Winter is nearly upon us and now is an ideal time to reflect on what was a memorable 2017 season for Worcestershire CCC.
To be promoted as champions from Division Two of the Specsavers County Championship and top a formidable North Group in the Royal London One-Day Cup were two superb efforts.
The only disappointment was a below-par campaign in the NatWest T20 Blast in which Worcestershire finished second from bottom of the North Group.
Skipper Joe Leach has taken time out to look back on the six month campaign in a series of question and answer sessions with the Worcestershire CCC website.
Question: You are looking back over your first season as captain, you must be delighted with the whole picture?
Joe Leach: “When you look at the whole package, it has been brilliant really. We sat down 12 months ago and talked about what we wanted to achieve from the season – and to achieve it, is very gratifying.”
Question: To get back in Division One is massive for the club?
Joe Leach: “It is and to do it as champions probably sends a message. We keep getting talked about as a bit of a yo-yo (team) but to for us to do it as champions, probably highlights our credentials in a division with the likes of Nottinghamshire and Sussex in particular who on paper are the two biggest names.
“I could name five or six sides.The top sides in that division are good sides and to go up as champions is very pleasing.”
Question: Was there a particular highlight for you?
Joe Leach: “If I had to pick a highlight, the win over Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge is probably the first time I’ve felt since I played that when we really needed to win a game, we did.
“For us to go there and win, when they basically nullified our overseas player (Ravichandran Ashwin) was very pleasing.”
Question: The Championship season appeared to be split into three distinct thirds where you won the first four games and last four games and had a wobble in the middle?
Joe Leach: “I think the season itself you could split into those categories. We went off like a steam train in both the Championship and the One-Day Cup.
“Then we had that bit of a wobble in June-July during the T20 and the Championship – although we had a great win over Kent in that period.
“You can categorise the season like that. I think in the heat of the moment it is very easy to get carried away with little bursts.
“It is important that you do step back and look at the fact we’ve played 14 Championship games and won nine of them and, but for the rain at Durham, we potentially would have won 10 out of 14.
“It is very pleasing we have managed to do that. It is very unrealistic to expect games where you are not going to get beat. Look, we’ve got to be very happy with what we have managed to achieve this year.”
Question: The One-Day Cup, to top the group was a superb effort?
Joe Leach: “It was brilliant and a bit of a shame the way the structure was. We kind of went into that semi-final (against Surrey) a little bit cold because we hadn’t played in the competition for three or four weeks.
“It was a fabulous day here (the semi-final) and it is hard not to be a bit disappointed by the performance we put in there.
“But if you had offered us to finish top of the group and secure a home semi-final, then I’m sure everyone at the club would be satisfied with that. But it is a shame that we didn’t get to Lord’s”
Question: The T20 Blast, was that the sort of campaign that can happen to any team?
Joe Leach: “I don’t really want to be as blase as to say ‘it can happen to anyone.’ I think we’ve got a lot of improving to do in that particular format.
“If you look at the last two years, we’ve lost too many games for a side that on paper should be quite strong in T20 and you would say should be one of our stronger suits, on paper anyway.
“It was a horror campaign and the exact opposite of the other two and it was a tough four or five weeks for the group and we need to improve.We know that.
“But having said all of that, if you had offered us a semi-final, winning Division Two and ending up where we did in T20, we would probably have taken that as opposed to flipping it on its head and winning the T20 and losing out in the other two. What’s a more successful season?
“But that’s not to make excuses. We need to be very honest and accept we haven’t been good enough at that format for two years now and we need to get better.”
*Look out for part two of the question and answer session with Joe Leach on the Worcestershire CCC website during the next few days.