OTTERSHAW skipper Raheel Khan is hoping they mark their return to the Shepherd Neame Surrey County League with a top-four finish in 1st XI Division Three this season. 

Khan, who did not play last year as the team finished bottom of the Surrey Cricket League Premier Division, told the News & Mail: “The level’s gone up in terms of what we’re used to – and we’re not doing too badly. The target is to at least make the top four.” 

Khan, 41, is a fast bowler who joined the club from Guildford City ten years ago. 

During his time with the Otters he has scooped four major individual awards. 

He said: “Since childhood I thought I had some talent. But I didn’t really pursue it in the way I should have done.

“Fast bowling is an art. It takes a lot out of your body. 

“But what I’ve done, as I used to play at a higher level, is come down to an easier type of cricket where you don’t have to put that much pressure on your body to play. But fast bowling is not easy.” 

Asked to pick out his best performance of the season, he said: “We were playing Warlingham on July 1 and we got them all out for 86. 

“Unfortunately our top order failed and I had to go in there and shore the innings up. I hit a winning knock [25 not out] to see us over the line. 

“It was difficult conditions, a green-top wicket, so a lot of wickets fell early and it was a low-scoring game. But that was my best performance.”

Khan said he has been particularly impressed by Ottershaw’s Muhammad Anjam this season.

Against Englefield Green in May, the all-rounder hit 105 not out off 71 balls.

Anjam, who opens the bowling, has been with the club since 2016. He believes they have the quality to clinch promotion to Division Two but need greater discipline. 

Anjam said: “As a team we think we can do much better. We need to focus more. 

“All these boys are really good players and on their day they can individually win these games. 

“We’re a much better batting unit than we’ve displayed on those scorecards.

“I’m not happy with my performances. I’ve been bowling with a good rhythm but not taking enough wickets. And runs wise, I could do much better.”

Of his ton against Englefield Green, he said: “It’s not enough in about ten games. I’d like to contribute more with the bat. 

“The competition in this league is good. We can finish in the top two and go on to the next league next year but we definitely need to win a lot of our remaining games.”

Vice-captain is Dhilip Fernando, who is regarded as one of the club’s all-time best batters. 

He said: ““When Raheel can’t skipper, I’ll do it. But normally I run all the logistics, so my missus does the teas and I come and open up the place and do all the membership stuff while he captains on the field.

“This is our first year back in the Surrey County League and we’re about mid-table and just trying to play along and survive. 

“There have been some ups and downs but there’s a possibility that if we can win some matches, we can get promoted. But cricket can be a tough game. 

“We’ve improved a lot in this league. It’s a better league that we’re in right now. We’re playing better teams at better grounds and the away facilities are very good. 

“Changing leagues was the best decision our club has made for a long time.” 

Fernando is one of the club’s longest-serving players, having joined them 16 years ago.

He said: “I was born in Sri Lanka and moved to this country when I was 11. I was playing at a very good level there. I did a couple of President’s XI games in Bangladesh and India, so it was good. 

“I could have played at a higher level but this is home now.

“In Sri Lanka, first you battle the weather and there’s no grass outfield. Our pitches weren’t great and we used to play on a mat where the ball pings off it and comes on to you straight away, so it’s more difficult to play there. 

“When you see the coaching here, it’s not as tough as we had it because if we missed a catch we used to have to do ten press-ups and run in circles. 

“In Sri Lanka we also didn’t have any changing facilities and we never used to have straps for the pads, so we used handkerchiefs and tied them around. 

“We shared helmets and guards, and when batting I even used to go to the non-striker’s end and give my bat to the other player so he could bat with the same one. This is how you used to play. 

“But now it’s changed a lot and there are significantly better turfs and facilities, especially in Colombo.”

Also turning out for the first XI this season are local twins Harry and Arthur Bradley, 21, who both had promising football careers prior to concentrating on cricket. 

Arthur said: “We were at the nets at the Foxhills Road ground one day and a gentleman called Ken Stapleton [skipper of the Sunday  second XI] asked us to come down and get involved.

“I started by opening the bowling and I’ve more or less made a complete U-turn and I’m a batter now.

“It’s a lovely club and a lovely set-up. Everybody here loves cricket and we love Ottershaw.” 

Harry, who is three minutes older than his brother, said: “The club just has such a homely feel.”