It is always disappointing to end the season in the rain, but faint hope of enough dry weather to get in a T20 brought the Stragglers to Stowting, and thus the season came to its end in an appropriate spot – The Tiger – but sadly without a ball being bowled. And it was a season bedevilled with cancellations – 5 lost to the weather in one of the driest summers in a century (we were really unlucky in having games on 2 of the 3 wet days in 60 in high summer), and four opposition failures to get sides out (we did manage to find a last minute replacement for one of these, thank you Sissinghurst). We only managed to play one game between June 10th and July 22nd.
With only 15 games played from a card of 23, the momentum of 2017 was hard to maintain, with fewer records broken and milestones set. Among the highlights were the presentation of the inaugural Peter Budden/Shepway Straggler award to Inigo Pullen in recognition of his “most ably and consistently demonstrating a high degree of enthusiasm for cricket while contributing to the spirit of the game”. The Club toured Amsterdam, and celebrated the King’s birthday weekend in a sea of orange, and sadly only played one game, the rain blowing in from the North Sea on Sunday. And 15 players made their debut for the Club, including former Kent captain, Matthew Fleming and three members of the Kent U-18 squad. With Pullens, Pollingtons and, newly moved to Kent, the Elliotts, families with numerous cricket players, and a very youthful group of new Stragglers brought in to face the Junior BB, the Club continues to spread down the generations.
As ever, the banter was relentless, and games played in the very best spirit. As well as the Dutch opposition on tour, we made new friends with Tarbarrow in Gloucestershire (invading the Welsh Marches does not quite count as touring), West Peckham and Sissinghurst, and returned to Folkestone for the first time in at least 3 decades. And we were welcomed by many old favourites on the days when the sun managed to put in an appearance.
Behind the stumps, there seemed to be fewer opportunities as well as fewer games, with a modest return for the season of 15 victims, Al was to the fore again with 11. Perhaps the keeper catch of the season was the one taken by Theo in the Inter-Straggler game to remove George BW, taking the ball one handed while airborne in front of second (possibly third) slip. In the outfield, Straggler catching and fielding varied, as ever, from the sublime to the truly terracotta. 56 outfield catches was a good return for the season, but a number of regulation catches went to ground (most notably at Sissinghurst and Street End), while others were truly remarkable – among the contenders for champagne moment.
Jasper began the season with the bat much as he had ended the last, with a century at Milstead, but then tailed off, with his first golden duck in any cricket at Tarbarrow. Having broken the 5 century season limit in 2017, Stragglers went on to score tons at will, with 8 scored by 7 batters during the season. No one was dominant with the bat, and in the end Patch Mitchell did enough to top the list with a 106* at Tarbarrow (his fourth Straggler century), and an average for the season of 53.25. Ben Simpson rescued the Stragglers from ignominy in Amsterdam with 109* (his second Straggler century), and came second in the averages for a second season on the bounce, averaging 46. Al scored his third century with 110* at Sissinghurst; Hugo scored a first Snape Straggler ton, 114* at Hollingbourne; Joe Gordon hit an electric 109* not out against the Babes; and Theo, unable to buy a run at the start of the season, ended with a wonderful flourish, playing himself back into form in the Inter-Straggler game with 113, and then finishing with an innings of real elegance at Street End with 122* (his fourth for the Stragglers) but just too late to put Patch under pressure. As can be seen from the averages, a lot of batters got close to half-centuries, and a couple just sneaked over the line.
In a season with no “5-fors”, and what look like modest returns for the very varied attack, Hugo bowled himself into top spot with sustained pace and accuracy, giving very little away; he did put himself under a bit of pressure in Amsterdam with his kit locked in the boot of David Mitchell’s car and the keys heading for lunch elsewhere in the city. The Chairman continued to give batters enough time to sow doubt and for them then to surrender, and it is good to see Seb and Toby up the list. Memorable debuts were made by Tom Burge (3 for 39 at West Peckham), Louis Gray with 1 for 19 against the Junior BB, Oscar Pullen (3 for 18 at Sissinghurst) and brother Rufus, who has the happy knack of taking wickets in the first over he bowls in each game. Albert Courage with 4 for 12 against the Junior BB made a second, and very effective, Straggler appearance.
