The story of the 2022 season


It has been a long winter, and with rain delaying the start of this season’s action, why not relive the glorious, sun-soaked 2022 campaign! Written by Michael Nunns sometime during the winter….

Exwick Cricket Club Season Review 2022

Well, what a year it was. On the back of a 2021 season where we lost several games to rain and finished fairly low down in both Devon Cricket League divisions, we also saw some organisational changes over the winter, most notably Simon Hukku replacing Dan O’Connell as secretary. The shining light of 2021 was arguably the success of the ladies’ team, as well as the batting of Jamie Withers on a Saturday.

Over the winter, Steve Forbes stepped up his ECB coaching qualification to Level 2 and Jeremy Richardson gained his Level 1, giving us extra capacity in that regard. We also made greater efforts in terms of social media outreach, player recruitment and investment in training, with a new batting cage and bowling machine top of the shopping list. Ground work was taken on by a number of individuals including Tom Cox, Phil Walker, Sean Bridgwater and Simon Hukku, with others chipping in as and when.


After a successful pre-season in which several new players joined the club, we were rocked on the eve of the first league game by the news that Steve Forbes would likely miss the season with what initially looked like a freak ankle problem. A terrible shock to Steve, having put in so much work with training over the winter, and a tough one to take for the whole club. When we lost the opening first team game of the season by 8 wickets, despite 60 from Phil Walker, it wasn’t looking terribly promising. However, the 2nd XI had got off to a great start with victory over Axminster 2, Luke’s 46* and Rhyan’s 3-6 the standout performances.

Week 2 saw fortunes reversed as the first team defeated Alphington & Countess Wear in a tight finish – Jamie Withers’ 5-20 was matched in significance by Matt Taylor’s 45* to seal victory. It wouldn’t be the last time he’d hit the winning runs! The 2s went down against eventual promotion-winners Woodbury & Newton St Cyres, but there was a good knock for new recruit Tom Williams. Another defeat for the 2s in week 3 against Sandford did come with yet more promising performances, in particularly 3 wickets and 21 runs for another new recruit, Jack Middelboe. Meanwhile the 1st XI knocked off 190 with relative ease against Bideford, Phil again starring with the bat and hitting 92*. We also saw a 123-run opening stand between Phil and Mike, the new opening pair for the season. Lots of promise there…

The Exwick Jokers had also started playing, a social side arranged by Vic Murphy and featuring plenty of ex-regulars. Wins were hard to come by but there was a brilliant vibe around the team, and it was already clear that the spirit at the club was really taking off. Both teams were coming back to the Thatch after games and with a few wins to help the celebrations along, plenty of team bonding was going on.

The final week in May saw another win for the first team, this time at Axminster. Withers picked up 4-23 and then hit 56* to chase down the total, after Phil’s 52 earlier on. The 2s suffered a tight defeat against Kenn 2, but there were runs for Pooley (27), Rose (65) and Wilson (30) in a strong performance.

Top run scorers: Phil Walker 204 runs, Mike Nunns 106, Jamie Withers 100

Top wicket takers: Jamie Withers 10 wickets, Jack Middleboe/Rhyan Jenkins 5


A whopping 13 games were played in June, with regular Jokers games and the ladies’ softball fixtures kicking off – with a thumping win over Teignmouth.

With the batting order being drawn from a pack of cards, the Jokers struggled to get that first victory under their belt – but the benefits were being felt elsewhere. Players who usually didn’t bat were getting time in the middle, including the likes of Sean Bridgwater, who would go on to make runs for the first team. It also added another team bonding activity to the weekly calendar!

Interest in the club was growing via social media channels, with the sheer number of players participating across all game types, and then eventually through Allstars cricket, which kicked off in July. On the field, the first team won 3 out of 4 games in June. They first skittled Exeter 3rds for 108 and knocked them off easily – despite a hat trick from Rohullah Esakhel, who would later transfer between sides, along with Mo Saeed. Jamie Withers picked up 3-15 and Sam Criddle announced himself in the first team with 3-18, then it was the form batters Withers and Walker who saw us to the win.

Next up was Sampford Peverell & Tiverton, whom we visited without Philip due to Covid. But Tom Cox stepped up to the opening position and with Mike added 79 for the first wicket. This set a platform which the likes of Jonty Kelly (43 off 34) and Withers (56 off 29) exploited to post an imposing 256-8. Despite some bad bowling and a bad ankle injury to Matt Taylor, we managed to pick up 19 points, thanks in large part to a 3-wicket haul from Jonty – playing his last game of the season!

