Milford Hall captain Stuart Phazey jokes that he needs a rest.
In a season which was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, players were itching to get out on to the field when recreational cricket was given the green light in July.
But coming towards the end of August, Milford Hall’s success is starting to take its toll.
Not only are they fully stocked with Saturday fixtures in the Staffs Club Championship, but free Sundays are a thing of the past thanks to their success in the National Village Cup.
Milford Hall are through to the last 16 of the competition – just one step away from where they reached last summer.
A trip to Gloucestershire to take on Dumbleton is on the agenda this Sunday… and the players are only just recovering from last week’s dramatic victory over Weekley and Warkton.
Phazey’s men were bowled out for 139 and their Northamptonshire hosts were 17-0 when the rain arrived to force the sides to take part in a bowl out.
It went to sudden death, but Rob Firth was the hero of the hour to send Milford Hall through… and mean Phazey won’t be getting any rest this Sunday.
“We’re playing twice a weekend at the minute and my body is not appreciative of that fact!” said 34-year-old Phazey.
“The Village Cup is a competition we have a love affair with. We usually get through a couple of rounds and then struggle.
“Our best run was in 2012 when we reached the semi-finals. It’s a nice distraction this year because there’s no promotion or relegation in the league.
“We’re heading off to different places and we went near Kettering last week to play at a lovely little ground. It was a quaint village and everywhere you looked there were thatched roofs.”
The picturesque setting was soon being slightly tarnished by the heavy rain, which forced the two teams to take part in the bowl-out. All 11 players had a single delivery to bowl – but Milford Hall so very nearly exited the competition.
“We were 2-1 down and Kev Royce bowled last and hit to take it to sudden death,” added Phazey.
“I just knew then, for some reason, we were going to win. Their opening bowler came charging in and from my experience that’s not the way to go.
“I had actually been surprised Rob (Firth) missed with his first effort, but he hit when it mattered.
“Personally I would prefer five bowlers having a couple of deliveries each, that would make for a better standard.
“But saying that, there were only two or three lads who were nowhere near.”
Phazey had mixed emotions about having to go through the lottery of bowling at a set of stumps.
He concedes that had the minimum 20 overs in the home side’s run chase been bowled, Milford Hall would have been struggling.
“They would have won after 20 overs because there’s no Duckworth/Lewis it’s just on run-rate, so they would have reached 70 and lost five, six or seven wickets getting them,” added Phazey.
“If it was 40 overs, on a nice day on the same pitch, I’d have backed us to beat them. Credit to their captain, though, because he wanted to get the bowl-out done quickly.
“Soon after we finished we had to hide in the pavilion for 25 minutes because it was monsoon-type conditions.”
If Milford Hall manage to see off Dumbleton on Sunday, they could face Astwood Bank in the quarter-finals – in a re-run of the 2019 last-eight tie.
Astwood Bank defeated Warwickshire side Temple Grafton last weekend… with the losers fielding former Manchester City and West Brom midfielder Gareth Barry in their side.
Barry took three wickets, but couldn’t prevent Temple Grafton falling to defeat as the Redditch side took another step towards an appearance in the Lord’s final.
“I follow Astwood Bank’s progress because we usually get to play them at some stage,” explained Phazey.
“I saw the name ‘Gareth Barry’ and thought it was the right area for him, did a bit of research and it turned out to be the one.
“We’ve got to focus on Dumbleton first, though, and I know nothing about them, so I’ll have to do a bit of digging.
“Hopefully the weather holds up, but we will have been practicing for a bowl-out in training, just in case.”
It’s not just the Village Cup which has piqued interest at Milford Hall this season. The club have won all five of their Premier Division games to sit at the top of the table.
They entertain Tamworth tomorrow, looking to stretch their advantage, even though they know that they won’t be able to make the step up this summer.
“In the league the problem with win/lose cricket is that you can be so far ahead of the game it can be difficult to stay motivated,” added Phazey.
“You have to set yourself little targets, but I think the fact Wolverhampton pushed us last Saturday was a bit of a wake-up call for the lads.
“This weekend will also be interesting because Tamworth have just come down from the Birmingham League.
“It’s a strange one without promotion or relegation. If we were able to be promoted it would mean extra travelling, so some teams are saying this year is the best one to win it in because you get the trophy, but not the extra miles.
“We will keep pushing, see what happens and go again next season.”