The 2017 season seems to have run at a furious tempo from the outset, with many exciting games, beginning with an unlikely victory at Kings in April through to the glorious finale at Stowting in late September, with a wonderful tour to Bergerac, and the hugely successful dinner to celebrate 70 years of Straggler cricket. Amidst all the success, very sadly the Club bade farewell in the past year to two Presidents, Jimmy Cox and Peter Budden, and to another Club stalwart of the ‘70s and ‘80s, Alastair Gordon. Each of them will be greatly missed.
On the field of play, some extraordinary new records have been set (more below). The Stragglers have carried most before them, with 11 wins and only 2 defeats (both of which were very tight indeed); and we have witnessed some gritty rear-guard action, most notably at Egerton. The Stragglers also managed to concede more than 300 runs twice in 8 days, having done so only once previously in 70 years! Most importantly, the games have been played in the most wonderful spirit, with quality cricket relentlessly interspersed with banter and laughter.
A season of records
2017 was a season of the bat for the Stragglers, with more than 4,000 runs from the bat for the first time (4094). While some bowlers performed with distinction, the batters, and one in particular, took Straggler records to new, and extraordinary heights.
Jasper’s list of achievements is substantial:
First Straggler to score 4 centuries in a season; first Straggler to 6 (and then 7) career centuries; first Straggler to score 1,000 runs in a season (1132 in the end); second highest proportion of Straggler runs scored from the bat in a season with 27.65% (best was Toby Cox in 2000 with 29.34%); sixth Straggler to score reach 150 in an innings, with 151 at Stowting; eighth Straggler to pass 3,000 runs (which he did at Tenterden, and now sits 7th in the all-time list with 3230); third best average for a season – 87.08; one of only two Stragglers with a career average of over 50 – averaging 52.10, in second place behind Giles Brealy on 56.35; in partnership with brother Al at Belmont against SAC, he set a new record (223*) for the 4th wicket (replacing a record set by Bobby and Rex Neame in 1961); in partnership with Ben Simpson at Highland Court, he set a new record (162) for the 6th wicket (replacing James Ryeland and Joffy Sale from 1988)
Other batters contributed strongly, and, in most other seasons, would have been in contention: Ben Simpson scored his first century in any cricket and, with 457 runs for the season, is 8th on the list of runs scored in a season, and averaged 57.13. George Baker White’s 160* at Hollingbourne is the third highest Straggler score in 70 years, ending with an average for the season of 59.00. Disappointingly, George fell 2 shy of his career 1,000 in his final game. Al’s century at Belmont took him past 1000 career runs, the 43rd to reach that landmark. Al has only scored centuries in tandem with other Stragglers, and that does not happen often. For only the second time in Straggler history, three batsmen have averaged over 50 in the same season (the other in 1996). Eight centuries were scored in 2017; the previous best for a season was 5
With the ball, Theo topped the averages for the second year in a row with 15 wickets at 13.87, almost identical to his performance in 2016. With a career strike rate of a wicket for every 25.35 balls, Theo sits in fourth place on the all-time strike-rate list, which, remarkably, is headed by the Club’s founder, Wyndham Fletcher. Alex Reese, Hugo Snape and Benny Smallwood all bowled with some success to average under 20, and the final two fixtures produced a couple of excellent individual bowling performances, to end up with four “5 fors” in the season. Another highlight for those who were at Stowting, which is not given full expression in the stats, was witnessing the Master Brewer catch his third bout of the yips – certainly a Club record.
Behind the stumps, inspired by his performance of 2016, and in the absence of the injured Blair competing for the gloves, Al Smallwood smashed his own best, and the Club record for keeper dismissals in a season – he snaffled 22 (up from the previous best of 14), of which the 16 catches were also a record. In doing so he passed 50 career victims, and now sits on 55, with only Bobby Barclay (1949-1960) ahead of him with 79.
Catching and fielding were variable, with some quite outstanding moments of brilliance (Theo leading the way at Provender), interspersed with some drops, misses and other misdemeanours, barely recognisable as cricket. The ball has a habit of following a fielder having a bad day, and on tour, it cruelly followed one fielder for three bad days. 65 catches for the season is the second highest aggregate (behind 66 in 1982), so something must have gone right some of the time.
After a long discussion about a number of really exceptional catches and other memorable moments during the 2017 season, among them the Treasurer’s catch in the crowd at Wellesley; Jasper scoring 4 centuries and over 1100 runs in the season; Theo’s first ball catch at short-extra against the Stoats at Torry Hill, his exceptional fielding over the boundary to deny two sixes at Provender, and his extraordinary wrong-handed return catch against the BB; the exceptional catches taken by Graeme and Ben against the OWLS, the former diving on the boundary, Graeme’s one-handed at much closer range; and Seb Leggett’s running catch at Street End. From the tour, Alex’s night on the hotel door mat in Bergerac; Ben’s kidney surgery the evening before; Harry Gibson’s no-ball off a two-step run-up in Damazan; Olla’s throwing and Patch Clews’ bowling also at Damazan are worth a mention in despatches.
After all of that the 2017 Champagne Moment is awarded to Theo Allport for his remarkable one-handed, diving return catch against the Band of Brothers at Torry Hill.