HIGH Wycombe CC will target a hat-trick of Home Counties titles next season under a new captain after Matthew Eyles’ decision to step down this winter.
The 33-year-old led the team to two league triumphs in his three seasons at the helm, the second of which came last summer with an all-time points record.
He said: “I think the style we played set an example to the rest of the league. We played attacking cricket and tried to win games.
“Two titles in three years isn’t bad and I’m am proud of my record, but I’m not getting any younger and this will hopefully extend my batting career.
“To open the innings and and captain the side was getting harder, it’s all day and you don’t get any respite.”
Eyles hands over the reigns to James Benning, who bats and bowls, but is slightly younger at 29.
He said: “Jamie has been back at the club for a few years now and knows the guys well. I think it’s a good time to step down, for me and the club.
“The side shouldn’t change a great deal. We’ve made a few signing already and we should be as strong as ever so Jamie has got all the tools there. He will be absolutely fine.”
However, Benning will hope for a slightly less traumatic introduction to captaincy than Eyles had in 2010.
Midway through his debut campaign as skipper Wycombe were bottom of the table and in real danger of an ignominious relegation.
Eyles said: “It was an extraordinary first season, a real baptism of fire.
“I’m a pretty laid back guy and you’re not sure how the players will respond, but I think we were bottom half way through my first season and some hard decisions had to be made.
“I thoroughly believe we would’ve gone down if we didn’t make those decisions, but we’ve certainly kicked on since then. It’s just snowballed.
“Now we’ve developed into a really confident team, but at the time you couldn’t envisage the way we would dominate the league for the next two seasons.”
Eyles’ runs have been a big part of that and Benning will still have his calm assurance at the top of the order to lean on.
He made his debut in 2000 and has gone on to play 139 innings at this level, scoring 5,604 runs at an average of 46.31.
His average in league games alone is over 53 and rather than slowing down, he appears to be getting better and better and in the last four years he’s plundered a whopping 3,530 runs, with 11 centuries and 16 half centuries.