Chris Ridings says Pershore will not be burdened by any pressure or expectation on their Birmingham League return – because they simply remain a group of pals playing cricket.
Pershore, promoted as Worcestershire League champions, suffered their first defeat since their elevation to Division Three last weekend when Handsworth claimed a six-wickets win to leapfrog to the top of the table.
It ended a run of three successive wins but the Plums, who head to Shropshire tomorrow (Saturday) to face Whitchurch, have no sense of being downhearted.
Ridings says the squad is relishing the task ahead.
“It’s another challenge that as a group of players we respect but we also want to try and stamp our mark on this level,” said Ridings. “It’s a step-up in standard – there are a few better players in each team and the depth of talent is greater. That’s the big difference.
“The biggest thing for us is that this group has been together for five or six years. It’s easy to play with your friends and the core is very much the same – the majority of the players have come through the junior section.
“People ask about targets but my answer is the same as it was last summer. I’m captain of a group of friends who love playing cricket.
“We train hard, we play hard and our only aim is to go out and have fun. If we do we will win plenty of games. There’s no pressure, no expectations. It’s amateur sport and you have to have fun together.”
Pershore have added to their 2015 squad by recruiting Gregor Hearn, described as a destructive batsman, who is on a placement at the University of Worcester, and welcoming back Joe Taylor after a spell with Old Edwardians.
Adam Wiffen has been a ken man with bat so far, and left-arm spinner Taylor Pugh has been among the wickets, but Ridings says it is very much a team effort.
“To single out any one player as a match-winner wouldn’t be right,” said Ridings. “Any one could win a game by scoring 100 or anyone could take a five-for.”
Matt Brace, who was ill last week, and Darren Critcher, recovered from injury, will both return to the squad this weekend when Pershore travel to Whitchurch.
Pershore, having been put into bat, had a steady start against Handsworth at The Bottoms, only to lose two wickets in two balls to leave them 40-2.
Liam Ridings’ dismissal for 25 off 19 balls was followed by Taylor being clean-bowled first ball.
Opener Wiffen tried to keep the momentum going but wickets fell at regular intervals and when he was out for 27 Pershore were labouring at 81-6.
Charlie Norton managed to keep the scoreboard ticking over, finishing topscorer with a doughty 34 but Pershore were all out for 164 in the 49th over.
Clement Smith was the key wicket-taker for Handsworth, finishing with 4-36 off his eight overs, while Bevon Brown (2-19) and Kenrick Smith (2-34) also had an impact.
Pershore needed quick wickets but Handsworth openers Renrick Hooper (54) and Carby Dawkins (89) put on 120 in their first wicket partnership inside 22 overs.
Taylor had Hooper caught by Charlie Cross, and Cross claimed three more wickets in his 3-45 but it was not enough to halt Handsworth’s charge to victory inside 33 overs.