STOKE GREEN have got some valuable experience into their young players having avoided relegation from Thames Valley Division One this season.

Club captain Sukh Dhillon admitted the team had weakened since finishing runners-up last summer, but they have comfortably secured their top-flight status for another season.

Stoke suffered a 44-run defeat at Boyne Hill in their penultimate match of the 2017 campaign on Saturday, but with facilities around the ground set for an upgrade during the winter, Dhillon is confident the club can punch above its weight again next season.

He explained to the Observer: “We’ve given the youngsters the chance to play Division One cricket and it’s all about experience for them, which is vital.

“The performance on Saturday proved that we actually can still compete in these games, and to almost pull-off victory was a very good achievement.

“We’ve got four guys all under the age of 18 that have contributed in the last four games. That experience is crucial for them and for the development of the club. All of those guys will be the future of the first team.”

Dhillon continued: “We came into this division after four successive promotions and it was probably slightly too early for the club as everything else was still catching up.

“Last year was freakish because we almost won the league and this season we’ve finished mid-table, which is probably about right.

“Next year we will be looking further up than down, but the development and the experience the younger players are getting now is invaluable.”

He added: “The club has come out of the blue in the last five years but is now talked about in the forefront of local cricket and we’re definitely in a better position.

“We enjoy our games, no-one has to be forced to play, and we’re trying to attract new players. We are a small village club but we’re punching well above our weight.

“Next year there will be a massive overhaul with a lot of development around the ground. We’re investing in the wicket and an electric scoreboard, which will look fantastic, plus new covers and sight screens that will make the club look more fresh.”

Hamid Riaz made 88 and Ziya Mohammed 65 as Boyne Hill set 266-9 from their allotted 50 overs on Saturday, before Stoke Green were bowled out for 222. Ali Nadeem Abbasi top-scored with 81 runs in the chase.

Dhillon admitted: “We’ve stalled in the second half of the season but that’s one of those things when you know your fate. We've taken our foot off the gas completely.

"We probably should have won if we batted better and actually the more experienced guys didn't hold their heads high.

That might have been the case because it is an end-of-season game and your mind is not on it. We should have batted more sensibly to win the game."

He added: "We ended up avoiding relegation relatively comfortably as well. The table will not show that we took our foot off the gas in the last half."

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