Coach Curtis Jackson does not want his Cleveland County team to get distracted by next weekend’s Eastern Counties first-round match against new champions Bailey’s Bay, insisting that automatic promotion is the club’s main priority.
Jackson, who returned to Cleveland from Southampton Rangers to take over the club’s coaching reins this season, played in his team’s crucial win over Willow Cuts at the weekend, which keeps Cleveland on course for a quick return to the top flight.
Cleveland were relegated last season despite winning their last three matches, finishing just six points behind Somerset Cricket Club. Now they are looking for victory on Sunday against fellow promotion contenders Somerset Bridge, after which their focus will switch to the counties opener at Sea Breeze Oval the following weekend.
“The win was good for the boys, they have been training hard lately and have picked up the wins, although not as many bonus points as we would have liked,” said Jackson after their 37-run victory over Cuts.
Cleveland posted 242 with captain Steven Bremar leading the way with 45 while Makai Young contributed 43.
Cuts looked on course for victory with Dwight Basden scoring 51 and youngster Shakeal Outerbridge nearing his own half-century when he skied a straight drive and was caught at long-on for 45.
That wicket changed the match with Cleveland youngster Keith Whorms then picking up three wickets in one over before Cuts were all out for 205. Whorms, 15, was on a hat-trick when a confident appeal for leg-before was turned down.
“[Outerbridge] was batting well, but I felt if we just kept the boundaries down and gave them ones and twos it would put the pressure on them,” Jackson said.
In their last ten overs Cuts needed to score at about seven runs an over to reach their target.
“I didn’t care if they scored three or four runs an over, as long as we kept them under four an over then the pressure would build against them,” Jackson said.
“We have two young players who have been doing really good this season, Q’Shai [Darrell] and Whorms, who came to the party today.
“In his second spell he bowled a lot better. He missed the hat-trick but got the same batsman out lbw two balls later so we just had to be patient.”
Jackson insists the Eastern Counties will take care of itself after Cleveland get past this weekend’s match with Bridge, who suffered a heavy defeat in the Western Counties match against Southampton Rangers last weekend.
“As the coach I’m not really worrying about counties right now, I just want to put ourselves in a good position for the league title, not just the [promotion] play-offs,” Jackson said of the race for the automatic promotion spot.
Jackson has found himself playing this season after he had hoped to concentrate on the coaching. “I really was looking forward to playing for Tuff Dogs in the Evening League,” he revealed.
“I really didn’t expect to play but due to circumstances I said OK. “Dennis Musson has stepped down as captain due to family commitments and I decided to give [the captaincy] to Bremar, the next senior player and a national team player as well.”
Cleveland won the Eastern Counties for the first time in 33 years in 2014 when they beat St David’s in the first round at Sea Breeze Oval. Their two-year reign as champions ended in 2016 at the same venue when St David’s pulled off a sensational one-wicket victory.
Cleveland posted 146 and had St David’s reeling at 61 for eight in reply before Rudell Pitcher shared in ninth and tenth wicket stands of 54 and 36 to emerge as the St David’s hero with a two-hour knock of 54 not out.