WORPLESDON & Burpham first XI are showing they have the mettle to challenge for promotion in their debut season in the I’Anson Cup.

The side moved into the cup’s Division Four this year, having previously played in the Shepherd Neame Surrey County League.

And they lost their opening three matches, suggesting a difficult season lay ahead. But results turned around.

The first XI are skippered by club stalwart Matthew Lambert, who told the News & Mail: “After a challenging start to the season, we’ve managed to gel together as a group and put in some good performances. 

“There were some good individual performances at the start of the season, but as a group we weren’t quite good enough to get across the line.

“In terms of standout players, Tom Blaxland has been exceptional with both bat and his keeping. He’s set the tone for others to follow. 

“And some excellent bowling from both Tom Hinch and Mitch Rogers has helped to restrict teams and put pressure on opposition batting orders. 

“The standalone performance is Ollie Schofield’s 112 not out at Chiddingfold seconds on May 27. 

“The way he batted throughout the innings and then accelerated with the lower order to set a massive total was hugely important in our change in fortunes.”

Blaxland, who joined the club in 2017, said of the team’s start: “The first few matches were very bad – we didn’t play like we knew we were able. 

“But after that we’ve been a lot better and it’s much more like we want to be playing.” 

Asked what he put the team’s start to the season down to, Blaxland said: “When something’s going badly, it all seems to go badly. 

“I don’t know what it was but in the past few games we’ve caught all our catches. It’s not like people have been training for ten hours a week doing it. They’ve just started to stick. 

“In the games we were playing badly in at the start, we were dropping catches, mis-fielding and playing bad shots.

“It’s a lot to do with a mentality type of thing. And I guess a lot of the team rely on there being a good mentality from the senior players.

“I’ve been consistent with the bat but I’ve found ways to get out that I’ve never found before. Sometimes you graft to get a 50 and you get out and it just is what it is. 

“But getting run out when the ball got stuck in the long grass, that was a new one. It was an easy single and I got run out by eight yards.”

Blaxland was asked to give his thoughts on the club’s ambitions. He said: “It’s promotion, because when we play well we should be fighting for those promotion spots. We can do it. It just relies on a lot of our players being around for long enough.”

Blaxland offered advice to any aspiring top-order batter.

He said: “You should take your time but look to be pro-active. It sounds easy – but as long as you can put away the bad balls, you should do okay until you go up to a much higher standard. 

“That’s all you really need to do. And a lot of batters probably don’t wait long enough for the bad balls.” 

Spin bowler Rogers said of the team: “Last year we didn’t win many games. 

“We were a bit down on confidence and we came into this season not sure what to expect. We made a lot of silly mistakes but now we seem to be putting that right and we’re on the up, hopefully.

“Bar one or two people, usually everyone else in our team could bowl.

“And that helps a lot if somebody is getting hit around the park a little bit, because they can come off and we can get somebody else on.  

“A lot of  teams go into games with four or five bowlers – and if one is expensive, you have to keep using them. But we’ve got enough so we can get away with it a little bit.

“Up until recently I hadn’t bowled particularly well this season. I’d got a few wickets but not bowled as well as I can do. But against Farncombe seconds [on June 10] I bowled quite well and took 3-14. 

“Now it’s about finding some rhythm – but as long as the team win, I don’t really mind.

“I’m a very slow spinner. Most spinners are a bit quicker than me. 

“I’m a bit slower and try  to draw the batters forward a little bit and hope they make a mistake, miss it and get stumped or chip it up in the air. 

“I rely on them getting themselves out rather than me getting them out. But I’m just glad it happens.”

Schofield, 22, reflected on his superb knock against Chiddingfold seconds. His innings included four sixes and 16 boundaries.

He said: “I bat better when I’ve got more confidence, which tends to happen after I’ve played a few games in the season. It’s psychological.

“So as I get into the season, I know I’m going to start batting better. But I didn’t really have an inkling I was going to do that well, so it was good. 

“I started off quite slowly as I bedded myself in and then I was able to push on a bit more and I felt quite comfortable, although it’s quite tiring. 

“Some people don’t like to bat with a helmet if it’s hot.

“I like to bat with a helmet, but it does make it ten times hotter when you’ve got one on.”