Cricket: Copnall's trip to Australia works wonders for Sandbach
SANDBACH will be toasting Adam Copnall's powers of persuasion if they clinch promotion tomorrow.
Four points from their Cheshire Alliance Division One home encounter with Saughall would see Sandbach go full circle in a roller-coaster 12 months.
Last season they were kicked out of the Meller Braggins competition for breaching league rules, but the leaders are on the brink of making their return.
A number of players left at the end of the campaign... and skipper Copnall continued his recruitment drive – which had started on the other side of the world a year before – to land all-rounder Ross Kesteven to make Sandbach a competitive force.
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And it has paid dividends, with the former Elworth man marking his debut season with 957 runs and 71 wickets with his off-spin.
"I was introduced to Ross through one of my friends, Chris Regan, who plays for Elworth," said the 35-year-old.
"Our friendship grew and the three of us decided to go to Australia in the winter of 2010/11, watch the Ashes and do a bit of travelling.
"We were there for about five months and all the time I was trying to convince Ross to come and play for us. We came back in the May and it took me all of last season as well to persuade him to move.
"Thankfully he did. His stats speak for themselves. Without him we wouldn't be challenging near the top."
And Copnall, in his first year as skipper, admits their success has taken everyone by surprise.
"Some of the players who left the club were our better performers, so we were a bit unsure about how we were going to fare," added the Wood Lane Primary School teacher.
"Our initial aim was to have a season of consolidation, and any finish in the top half would have represented a good summer.
"But we've exceeded our expectations and hopefully we can complete the job against Saughall."
However, Sandbach's memorable campaign hasn't just centred around the performances of star man Kesteven.
They have managed to blend youth and experience to formulate a side which has timed its promotion run to perfection.
Seamer Laurence Bowyer, aged 16, has been "the find of the season" according to Copnall with 34 wickets to his name.
But it is the elder statesman of the side, Laurence's father, Richard Bowyer, who has also played a pivotal role in Sandbach's success.
The 50-year-old batsman has formed a solid opening partnership with Kesteven... as well as passing on his experience to the relatively young dressing room.
"We'd struggled at the top of the order earlier in the season, but Richard has come in and remedied the situation," explained Copnall, who has been with the club for 25 years.
"He's the perfect foil for Ross. Richard can hold an end up and allow Ross to play his shots, which has worked well."
Copnall hopes Bowyer's wise head can also keep his side on the straight and narrow as they wind up their campaign.
"Richard is a calming influence and last year when the going got tough people lost their cool, which we haven't allowed to happen this time," he added.
"For us, promotion is the first aim, but you don't get many chances to win titles, so we'd like to add that as well."