The Straggler Committee met in October to decide on the award of the champagne moment for 2018. There were perhaps fewer outstanding contenders this year, a function of fewer games (as well as some woeful drops), but those very worthy of consideration included Nick Wright’s diving catch on to the concrete outfield at West Peckham, Felix Taylor grappling with the umpire in the Junior BB game before hanging on to an excellent grab, Theo to catch George in the Inter-Straggler game one-handed while the slips remained motionless, Richie Palmer for Hollingbourne (a rare mention for an opposing player in the list, so good was his catch), Al’s boundary full-length if unsuccessful dive at Folkestone, Harry Churchill looking over his shoulder while running backwards to take a memorable catch at Sissinghurst, and, at the other end of the spectrum, Jonathan’s selection issues at Otterden.
After much discussion, the 2018 Champagne Moment is awarded to Nick Wright for his catch at West Peckham off the bowling of Tom Burge. The Committee also asked that a special award should be presented to Richie Palmer for his outstanding catch for Hollingbourne; and that the fine levied on the Master Brewer for his selection management was inadequate, and could be paid in monthly instalments.
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.
The 2016 season started well in the south of France, and, while played in generally improving weather conditions as the summer progressed, maintained great momentum, with only the first and last games rained off. There were a number of debutants, some of whom had been waiting for a year or two, and the first female Straggler at Egerton. The level of enthusiasm was such that, by the end of the season, most Match Managers had waiting lists of volunteers to play – a rare luxury indeed. With so many games played, more Stragglers bowled sufficient overs or played enough innings to qualify for the averages than we have seen in the recent past. And only the late cancellation of the final fixture prevented the Master Brewer attempting a late season charge for the top of the batting averages.
On the field of play, the quality of performances varied (when do they not?), but was generally high. Batsmen piled on plenty of runs, and 3,614 scored from the bat is the second highest seasonal aggregate (best of 3,781 in 1996). Three of the ten largest Straggler totals were posted in 2016. Bowlers took 153 wickets, and, while not a record, is well up with the more successful seasons. Fielding and catching (59 out-field catches the 6th best total) varied from the sublime to the more prosaic, with moments of one handed brilliance interspersed with serious outbreaks of terracotta.
However, this proved to be the “season of the wicket keeper”. Wicket keeping is such a strength today, that three of the top ten Straggler keepers of all time regularly play in the same side, sharing duties with the gloves – Theo, Al and Blair. Collectively keepers have never been more successful; individually Al equalled the most victims in a season; and a magical moment of keeping brilliance has won the 2016 champagne moment for Blair. Long gone are the days of the unwilling, one handed and partially sighted keeper being bullied into unfamiliar borrowed kit, and then trying to stop byes being leading run scorer for the opposition.
Highlights from such a good season are many, and I will pick out three of particular note:
– The tour to St. Tropez, while unsuccessful in the middle, was hugely enjoyable, with generous hosts and a splendid way to start the season;
– The second Straggler two day, four innings game against Standard Athletic Club in May went to the wire, a credit to the skills of both captains declaring appropriately to try to deliver a result;
– And, inevitably, a victory at Provender will always rank highly. Hugo lead from the front in the field, posting himself in the line of fire at short extra, picking up three exceptional catches, and setting the standard for a fielding display of the highest calibre.
As ever a cricket season throws up plenty of stats to keep the most assiduous cricket obsessive happily engaged for weeks.
