07:00PM, Friday 23 July 2021
Stoke Green skipper Sukh Dhillon admitted he and his teammates were 'pinching themselves' to have made it to the final four of the National Village Cup, however, he knows they've got several very difficult hurdles to overcome if they're to be crowned champions at Lord's.
The season is shaping up nicely for Stoke Green, who Dhillon said have come a long way in recent seasons, having once been considered 'the laughingstock of cricket' in their area.
Having beaten the favourites Burnham to lift the Julian Cup last week, they're now also in pole position to win Thames Valley League Division 1 with just over a third of the season remaining and are one win away from walking out to bat at the home of cricket in the final of the Village Cup.
Green's players could be forgiven for looking ahead and dreaming of the glories that may lie in wait, however, Dhillon is keen for them to keep their feet firmly on the ground in the coming weeks.
He knows that any slip up in the league could erode confidence and put the brakes on the momentum they've built in recent weeks. On Saturday they dismantled High Wycombe 2nds, bowling them out for just 123 runs before chasing down their target for the loss of three wickets in less than 17 overs.
“On Saturday it was a good wicket, and the way they started I felt that 250 would be about par,” said Dhillon.
“But they imploded in the middle against our spin attack which is not too uncommon at the moment.
“It was a good, professional, performance from the lads against a side near the bottom of the table, and we’ve come unstuck in these matches in the past.
“That wasn’t the case this time. We bowled well and the guys batted really well. It gave us confidence going into Sunday as well.”
Saturday's victory lifted them three points clear of their closest rivals Ickenham, ahead of this Saturday's home game with Slough 2nds, a game they'll be expecting to win.
However, the league is so congested and competitive, just one defeat could knock them off their pedestal and see them tumble down the table.
“If anyone said we'd be top of Division 1 after 11 games I'd have taken their hands off for that,” added Dhillon. “But, while we're in a good position, we don't want to let it slip.
“We want to win our next two league games and we'll see where we are after that. It's a very tight league this year, probably the tightest I've known so any loss or bad day at the office could be the difference between being top and falling to mid-table and the lads all know this.”
Dhillon will be hoping for two league wins over Slough 2nds and Falkland to tee up their Village Cup semi-final at Calmore Sports on Sunday, August 2. Excitement is building in the Green camp, with some players describing that match as the 'final of the South'.
They've already had a little 'intel' from players from Cookham Dean, who were knocked out of the competition by Calmore in a close match that went down to the wire.
“The guys are dressing it up differently,” he said. “Some are calling it the final of the South because South plays North in the final.
“We’ll give it our all in that game and can’t leave anything to chance because we’ve come so far. We’re one game away from Lord’s. The club has come a long way. At one point we were almost the laughingstock of the area, but now we’re beating the big boys in our area, and we’ll give it our all to get to the final at Lord’s.
“We’ve spoken to some of the Cookham lads, and they’ve filled us in a bit. But you don’t know what their availability was like. It was earlier in the competition; they might have had a different team out and in the national semis you probably would try to get all your best players out. But we have had a lot of intel so we’re not going completely cold into the game.
“They obviously played a good game against Cookham, who are a good side, and they’re top of Hampshire Division 1 which is known as a tough league so we’re going to come up against a very good side.”