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Cookham Dean prioritise National Village Cup progression over Thames Valley League matches

Ben Millar

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Cookham Dean won their first Thames Valley Cricket League game of the summer on Saturday afternoon, defeating Beaconsfield by 83 runs in a fairly one-sided contest. But skipper Ben Millar said this week that’s not been the club’s priority this season.

While other clubs are focused on finishing as high as they can in the Saturday league, Dean’s focus has shifted to the National Village Cup, having made it through to the national rounds with a fine win over Wraysbury on Sunday.

Dean won the Berkshire rounds of the competition after overcoming three tricky games against Horspath of the Home Counties Premier Division, Peppard and Wraysbury.

This Sunday they’ll host Sarisbury of the Hampshire leagues with the aim of progressing to the last 16 of the competition. League rivals Stoke Green have also made it through to the final 32 after defeating Bledlow Village on Sunday to win the Bucks competition.

“Our priority this year has been the National Village Cup,” said Millar. “The league has been a secondary focus for us. We beat Wraysbury on Sunday, which was good and we’re playing again on Sunday against a side from Hampshire as we’re now in the national rounds. The team we’re playing against on Sunday are very talented. They’re in the top tier of the Hampshire competition so we’re expecting a tough game. We’re really focused on that. We’ve beaten Horspath from the Home Counties League and Peppard, who have a number of guys who play at the top level of the Thames Valley League on Saturdays. Then we beat Wraysbury, who tend to take these matches very seriously.

“I think they’ve been our most challenging games given the competitive nature so it’s been good to win those matches and get through to the national rounds. It’s given our season some purpose which is great.”

Patrick Castleden has passed 50 runs in each of the Village Cup matches he’s played so far, while Millar also praised his side’s bowling and fielding in the games. Saturday’s TVL Division 1 games have been more about ‘having some fun’ for Dean’s players, which explains their mixed start to the campaign. With no promotion or relegation from the league this season, Millar said the players’ levels had understandably dropped 10 per cent. But on Saturday they were good enough to bowl Beaconsfield out for 115 having posted a decent total of 198-7. The 22 points they earned lifts the side to seventh in the table ahead of Saturday’s trip to Gerrards Cross.

“Our league form has probably suffered a little bit as a result of our priority being Sunday’s matches,” he said. “We hope that the final will be played at Lord’s. We’re into the last 32 now, and I know Stoke Green are also through in the competition as well.

“The side we play on Sunday is called Sarisbury. I think we’ll be the big underdog for that game because they’re currently in the top league of the Hampshire competition. But then again, we were underdogs when we played Horspath. We’re also at home which is a bit of an advantage. We got to the quarter finals a few years ago and lost by a run which was disappointing, but it’s a competition we like so fingers crossed for Sunday. It would be great to go one step further.

“Obviously we can’t be promoted this summer, but we’ll think about that over the winter and see where we are. I wouldn’t say that we’re struggling for motivation, but clearly you’re going to be 10 per cent or so off, just psychologically. We haven’t been at our best, we know that, but we’ve just been going out to have some fun and are trying to enjoy it.”

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Stoke Green will represent Buckinghamshire in the national rounds of the Village Cup competition after defeating Bledlow Village by six-wickets on Sunday.

A poor batting display from Bledlow saw them bowled out for just 135 runs and Sukh Dhillon’s side seized their chance to advance to the next round, losing just four wickets in the process.

Green will host Liphook & Rispley from West Sussex in the final 32 of the competition on Sunday.

In the first round Green chased down Ballinger Waggoners’ total of 214 for a four-wicket win. They then produced a club record knock of 418 as they thrashed Dinton by 275 runs before Sunday’s success at Bledlow.

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