COLCHESTER and East Essex Cricket Club's first XI claimed runners-up spot in the Essex Premier Cricket League, writes PHIL WOLSKI.

They thrashed league champions, Hornchurch CC, at Castle Park in the final league encounter of the season.

The visitors elected to bat on a damp pitch under overcast bowler friendly conditions and were skittled out for 152 runs in merely 39 overs.

Pick of the Colchester bowlers was 17-year-old Jacob Drew who took 4-29 including the wickets of two former First Class batters.

Other contributors to the tumbling wickets were Charlie Fernandes (4-29) and Ben Stephens (2 -35).

In reply, Colchester comfortably reached the target with six wickets in hand, after merely 37 overs.


This was thanks largely to a third-wicket stand of 84 between skipper Charlie Fernandes (48) and wicket-keeper, Simon Fernandes (61 not out).

Whilst delighted with second place, their highest position in recent decades, Colchester conclude the season with some thoughts of what might have been.

Unfortunately, Kiwi overseas player Adi Ashok was prevented from featuring in the first four matches due to visa delays.

He was then crucially absent in two unexpected August defeats that blew the title challenge off track, after his call-up to the Blackcaps T20 squad.

Gazette: Adi Ashok

Similarly, Charlie Allison and Mackenzie Jones were absent for much of the season due to school, county and (U19) international commitments.

However, just as young Allison seized his opportunity in the Essex first-team squad and Jones in Scotland U19s, three other promising Colchester youngsters, Jacob Drew, Jonty Ray and Daniel Gladwin admirably stepped up to the plate.

Colchester is a remarkably young side and that augurs well for 2024. If it were not for evergreen veteran seamers, Ben Stephens, Darren Eckford and Vikas Agawal, the team’s average age would be even lower, reflecting that the nucleus of the side is that which won the Ravi Bopara U19 T20 cup over three consecutive seasons.


A strong batting line-up, including Joe MacGregor, Joe Austin, Guy Haines plus the Fernandes brothers, has consistently delivered, and a failure to bowl out teams in the timed phase of the competition is perhaps the area for future improvement.

But the spectacular demolition of the powerful league champions batting line has ensured that the season ends on its highest note.

This investment in youth, assisted by some of the best youth coaches in the county, such as Ben Stephens and Beth Dodd, should pay further dividends in the seasons to come.

However, extreme youth and a lack of experienced campaigners has impacted on Colchester's 2023 Second XI performances.

Unfortunately, another narrow defeat saw that team relegated.

However, the club’s 2023 mission statement included an objective of winning the Premier League title “within three seasons”.

Colchester's first XI achieving runners-up in the first season of that plan, whilst four players (including one female, Esmae MacGregor) graduated to sign First Class contracts, which suggests the club is on a very sound player development pathway.