Several years after thinking his playing days were done, former Notts batter Jonathan Wileman has made history by becoming the first player from the club to gain both a World Cup winners medal and an Ashes series victory!
“I never had any expectations of representing my country”, said Jonathan, “to get that chance when I thought my cricket career was over was particularly thrilling”.
‘That chance’ was the Over-50s World Cup held in Cape Town, South Africa in March this year. The England squad not only won that tournament but also triumphed over their oldest rivals in a two-match ‘Platinum Ashes’ series played immediately after the World Cup.
Wileman joined the full time Notts staff in 1995. He was a regular member of the Sunday League side, averaging, with the aid of eight not out innings, 45.20 and took 17 wickets at 28.00. He also appeared in eight First-Class games but failed to reach an individual fifty.
On leaving Trent Bridge in 1996, he went on to play for Lincolnshire, and for the Surrey Cricket Board. He also played in the recreational game in Surrey and for the MCC.
It was the experience of those MCC matches – including tours to Argentina, the USA and Spain – that stood him in good stead when it came to playing overseas in the Over-50s Cup.
“I’d played in fourteen or fifteen different countries”, he said, “and was well used to different playing conditions and dealing with warm weather.
“Mind you, this latest tournament was bit of a challenge as we left a chilly England and headed straight for the heat of Cape Town!”
In the end, Jonathan coped with the weather and the various opposition sides to very good effect, playing in six of England’s eight matches, including the semi-final and the final.
He made significant contributions throughout the series – most notably in what he described as a ‘must-win’ group match against South Africa when he came in at 55-4 and scored 55no, steering England home and securing a place in the knock-out rounds.
It was a similar story in the semi-final v the USA when Jonathan came in at 57-4 and, again, steadied the innings and set up victory. In this match he just missed out on another tournament half-century, finishing 49no as England won by four wickets with four overs to spare.
If winning with four of the forty-five overs to spare sounds like Over-50s ‘Bazball’, he was quick to dispel that notion. “We are not young batters with bats like tree trunks; we don’t have the fire power to knock the ball 90odd metres like the top guys do.
“But that’s not to say that we weren’t fit and up for the limited overs game. Indeed, several of the other teams cited our fitness and the keenness of our fielding as reasons why the England side came out on top”.
He explained that, in contrast to the fairly relaxed approach at County Over-50s level, each player selected for the England team was given a personal fitness programme and there were training and fielding practice sessions ahead of, and during, the tournament.
Although this was an ‘England’ squad, it was not financed or supported by the ECB, Jonathan explained, “The tour was entirely self-funded – we each had to find ways to meet the costs of travel”.
That need for careful budgeting may be one of the reasons that the tournament was played over a relatively short time scale (6-20 March) and stayed within the Cape Town area, thus reducing expenditure for the competitors.
There was – as befits an international tournament – an opening and a closing ceremony. The opening was at the famous Newlands cricket ground, where the final was also played, and the closing event was staged at Western Province CC.
“Most of the grounds were in tip-top condition”, said Jonathan, “good wickets and quick, reliable outfields”.
Having triumphed in the World Cup, the England team, in Jonathan Wileman’s words, “hardly had time for a celebratory beer” as the two-match ‘Platinum Ashes’ series was played on the days immediately following the final.
“We had hoped for a day or two break”, he recalled, “but Australia had travel commitments so the only way we could get both games in was to play straight after the Final”.
A 2-0 win in that mini-series means that Jonathan Wileman came back to Britain with a World Cup medal, an Ashes win under his belt and a lifetime of memories.
He probably didn’t know that he was breaking new ground for a Nottinghamshire cricketer. Although plenty of Notts stars have been part of Ashes wins over the centuries and more than a few have been in victorious England T20I squads, no English Notts player has won an ODI World Cup before!
Deryck Murray of West Indies and Australia’s Paul Reiffel have played in World Cup winning sides and another overseas star, Ravi Ashwin, was in the India squad that won in 2011 but didn’t play in the final.
It might have taken longer than he could have anticipated but Jonathan Wileman is now part of the long and illustrious history at Trent Bridge.