Next came a routine win over Whimple, and another good display from Withers, adding 4 wickets and 62 runs to his collection as we destroyed the opposition by 122 runs. We were absolutely flying, with 6 wins in a row, and when we had reduced Cullompton to 10-3 in the next game, we thought 7 was in the bank. But the wheels came off somewhat and we contrived to lose the game in poor fashion. Nevertheless, we were in a great position in the table, behind runaway leaders Alphington, and had just signed Rohullah and Mo from Exeter, who would go on to make significant contributions.

The seconds kicked off with a fine win against Culmstock, batting first and winning by 15 runs. Rose (32) and Harding (34) batted well before Bhaski picked up his first 50 in a memorable innings, finishing 53 not out. Rishi (2-10 off 8) and then DJ (3-38) did most of the damage with the ball. Unfortunately it was Filleigh next, a side who belong several divisions up, and it was something of a mismatch – although this inspired an excellent pun by Jez in the match report.

Onwards then to play Kentisbeare, and a fantastic victory gave the club a double win for the weekend. Highlights included 4 wickets for Jez, a team hat trick (aka hat trick avoidance by Jez) and 91 for Rudi. June was complete with yet another superb victory by the 2s, defeating Cullompton 3s by 22 runs. Batting first, ‘Wick hit 237 with knocks from Rudi (43), Jez (47) and Rishi (35) standing out. Then Jack strode out and picked up 5 wickets. Everyone was delighted to hear that Charlie Warren had picked up his first league wicket as well. Happy days!

Top run scorers: Jamie Withers 160 runs, Rudi Ellis 134, Mike Nunns 85

Top wicket takers: Jamie Withers 9 wickets, Phil Walker 7, Jack Middleboe 6


The hot, sunny weather continued as 16 games were played including five T20s and two ladies’ softball games. The ladies won one and narrowly lost one, while the Jokers picked up two wins. The second team lost against Axminster, Woodbury and Sandford, but bounced back against Kenn.

Raghav’s 31* anchoring the innings against Axminster didn’t quite get us to enough of a total despite a fantastic fight with the ball, taking 6 wickets in defence of 93, including Sean’s incredible spell of 1-4 off 8 overs. Woodbury posted a strong 214-7, and we fell 38 runs short despite another half-century from Rudi and contributions from Jez and Bhaski. Then the Sandford game saw the start of DJ’s run-scoring streak – he hit 32 with Dan Groves (14) and Elumalai Periasamy (12) the only others hitting double figures. Sandford knocked the runs off just one wicket down. But the winning feeling returned against Kenn, as 3 wickets from Rhyan and 2 from Jez helped restrict the home side to 171-8, before a thrilling chase saw Rudi with 62* and Elu hitting his maiden 50 knocking the runs off.

July started well for the first team as we travelled to Upottery with the first threat of a rained off game. But we played and comfortably defeated a depleted side, skittling them for 84 with wickets shared around, before knocking the runs off in just 14 overs. It was a good recovery after the Cully defeat, but it wouldn’t last as we travelled to Sidbury without Phil and Jamie. We suffered a thumping defeat in the heat. Two defeats in three had left us way off the pace at the top of the table and in desperate need of a recovery to salvage promotion hopes. Next, we would play Alphington, who had still only lost one game all season – against us.

With travellers deciding to set up camp on the wicket the night before the game, we had an emergency change of venue and were thankfully able to go ahead with the game. We posted 206 with Mo (44) and Ro (32) top scoring. We also saw a cameo of 18 off 11 balls from Sean at the end of the innings. The bowling effort was superb and kept runs down to a trickle throughout, and the league leaders were defeated by 45 runs. The highlight of the month and possibly the season to that point came at Bideford though. Chasing a total of 188 we slumped to 157-8 before Vic Murphy lead the fightback and won us the game by 1 wicket, earning us ‘team of the week’ in the Devon Cricket League. It was a game followed nervously back home by the second team and home-based spectators on Play Cricket. It’s fair to say that live scoring on Play Cricket has enhanced the experience this year!

We rounded off the month with a far more comfortable game, an Axminster side short of most of its first team regulars coming to Exwick and being skittled for 56. Rohullah picked up 6-20 and we were in the pub by 4pm – dangerous! We listened to the seconds’ result come in, victory over Kenn, and all was well with the world.

