Great escape so important says Upminster’s Peck
- Credit: Ray Lawrence/TGS Photo
Upminster enjoyed another big turnout at the annual benefit match with Essex, who fielded one of their strongest squads in recent memory.
And although the hosts came up short by 63 runs, they were still celebrating having avoided relegation from Shepherd Neame Essex League Division One the day before.
Shahbaz Butt hit 123 off 125 balls against champions Colchester at Castle Park to help Upminster reach 251-7 and, although the hosts went on to win by 10 wickets, the eight bonus points allowed Ollie Peck's men to leapfrog local rivals Gidea Park & Romford, who lost at Harold Wood, and survive.
Peck said: "We were fortunate enough to be asked to bat first and batted very well. Shabs got a hundred and I think he ended up with 970 league runs, which was the difference between us staying in the division and dropping down.
"He was well supported by Nabeel (Aziz) and some runs at the end from Terry (Wyatt), so it was a good total. We thought, looking at the Gidea Park-Harold Wood game we might need to take maybe five wickets to be in with a good chance of staying up, which we didn't do. Fortunately we didn't need to do.
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"It was a very odd feeling, coming off after losing by 10 wickets but still earning enough points to stay in Division One. We were pretty happy with the day.
"We were checking most overs what was going on. It was unfortunate for us and Gidea Park to be playing the top two on the last game of the season.
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"We were lucky to bat first and get our double points. They had to chase a big score but we'll certainly take it from where we were."
Having languished towards the bottom of the table for most of the season, Peck said it was vitally important to avoid the drop into Division Two and hopes some of the club's younger players will benefit from the experience.
He added: "When you go down to Division Two, there are players who maybe are not necessarily committed to staying with you. We haven't been in Division Two for probably 16 or 17 years.
"It is important. It's one of those things. It's a double-edged sword. Shabs is our professional and without him we would've struggled.
"That said we've got five or six players now in their early 20s, who you'd like to think it's important for them to stay playing at that standard and improving every year.
"You want to play at the highest standard you can but you want players to be pushing themselves. There is still a lot of work for the club to do in terms of training, coaching, commitment to playing. It's important for the club."
The seconds did suffer relegation, but the third team defended their Premier Division title and the fourths were the highest placed in the league.
Peck said: "We've got great strength in depth so really the onus is on the players in the first XI to try and improve.
"There should be a good breeding ground for young players coming through so to stay in that division is important.
"Tom Daniels has been very positive at the top of the order. He's got a lot of time and will continue to get bigger and train, Louis Pickering has bowled extremely well this year having not been as consistent in years gone by. He is now the spearhead to the first-team attack but now needs to work on his batting.
"There's lads in the second team like Will Frost, Sam Twine, who are coming through and should be pushing for places in years to come, so it's good to be playing in that division to give everyone the best chance to develop."
Rishi Patel (76) and Ravi Bopara (58 not out) led Essex to 264-8 on Sunday, whil Will Frost (2-42) dismissed Tom Westley and Jamie Porter in one over and Peck (2-29) nabbed a late brace.
But despite a good start from James Evans (43) and Louis Pickering (22), and a late cameo from Nick Ison (37), Upminster closed on 201 as Will Buttleman picked up 3-22.
Peck said: "It was another great day and it's turned into more than just a game against Essex.
"We had 70 kids playing a Kwik cricket festival between the innings, we had 50 doing an All Stars coaching session with Essex this morning, we had 30 women playing in a softball festival and an under-11 match so there was over 200 people playing cricket which is a great reflection on the club.
"A lot of people work tirelessly behind the scenes to make it all happen and it's great to be playing Essex in a year when they're fighting for T20 honours and maybe winning a second championship in three years. It's a great time to play them."