Jasper passed 2,000 runs early in his innings at Tenterden, the 14th Straggler to do so, and now sits a mere 39 runs behind Matt on 2,098. Jonathan (4,549) is only 120 behind his father, and is beginning to threaten the position of Nige (5,281) as leading all time run-scorer. Charlie Munton is the 42nd Straggler to pass 1,000 runs. Toby leads the batting averages for 2016 with 312 runs at 62.40, one of only 11 batsmen to average over 60 in a season. Archie Hammond has leapt into third place in the career averages on 49.30, having just qualified with 10 completed innings. Behind him in fourth is James Grant (45.78), and now at ninth equal Jasper (43.56). The longest standing record for a Straggler wicket (the 10th dating from 1952, when Paul Smallwood and CE McCausland put on an undefeated 75 against Ashford) came under pressure in the two day game at Belmont, when Jasper declared to cut short Blair in full flow, two short of a half century and 6 short of the partnership record. Only three centuries were scored in the season (Archie, George BW and Ben Methven), coming in a rush in high summer, but there were 17 half centuries, including Toby left stranded on 98*, and Jasper falling 3 short at Tenterden.
Both Theo (54) and Jasper (61) went past 50 career wickets during 2016, the 39th and 40th Stragglers to do so, and, with career averages of 19.61 and 18.15 respectively, are respectably placed in the all time list, when one considers that they are bowling in the ‘age of the bat’. The Chairman is the fifth bowler to take 250 wickets and now has 275 career victims. And five bowlers took a ‘five for’ in 2016, a rare event indeed.
Fielding and catching varied in 2016, but a total of 59 catches is the equal sixth best for a season, although with a catch per match rate back in line with the long term average, well down on the exceptional 2015 season, when Straggler fielders had hands like fly paper. There were a number of exceptional one handed catches, all of which are worthy of consideration for the champagne moment (see below). Behind the stumps the Stragglers are blessed with a plethora of expertise. Al and Blair both moved into the all time top ten Straggler keepers, with 33 and 25 career victims respectively. 26 keeping dismissals is a season’s best, beating the 25 of 1959 and 2013. And Al is the third to join the very select group, who have taken 14 in a season.
2016 produced some wonderful contenders for the Champagne moment – Blair’s leg side stumping off Billy Richardson against SAC, Rory DD’s remarkable running slip catch against the Turks, Blair’s leg side catch at Selling, Hugo’s one handed catch at short extra at Provender, indeed Hugo’s inspirational captaincy in the field that day, when he could do no wrong, Will Hilton’s diving slip catch again at Provender, Patch Clews’ one handed effort at leg-slip against the BaBes, another exceptional boundary catch by Carl at Belmont, Benny’s unplayable spell at Hollingbourne, Simon Schilder’s one handed slip catch at Smarden (in a game when almost all other catches went to ground), and Ricky Churchill’s remarkable juggled catch at Otterden, finally grasped with one hand.
After a long discussion about a number of really exceptional catches and other memorable moments during the 2016 season, the 2016 Champagne Moment is awarded to Blair Hart for his wonderful leg-side stumping off Billy in the game against Standard Athletic Club at Belmont.
The 2015 season proved to be one of endless frustration, as too many enthusiastic Straggler teams were denied the chance of glory by a combination of some very unkind weather, and both early and late season cancellations. In almost every game we had XI players, and occasionally some more on stand-by. In 68 years there has only been one season with fewer fixtures played – 8 in 2007, a really wet summer, against the 9 in 2015. By the end of July only 6 games played of 12 in the card, and so it continued with rain regularly falling on match days following a week of sunshine, and some disappointing opposition cancellations. The big disappointment, of course, is for those irregulars, who we see only a few times a season, and who have not had a chance to shine in 2015.
And there was a lot of shining on the field in 2015, when the Stragglers did make it to the middle, with the quality of the cricket of the highest order, as some of the more obscure stats will reveal. The Stragglers have never taken so many wickets per game played, nearly always bowling the opposition out. Of the 25 bowlers who took a wicket, 21 averaged less than 20! The averages read like a list from the ‘50s. And at nearly 4.7 catches per game, the bowlers have never been so well supported – only once previously have Straggler fielders held on to more than 4 catches per game, and usually the success rate languished at fewer than 3.
