Every cricketer dreams of playing at Lord’s. The iconic venue is the headquarters of the game, and for those below professional level, it’s often a dream which goes unfulfilled.
Plenty of club players have to content themselves with taking in the action from the stands, rather than venturing on to the hallowed turf.
But for Nantwich Cricket Club, 2019 will always be remembered as the year that they stepped out at the Home of Cricket.
The Dabbers, who play in the Cheshire County League, defied the odds to reach the final of the National Club Championship.
In total, 256 teams set out with the ambition of reaching the showpiece, but that honour ultimately fell to Nantwich and Norfolk side Swardeston.
They were no strangers to each other, either, having previously met in the final of the T20 nationals.
The final didn’t go Nantwich’s way, but nothing could take the shine off an experience which will live with the players forever.
It wasn’t just the final itself which provided memorable moments.
Nantwich had never reached this stage of the competition before and had to see off stern opposition to book their place in St Johns Wood.
They managed to negotiate their way through the regional stage of the competition, but some seriously-talented teams lay in wait in the national section.
Spondon and Bath were both defeated, before a semi-final date against Ormskirk.
Ormskirk were the favourites having beaten Richmondshire – the reigning champions – in their quarter-final, but the Dabbers rose to the occasion once again.
In front of more than 500 spectators at their Whitehouse Lane venue, Nantwich secured the chance to become only the second Cheshire side to win the competition after Bramhall.
“It was one of the most unbelievable days. It was surreal,” said Doyle after the semi-final success.
“I don’t think it has sunk in properly yet that we will be playing at Lord’s. Everyone has been going mental about it and social media has exploded.
“It’s the best day I’ve ever had as a Nantwich player. It was one of those occasions where it was massive for the club and everyone involved.
“There were 500 people there and I don’t think anyone has ever played in front of that many spectators.”
The big day for Nantwich was on Monday, September 16 – and they were backed by a big number of supporters who travelled down.
Swardeston batted first in the final and amassed 280-7 from their 40 overs, despite Jimmy Warrington and Mitchell Spencer both taking three wickets apiece.
The rain reduced Nantwich’s chase, but they were eventually bowled out for 193, even though Luke Robinson and Ryan Brown registered half-centuries.
However, despite not returning from their capital day out with any silverware, it was still an excellent season for Nantwich.
They managed to finish in fourth place in the Cheshire County League Premier Division, which was a highly-acceptable finish in a strong league.
And they did manage to ensure that they added a trophy to the Whitehouse Lane cabinet as they were crowned Phoenix 15 League champions after beating Porthill Park at finals day in the eight-a-side 15-over competition.
Nantwich have now been nominated in the Chris Harper Memorial category at the Sentinel/City of Stoke-on-Trent Sports Personality of the Year Awards.