sides out."You have got to bowl sides out to win matches. You don't just win games with your batting. You can score lots of runs, but if you don't bowl the opposition out, then you're struggling.
"England have shown in Steve Harmison, that they have a bowler who can win them matches - and they've got other strike bowlers who do a good support job. It's that type of scenario we want to have with Cheshire."Bowlers do win you matches. We could have done with a strike bowler against Dorset, but that was one of the games we should have won this season - and we didn't, despite being in a very strong position at tea on the final day."