2020 in review – The season that almost never was
As the clock ticked over to midnight and fireworks over the Wallace Monument ushered in the new year, many of us bade a thankful farewell to what has been, by most accounts, an annus horribilis. While the majority never believed that 2020 would be the ‘fantastic year’ that a certain poor-man’s Honey Monster predicted back in January, I don’t think anyone envisioned 2020 being quite the deeply soul-destroying year that it turned out to be. Having said that, some cricket did manage to get played in the end, and progress and improvements have still been made at Stirling County. As such, in this article we would like to offer a brief review of the year at New Williamfield. A subsequent article will dare to take a peek into the future, now that the hope of a vaccine means that the prospect of a return something approaching normality no longer seems quite as fanciful as it once did.
2020 Review – Senior Cricket
What started as a year pregnant with hope and promise very quickly descended into disappointment as the nationwide lockdown swiftly put paid to any hopes of a normal summer. Things looked promising in early March: player numbers were looking good at winter nets and there was the genuine possibility that the 1st XI could mount a serious challenge on the league in 2020. The 2nd XI, too, had reason for hope and were looking to improve upon some promising signs shown in 2019. By April, however, there was serious doubt about whether any cricket in 2020 would be possible at all.
The fact that we managed to play a number of games in August and September feels, with the benefit of hindsight, like a minor miracle. The ‘season’ at Stirling began in mid-August with a series of intra-club games prior to the friendlies against other teams that became possible after Government guidelines allowed them. The intra-club games were an enormous success, both in the level of interest that they generated and for proving that cricket could be played in a safe and socially distanced manner.
The promising numbers seen during the intra-club games continued once games against local clubs became possible, with the arranging of enough matches to satisfy player demand becoming a real issue. The club managed to field teams on both Saturday and Sunday on numerous occasions, with the playing of two fixtures on a single day possible on more than one occasion. Results proved to be positive, too, with the previous season’s league winners Uddingston the only team to defeat the 1st XI. Given that many of us seriously doubted whether cricket in 2020 would be possible at all, the late and truncated season that was managed should be considered a considerable success!
2020 Review – Junior Cricket
2020 for the club’s junior section began in a similarly positive way. The open day in February and indoor training at Dollar both saw a fantastic turnout, and there was palpable anticipation to be felt as the season approached. Unfortunately, as with the club’s senior teams, the quickly escalating pandemic and resulting lockdown halted the momentum that Brian, Vicki and all the coaches had worked so hard to build over the winter.
Junior cricket was actually allowed to make an earlier return, with group training resuming in early August. Once permitted, arranging fixtures proved extremely difficult, however, with many clubs struggling to raise teams or secure pitches after such a prolonged cessation of cricket activities. Nevertheless, some fantastic work by all those involved resulted in a mixture of intra-club development games and matches against other clubs that ensured that our fantastic juniors were given several opportunities to get some important game time. And, despite the struggles of other clubs, raising a team was never a problem for us, with County players even utilised to ensure that opposition clubs were able to field a full side on more than one occasion!
The restrictions continued to play havoc with the junior schedule even once this shortest of seasons had finished. The restrictions on indoor gatherings meant that neither the winter practice or end of season awards and fun day could take place, as would normally happen. Despite this, and to recognise the tremendous effort and achievements made by all the junior players during this truly extraordinary season, all our junior players were awarded with a commemorative medal. Additionally, two of the club’s older and more experienced players were presented with their senior cap by club Chairman Jason Jones, while several of our players are actively involved with regional and national teams!