CANVEY Island were celebrating finishing top of the pile in the T Rippon Mid Essex league’s second division this week.
Despite losing out to Havering-atte-Bower in the final match of the season, the successful Canvey team had bagged promotion to Division One before the first ball was bowled on Saturday.
And proud captain Neil Casson was delighted his long-serving team had topped the table.
He said: “We have finished in third place for the last two years – so we just missed out on promotion before.
“But this time we’ve got there and the lads are really pleased.
“I’m so proud of the way we’ve played as a team. I’m one of the few older guys in this team and the youngsters have been fantastic.
“I started an under-13 side eight years ago and half of the team we had have been with us since then.
“I knew they were a good bunch of lads as teenagers because we won the under-13s District Cup early on,” he added.
Although Canvey has more of a footballing than cricket tradition, the team stuck to its guns in recent years, putting in plenty of winter and spring training sessions at King John School in Benfleet.
And the hours in the nets, and doing endless catching and bowling practise has come good this season.
Canvey’s margin of victory over second-placed Brookweald was a whopping 42 points.
They won 14 of their 18 matches – only losing three times all season.
There were some key moments in the season which Casson says gave the Canvey boys belief that, this time, promotion was within their grasp.
“I know that great fielding has been so important for us and the lads are great at getting around and stopping runs being made,” he said.
“But one of the crucial matches was when we beat Hornchurch by one run at their ground. They had needed just five off the last over and Ronnie McLughen was the hero for us.
“He’s not one of the main bowlers – they had all used up their overs – and in the end it all came down to his deliveries.
“Ronnie bowled brilliantly and they found themselves needing three off the last ball.
“Ronnie, who’s only 20, restricted them to just two and when we won that we knew it was a turning point,” he added.
Another mainstay of the team was Neil’s son Ross Casson, 21, who bagged a massive 600 runs over the course of the season.
His father said: “Ross is a fighter and gives everything for the team.”
Another hero was young Jack Avery – previously on Millwall Football Club’s books as a goalkeeper – who swapped soccer gloves for keeper’s mitts.
Casson said: “Jack did not even get into cricket until he was 14. I think he only let 10 byes through all season and it’s that sort of thing that makes you a better all-round team.”
The team, which plays its home matches at Smallgains Park in Creek Road, still has a few friendlies remaining this season.
The team is always looking for new squad members and people to help with training and if you’re interested you should call Neil Casson on 07771 625284.
Second team also claim success
CANVEY’S second team ended their league campaign in fifth place in division 10 after a 121-run defeat at league winners Thurrock at the weekend.
Batting first, the hosts scored 188-7 with David Saunders 4-42 the pick of the Canvey bowlers.
Canvey’s batsmen were soon in trouble with only Taylor Casson (17) offering much resistance.
After winning the west league with eight wins out of nine games, Canvey’s under-13 side were defeated in the cup semi-final by a strong Belhus side by 32 runs.
Belhus totalled an impressive 150-1 in their 20 overs but the Canvey batsman went down fighting taking the game to the last over before they were eventually all out for 118.
Taylor Casson hit 31 not out and Joe Owen 16 for the Islanders.