Axsel wins Colt of the Year award at Ottery

The Salston Field headquarters of Ottery St Mary Cricket Club was packed to the rafters last Friday evening as members gathered for the club s annual junior presentation night.

The Salston Field headquarters of Ottery St Mary Cricket Club was packed to the rafters last Friday evening as members gathered for the club's annual junior presentation night.

In a season of unparalleled success, six youth sides spanning the age range U10 to U17 achieved four top three finishes in the Bradley's East Devon Youth League (EDYL), including two league titles, and three appearances in Somerset County Sports sponsored cup finals.

Under the tutelage of Greg Axsel and Rob Johns, the U17s have matured into an excellent side, finishing third in the league and losing to a very strong Kentisbeare side in the cup final after a first ever win over Whimple in the semi.

Antony Dean, Jack Pritchard, skipper Alex Clements and Charl Axsel all scored heavily with Dean securing the batting award whilst left arm seamer Zac Johns claimed the bowling award ahead of Sam Bowyer-Thornton and Sam Loud.


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Undisputed team of the year, however, were the U15s who won their league in fine style and were runners up to Topsham St James in their cup final.

Keith Biggs' side also had the honour of representing the EDYL in the county wide Bob Bridges Cup in which they suffered the agony of losing their semi final v Plymouth on the toss of a coin, having secured a magnificent quarter-final win over a particularly powerful Paignton side. The season's league statistics reflect the Otters' dominance, the leading batsman (George Biggs 260 runs at 87.60), bowler (Sam Loud 15 wkts at 6.70) and wicketkeeper (Louis Biggs 3 catches and 7 stumpings) all coming from within their number.

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The side also received terrific support from younger age groups - U11 Ollie Reed's five wickets for 2 runs against Topsham St James being particularly notable. The batting and bowling awards went to George Biggs and Sam Loud respectively, two terrific young talents who both made quite an impact in men's cricket. Loud has won a place in the Devon U15 development squad to tour South Africa in the New Year.

The U13 side also enjoyed a wonderful season, winning all eight of their league matches to feature in a bizarre three-way tie for the league title whilst losing to local rivals Sidmouth in their cup final.

The biggest challenge for coaches Scott Gibbins and Gavin Iley was ensuring that all members of their large squad were given a chance to perform, leading Gibbins to comment: "Some players didn't get to play enough, but the attitude of the whole squad was a credit to the club."

In scoring over 200 runs, Billy Reed secured the batting award whilst the bowling trophy went to promising left arm paceman Jack Webber, whose 14 wickets included a haul of 5-8 against Woodbury.

U11's joint coach Steve Loud emphasised the importance of winter training sessions in facilitating his side's terrific season, during which they finished runners-up in the league and reached the quarter finals of the cup.

Amongst a squad containing a plethora of fine young prospects, five players achieved county representation - Dan Pyle, George Hoult, Ollie Reed and Joe Henkus with Devon, and Ben Phillips with Somerset.

Opening batsman Hoult, who scored heavily throughout to average 68, received the batting award, whilst big hitting all-rounder Pyle, whose 19 wickets were supplemented by 250 runs, claimed the bowling trophy.

But, perhaps, the side's secret weapon was their pre-match haka, orchestrated by Kiwi joint coach Will Katene, an impromptu rendition of which delighted all and sundry on the evening!

Despite his U11 hard ball pairs side failing to win a match, coach Tom Whittington delivered an upbeat overview of a season where shortcomings in batting proved crucial. All rounder Dan Geacock received the batting award as well as claiming five wickets against Whimple and Reece Whittington also batted solidly. Henry Mutter, who took wickets in every match, claimed the bowling trophy. Tom Conway and Albert Sutherland-Brown also contributed well, the latter securing a county trial.

The biggest challenge fell to rookie coach Steve Ellison whose pleasure in coaching the U10s softball team is abundantly clear. Only eight players per match can be selected from a squad of 40 in the range six to nine years old! Two sides are likely to be run at this age group during 2010. Ellison identified bowling award winner Josh Singh as "an outstanding natural talent" and paid tribute to the good eye and excellent attitude of batting award winner Louis Hilton.

Club chairman Rob Bradshaw-Smith, concluded the evening by presenting the fielding trophy to Matt Reed, the Chairman's Trophy to U15 all rounder Alex Thurgate, and, most coveted of all, the overall Colt of the Year to U17 Charl Axsel.

Bradshaw-Smith paid tribute to the Somerset Academy youngster's wicketkeeping, describing it as "the best in the D Division". Coupled with his beautifully organised batting, which saw him open the innings for the 1st XI throughout the season, this makes the South African-born 17-year-old an outstanding prospect.

With the conveyor belt of young players in full production at Salston Field, where the facilities are amongst the best in East Devon, the club's biggest challenge is now surely for its senior sides to progress to a standard of cricket commensurate with the array of emerging talent.

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