In the late summer the Club bade farewell to Chris Garfit, who played regularly from 1970 to 1981, scoring 807 runs in 79 innings for the Stragglers. His bowling was less frequent than occasional, managing just 2 overs and 5 balls to take 1 for 10. Chris took 16 outfield catches, and 6 behind the stumps along with a brace of stumpings.
2015 has generated rather fewer statistics than in the recent past, inevitable with so few games played. Finn Hulbert tops both batting and bowling averages, only the 8th time that both awards have gone to one Straggler; and Finn has now completed enough innings to enter the career averages list – at number 10 with an average of 40.40. Jasper has moved up to 6th in the list, averaging 44.85.
Ben Bowles now tops the “also batted” list with an average of 126, albeit from only 3 innings. Justin Hubbard has taken his career average up to 54.25, and now just needs a couple more completed innings to join the all time list.
As noted in the introductory paragraphs, Straggler bowlers were rampant in 2015, with an extraordinary list of success. Among the highlights, Jasper became the 39th Straggler to take 50 wickets for the Club. At the other end of the career list is Alastair Gordon, who, in dismissing son Joe, took his 349th wicket, only denied number 350 by some curmudgeonly umpiring.
In spite of the cohort of terracotta warriors in the field, Straggler fielding was electric. Jack Taylor and Hugo Snape each took 6 catches, most of which were in the slips. Slip catches are almost unheard of in Straggler annals, any sort of thick edge usually being among the safest of shots. And there were plenty of other exceptional catches, among them some of the contenders for Champagne moment.
With only 9 games played, there are fewer contenders for the Champagne moment (or moments) of 2015:
Hugo’s extraordinary slip-catch at Wellesley, plucking a deliberate shot over the cordon from the air, much to the bewilderment of the batsman; Tim Martin’s commitment to the cause at Thriplow, returning to the fray after a visit to hospital to have stiches across the bridge of his nose to staunch the flow of blood; Charlie McLeod’s exceptional leg side catch at Provender; Finn’s wonderful one-handed catch to remove Ben at Belmont; the Gordons keeping dismissals in the family, also at Belmont; and Hugo’s dismissal of Toby first ball in the same game.
After a long discussion about a number of really exceptional catches and other memorable moments during the 2015 season, the 2015 Champagne Moment(s) are awarded jointly to Alastair and Joe Gordon for their reciprocal wicket taking in the Fixture Secretary’s XI fixture at Belmont. Seeing Alastair run in and drop the ball on a length took some of the crowd, misty eyed at the recollection, back 45 years; and with Joe the third generation Gordon to play Straggler cricket, we have the youngest member of the Kent Cricket Academy. To have father and son dismiss each other was beyond the scriptwriters imaginings.
The start of the 2104 season was touched with sadness, as the Club bade farewell to Jim Woodhouse and Roddy Child Villiers. Jim was a stalwart of the Club in the early years, scorer of centuries, when the ball ruled the bat, scoring three in the ‘50s, a feat not equaled until the early ‘80s. Jim sits at number five on the all time run scoring list and was the first to the Straggler double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets. We had the great pleasure of Jim’s presence at the pre-season drinks party in April. Roddy’s Straggler career is of more recent vintage, a regular from the mid ‘80s until the end of the century, with a dazzling cover drive and a safe pair of hands behind the stumps.
The tour to Paris, the first foreign venture for 13 years, saw the Stragglers play the first two day/four innings game in the Club’s history (and be put to the sword by Standard Athletic Club over two days of gripping cricket). The season was good in parts; disappointing to lose three games to cancellation, and four to the weather (in which a start was made in three before a rain intervention, and one of these was then restarted as a T20), but with some high quality and exciting cricket on occasion.
