Harpy are champions

HARPENDEN captain Ben Frazer has lauded his Harpenden side after they gained promotion to the Home Counties Premier League Division One. Frazer s troops secured the league title in style romping to an eight-wicket win against basement side Hertford and wi

HARPENDEN captain Ben Frazer has lauded his Harpenden side after they gained promotion to the Home Counties Premier League Division One.

Frazer's troops secured the league title in style romping to an eight-wicket win against basement side Hertford and with Simon Wade's Third XI and Ben Dearman's Fifth XI also winning their respective leagues it's been a superb campaign for the club.

Frazer's achievements with the first team in his debut season are impressive but for him the success of the other sides is just as important.

"It's as important in my eyes to the club as us winning our league," Frazer told the Herts Advertiser. "For the thirds to come up to Division Three is a fantastic

achievement and Wadey deserves a huge amount of credit for that. "We need to get the fifths and fourths closer so theirs out of all the promotions is massive. Credit to them because they're the guys who get hit the most when guys are away and people drop out."

Director of cricket David Doyle also paid tribute to the club's successful sides saying:

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"The first team, third team and the fifths all won their leagues so it was a perfect weekend in all ways.

"Wadey's done a fantastic job in the thirds and actually Ben in the fifth team did it a little bit last year but this has been his first year in control, so in a way three new captains."

The First XI led their division from start to finish thanks to a real team performance and that has pleased both Frazer and Doyle.

"The good thing is it's not just been one person who's achieved it by themselves," said Frazer. "There's been three or four of us at times that have put our hands up. Looking through the stats on Saturday, everyone at some point has made a significant contribution whether that be fielding, some keeping or something like that. It's been a real team effort."

Doyle has pinpointed the players' commitment and availability as key to their success.

"If you were to ask me how we've managed to do that and the change from last year, where we struggled, to this year it's been because the guys have been training properly and regularly. I don't think many of them have missed sessions if any at all and the availability has been absolutely brilliant.

"Availability has been really strong and that makes mine and Ben's job a lot easier because you can get a lot of stability and that makes the difference."

When asked which players have impressed him most, Frazer points towards three of the club's bright young prospects.

"I couldn't pick one player. Players who I think have impressed me most are Chris Bennett-Baggs, the wicket-keeper/batsmen, Will Bates for his batting and Nick Lamb because his game has come on from where it was at Welwyn. His bowling has been a real highlight for him this season so for him to get 500-odd league runs and a few wickets is good for him.

"They're all young, Lamby's 23, Bennett-Baggs is 21 and Batesy's just turned 18 so they've got years ahead of them and that's vital for us."

Doyle was keen to highlight the contribution of his captain and the changes his arrival has bought to the club.

"It's been fantastic; what Ben has bought is a change of attitude particularly to the young players. Although he's a hard captain and he barks a lot and he gets grumpy the young guys have responded to that and they've got out of that fear of failure mode.

"However, we sat down half way through the season with a clean sheet. We have messed up a couple of times this year. The Hertford game here was a disgrace really, we had a very, very bad day and then we got on the wrong end of a damp wicket at Sawbridgeworth and we've got on the wrong side of a couple of decisions.

"However the side always bounced back and the win against Letchworth down here two weeks ago was awesome. The boys batted properly and bowled the right lines and I hope the people that have come down to watch have been entertained."

Frazer believes the club's home win over Bishop's Strotford was the moment the team showed that they were capable of going all the way.

"The Letchworth one was the best overall game of cricket we played but when I thought we'd win the league was when we beat Bishop's Stortford here for the second time because they've gone on a great run after a bad start so I thought that was our must-win game."

With promotion to the Home Counties Premier League Division One secured the club is now beginning to plan towards next season. There are changes the club will have to make towards facilities but one thing that Doyle was keen to stress they wouldn't be doing was throwing money at players 'for a couple of years' fun'.

"We're starting to plan the next phase, which will be interesting," said Doyle. "We've got to make one or two changes down here (at the ground) but I think it's a great moment for the club to address the whole facilities issue. With the third team, there are going to be some good sides coming down to play at St George's School and we've got to look at bolstering that up.

"With the fifth team playing in a higher division, it looks like we're going to have to find a new ground for them somewhere as well so there's an awful lot of work to do in not a huge amount of time but we're looking forward to the challenges.

"I've had a fair few enquiries from players phoning up already. If it's a money thing there is one thing we're not going to do it's do what one or two other clubs have done and bring in players and see the wage bill rocketing for a couple of years fun and then putting the club in a financial trouble. The people I've spoken to already, I've let them know that, the membership here won't stand for that and I've seen too many other clubs try and do the same thing and it doesn't work."

It's a view shared by Frazer who insists the club wouldn't need to go down that route anyway with the club's wealth of young talent.

"I think the foundations are there to develop a good side. We've got good young players and we're not going to go down the route like Potters Bar and bring in a whole different team. We don't need to, we've got so many good youngsters.

"It'll be a challenge for them to step up to that level. Whilst the league we've just won is an okay standard, the next league up is a completely different ball game. You're playing against people with first class experience so we'll have to up our game and see if we can mix it with them."

Harpenden will get to pit their wits against several local sides next year with trips to Potters Bar, Tring Park, Herts County Cup winners Radlett and Frazer's old club Welwyn Garden City to look forward to.

"That'll be interesting, said Frazer. "It'll be a very tough league next year and it's good there are other Hertfordshire side's in there. I think we'll go okay. There should be some good local derbies and we go well in local derbies so hopefully we'll come out on top in them.