Top run scorers: Rudi Ellis 164 runs, Mo Saeed 103, Mike Nunns 97

Top wicket takers: Rohullah Esakhel 8 wickets, Rudi Ellis/Mo Saeed/Phil Walker 5


The business end of the season, an ongoing heatwave, a winning run of 3 and sitting in the top three of the table – could the first team push on to promotion? We faced Exeter 3rds first, who had themselves won 5 on the bounce since Mo and Ro moved to us – coincidence I’m sure! We travelled in anticipation of a tough game, and were certainly given one. In fact the star of the show was 12-year old Muhammad Kaleem, who claimed 5 wickets against us with his left arm spin. We also had a helicopter landing and two inebriated chaps running across the outfield to collect beer. Never a dull moment…

We batted first and looked to post 200, but slumped from 122-2 to 159 all out, Mo top-scoring against his former side with his first half century for Exwick. The run chase was going well, one opener cashing in on several lives, until Sam Criddle bowled his best spell of the season and ensured we were on the honours board for the second week in a row with 5-35. Another 18 points and news that Alphington had lost again…interesting.

The second team meanwhile fell well short of the 151 set by Culmstock, despite another knock from DJ – 25 this time. They would not play again until the end of the month, as we couldn’t raise a side to go to Filleigh and then Kentisbeare couldn’t raise one against us.

So the first team went on, with growing confidence. Bottom side Sampford Peverell were the next victims, this time Sean getting on the honours board – yes, three weeks in a row. He took 5-19 and stole the headlines from the boundary rope, which we had spent 2 hours trying to unravel before the game. We knocked off the 73 runs required in short time, Withers with 20 off 9 to finish things off, and enjoyed another early trip to the Thatch. By now, after a 5 game winning streak, we had just 3 games to go and had leapt up to the top of the league. Not only was a rare promotion looking likely, but winning the league was on the cards.

We would face two more extremely tough games though, visiting a reinforced Whimple side who were scrapping to stay up, and then taking on third placed Cullompton. The Whimple game saw us take a superb victory, and really showcased the spirit of the club as several supporters came along to cheer us on. The home side posted an imposing total of 202-4 thanks to an excellent opening stand, but we had pulled things back from what looked like being a much worse situation. Wickets from Phil (3-37) and tight spells from Withers and Mo had dragged things under our control. The chase saw regular wickets falling but our strength in depth came to the fore with numbers 6 and 7 (Matt and Mo) taking us home with an 82-run partnership. Matt’s 47* from 42 got us over the line as he hit the winning runs and jubilant scenes on the sidelines erupted. With two to play we only needed 14 points to win the league!

Unfortunately we weren’t able to seal the league win at Cully, which would have been rather lovely, but the home side burst our bubble somewhat. Despite having them 113-7 we let them off the hook and they reached 182. We then collapsed in the middle order, with nobody able to bat around Jamie Rose’s dogged and determined half-century. Only one other player managed double figures and we fell well short.

On the bright side, the seconds made a return to action with victory over Cully 3rds. Three wickets from Spades and 2 from Jack reduced the visitors to 78 all out in just 18 overs, and Dan Pooley led a comfortable chase with 40. On the non-league side of things, the ladies continued their fine form and entertaining match reports, while the Jokers won their last two games of the season – fine reward for such a positive enterprise this season.

Top run scorers: Mo Saeed 105 runs, Jamie Withers 93, Mike Nunns 82

Top wicket takers: Sean Bridgwater/Sam Criddle 8 wickets, Mo Saeed/Phil Walker 5


And so, with one game remaining, the first team hosted Upottery 2 needing just 3 points to secure promotion, and 6 to win the title. The game had everything – there’s a lengthy match report written already so I won’t go into it all. Tom Cox was the hero of the hour, a fitting story. His unbeaten half century helped see us to an unlikely victory chasing 163 after being 50-6. Not for the first time, we had looked dead and buried in a game but fought back to win.  Mo had earlier starred with the ball, taking 3-27 including the top-scoring opener with his first ball.

The seconds did play on the same day but finished early on a rain-affected day, and came back to cheer on the firsts. Honourable mentions for Rhyan who claimed 4-22 and DJ who hit 26.

Scenes of celebration followed…long into the night! A fantastic achievement, and really quite incredible progress from last season where we stayed up on the last day. The ‘first team’ gets the plaudits but most of the second team have at least played for the first team during the season, and failing that have been there with support and at training throughout the year. There’s no doubt that the camaraderie amongst the entire club has been a major factor in its success this year.

Bring on 2023 – Up The Wick!

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