Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for coming to help us celebrate 70 years of Straggler cricket. It is such a pleasure to be able to welcome so many Stragglers past and present, supporters, family and friends here this evening.
And I am delighted to welcome our guests, Lady Kingsdown, recent past President of Kent County Cricket Club, and Graham Smith, our generous and highly competitive host at Provender; to welcome Mo Hare, as guest of the President, Peter Budden, who very sadly, is not well enough to be here. Peter had hoped to set up a live feed to the dinner to be able to address the assembled company but it was not to be. He sends his best wishes; and to welcome Tony Monteuuis, Chief of the Band of Brothers, with whom we had such an enjoyable first fixture this year.
I must thank Kaff for all her hard work in organising the dinner; Jonathan for the use of the Brewery, thank you; and Fred for most of the pictures on the screen behind me, taken at this year’s Inter-Straggler game.
We did not quite manage 100 guests here tonight, in this season of Straggler centuries – never before have 7 been scored in a season.
And we have an extraordinary pool of Straggler talent here this evening. Over 40% of all Straggler runs scored in the past 70 years have been scored by those in this room; and very nearly half of all Straggler wickets taken, and well over one quarter of all Straggler wickets were captured by the 15 Stragglers sitting at the table on my left, lead by Paul, Peter, and, of course, Rodney.
We have 6 of the 10 leading Straggler run scorers, and 7 of the 10 leading wicket takers.
On this, the terracotta table, we have 4 of the 5 Stragglers who have scored 5 centuries for the Club – Joffy, Simon, Andrew and Giles, the fifth being Toby Cox. And on the junior table we have the only Straggler to have 6 career centuries to his name – Jasper. I won’t go on with stats, as I risk stealing Jonathan’s thunder.
The “Terracotta” soubriquet was applied to a group of Stragglers in the field at Thriplow in 2015. About half the side were the wrong side of 40 (or probably 50), but, unusually, on this occasion, the senior players were not clustered in the slips pretending to be alert to a catch; the youth were bowling, keeping wicket, leaping about at slip, and generally being active. The rest of us were in a ring of steel from point though mid-off and mid-on to square leg, and, when watching another ball roll gently past another motionless fielder, one wag was heard to say, “You would see substantially more mobility in the terracotta army, than in the Straggler fielding today”.
You will be pleased, I am sure, that you will not hear too much more from me, but I would like to say a couple of things, and raise a toast before asking Nigel Hale to say grace.
A cricket club survives and thrives on the basis of a multiplicity of talents – scorers, umpires, groundsmen, commentators (that’s you, Clewsy), statisticians, providers of lunches, teas and other nourishment, supportive wives and girlfriends, parents as drivers, and, not least, of course, the enthusiasm of those who turn out to play. Every weekend.
But a Club needs that initial spark to bring it to life, and for that we all owe a debt of gratitude to Wyndham Fletcher. We will hear more about Wyndham this evening, and I am sure he is keeping an eye on proceedings. I only had the pleasure of playing a couple of times with Wyndham, and he must have been in his ’70s, which gives me a little while longer. It was, however, his umpiring, slightly idiosyncratic umpiring, which I recall more often.
Wyndham was, for many years, the Club’s leading run scorer, until overtaken by Nige in 2011.
Before I ask you to raise a glass to Wyndham for his vision in creating a club, which has welcomed cricketers of all abilities, and played the game with such an enormous spirit of enjoyment, and for all he did in guiding the Club through its first half century, I would like you also to remember those Stragglers who are no longer with us.
Wyndham and the other founders of the Club have gone on before us, and the senior Stragglers here will have bade farewell to many good friends. Sadly, even the terracotta generation have lost a few, most recently Alastair Gordon.
So, I would like you to be upstanding and toast “Wyndham Fletcher and absent Stragglers”.
It gives me great pleasure to introduce our speakers for this evening.
First on stage will be John Burley. John’s Straggler career was in the ascendant from 1965 to 1972, with occasional appearances to 1985. Very nearly an all-rounder, in 81 innings John scored 1208 runs at an average of nearly 17, and he took 63 wickets at just under 19
Our second speaker this evening is Jonathan Neame. Jonathan made his debut in 1979, and it pains me to say it, but he a true all-rounder, the 9th to complete a Straggler double in 1988. Jonathan has scored 4,609 runs from 167 innings with an average of over 31, number 4 on the all-time list of run scorers, and only 60 runs behind his father. There is a lot of support to bring Bobby out of retirement. Somehow Jonathan has aso persuaded 147 batsmen to give up their wicket, number 11 on the all time list, and at an average of 25.6