Ben Shepperson inspires Mildenhall to a winning start in EAPL with a captain’s knock
Mildenhall announced their return to the Gibbs Denley East Anglian Premier League in emphatic style, by celebrating an opening day four-wicket victory over Vauxhall Mallards on Saturday.
The West Suffolk club made their intentions clear, for this mouth-watering summer, inspired by a match-winning knock from Ben Shepperson and an earlier three-wicket haul from new recruit Tino Best, the former West Indian Test cricketer.
Best took the first three wickets of the match, on his way to figures of 10-1-42-3, as Mallards were bowled out for 230, five balls short of their 50-overs allocation.
And Mildenhall’s batsmen then ensured a winning start, in front of a good crowd at Wamil Way, by reaching their target with 4.1 overs to spare – they finished on 235 for six off 45.5 overs.
Shepperson, in at No. 4, was the backbone of the innings with a superb 97 not out, off 104 balls. The skipper received excellent support from Adam Trett, who contributed a vital 36 at No. 6.
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It all added up to a perfect day for Mildenhall, who had secured their return to the region’s top level of club cricket by winning the Marshall Hatchick Two Counties Championship Division One title last season.
“We had been looking forward to this moment for a long time,” enthused Shepperson.
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“We were both nervous and excited about this first match, and in the end everything turned out well. It’s a great start for us.
“We just wanted to prove that we were capable of being competitive, at this level, and we have done that, so we are relieved.
“It was a very nice day for the whole club,” added Shepperson.
There was a real buzz around the ground, among players, supporters and proud chairman Lou Handy, in the build-up to the game with West Indian big-name Best the centre of attention.
And 35-year-old Best, who played 35 Test matches between 2003 and 2013, lived up to all expectations, demolishing Vauxhall’s first three batsmen in a devastating spell of pure pace.
After Best’s opening blast, Aussie Peter Worthington added greater control to the Mildenhall bowling, with figures of 7-2-23-2, while off-spinner Jack Bowman had an impressive EAPL debut with one for 28 off his 10 overs.
All-rounder Shepperson chipped in with a couple of wickets off just three overs to polish off the Vauxhall innings, after Tom Allen and Matt Allen had taken a wicket apiece.
Skipper Paul Bradshaw top-scored for the visitors with 41 at No. 8, after the experienced Ben France had made 30 higher up the order.
“It was a brilliant first spell of bowling from Tino (Best). That set us up,” confirmed Shepperson.
“That was our game-plan, whether we bowled or batted first, to be very aggressive and to start on the front foot. And that will be the plan for the whole season.
“We have a very aggressive bowler in Tino, and also a very aggressive opening batsman in Joe Reed.”
In reply, the hosts scored quickly and were always in the ascendancy with the top seven batsmen all reaching double figures, spearheaded by the dominant Shepperson.
Opener Kyle Morrison struck 19 off 14 balls, including a six and two fours, while Reed also made 19 off 18 deliveries (four boundaries). Both fell to Bradshaw to leave Mildenhall on 50 for two, at which point Shepperson entered the fray.
Worthington compiled a classy 23 off 24 balls, including five boundaries, but it was Shepperson who obliged with his match-winning knock, striking 11 fours and three sixes in his unbeaten 97.
It was the ultimate captain’s innings from Shepperson, and he was ably supported by Trett, who contributed a patient 36 from 76 balls to take the game away from the visitors.
Shepperson said: “We got off to a decent start in our reply, scoring runs quickly. In fact, keeping up with the run-rate was never a problem.
“The openers gave us such a good start that Pete (Worthington) and I had time to settle in and to start building the innings.
“It would have been nice if Adam (Trett) had been there at the end, but he batted well, and on a personal note I had been saying that I had been feeling the best about my game for a long, long while.
“I had been batting well in the nets, and scored 70 in the warm-up match, so it all came together on the day. Hopefully I can continue that throughout the season,” added Shepperson. Mildenhall’s second match in the EAPL is another 50-overs-a-side contest at Norwich on Saturday.