Straggler batting began the season showing signs of fragility, as modest totals were set, and batsmen failed to find the middle of the bat. Ralph Taylor proved a notable exception, scoring his second Straggler century at Selling, undoubtedly the youngest Straggler to have two centuries to his name. As the season progressed, so the runs began to flow, perhaps no more so than in the all Straggler game at Belmont, when 526 runs were scored in a game that went to the final ball. Three more centuries were scored late in the season (George Baker White, Giles Brealy and Jasper Smallwood), as the runs came more readily. Perhaps the most elegant contributor with the bat was Patch Mitchell, who notched up runs with effortless grace, his 70 in Paris a particular highlight. Among a number of brutal clubbers of a cricket ball, Toby Snape was probably the most effective, his 61 at Provender coming in very few balls (and was his only dismissal of the season).
Jasper tops the averages for the second season in succession, following in the footsteps of Patch in 2008 and 2009. In spite of taking half the season off to go travelling, Jasper continued accumulating runs on his return, with the highlight his quick fire century in Paris. Bart Forster, Giles and George were hard on Jasper’s heels, although Parisian indisposition somewhat undermined George’s position.
In the field, along side some spectacular catches (two that remain vivid are Carl Brown’s flying catch at Selling and James Stabb’s running one at Provender), and remarkable run outs, I cannot recall a season which saw so many straight forward catches go to ground. A notable exception was against Wickham and Stodmarsh, which saw virtually every chance held, and three by specialist fly slip, Benny Smallwood. A late season highlight was a string of slip catches at Benenden (Matt and Eliot), Otterden (Giles twice) and Hollingbourne (Hugo); slip catches do not often feature in Straggler fielding. Behind the stumps Al took control, snapping up ten victims, the most notable being his keeping at Benenden, arriving towards the end of the Straggler innings from a hard fought game of rugby to take 2 catches and a brace of stumpings.
If Straggler batting did not quite fire early on, Straggler bowling proved mean enough to defend some pretty ordinary totals, and conjure draws and even victories from unlikely situations. As the averages demonstrate, we were blessed with a pool of regular talent, ten bowlers bowling at least 25 overs, and, although the impact was not quite as overwhelming as in 2013, there was always another option to turn to. Highlights include Finn Hulbert’s 5 for 9 to roll over the Turks, Bart Forster’s spell against Nonington, when carnage was the order of the day at the other end, and Hugo’s 2 for 0 in five overs at Hollinbourne. Jasper, Ed Prest, Graeme Tyndall and Eliot all took wickets at crucial moments, while Simon Allport was the only Straggler tourist to improve his average on the matting wicket at Meudon. Patch Mitchell secured the bowling award as he demolished the middle order at Hollingbourne.
2014 has generated the usual flurry of stats. Giles Brealy joins the elite group of Stragglers who have scored 5 centuries, his 101 at Otterden coming after a gap of eight years to remind us all that class is perennial. The others in that elite group are Joffy Sale, Simon Schilder, Toby Cox and Andrew Cox. Giles also returns to the top of the all time Straggler averages, having been briefly replaced by James Grant. Giles is now the only Straggler with a career average over 50 at 56.35. Patch Mitchell became the 42nd to have passed 1,000 career runs during his second innings in Paris. Benny Smallwood was finally defeated for the first time in his career (it has taken four seasons to winkle Benny out). And Ed Prest, reinvented as a late order pinch hitter, has seen his career average increase by a factor of 16!
Straggler bowlers rolled up to the wicket for 693 overs in the season, the most since 1996, with the Chairman the first to propel (or is that overstating the pace?) more than 100 overs since a (much younger) Will Gow did so in 2001. Simon Allport became the 10th Straggler bowler to take 150 wickets in the game against Wickham and Stodmarsh.
Al Smallwood’s ten victims behind the stumps are the most by a keeper in 33 years, since the glory days of Charlie Barlow, who took 11 catches in 1981. In securing a snow covered catch at Otterden, the Chairman became the 6th Straggler to 50 career catches in the out-field.
There are a number of contenders for the Champagne moment (or moments) of 2014: Matt’s catch in the wind at Kings, Carl Brown’s leap on the boundary edge at Selling, Toby’s blazing half century at Provender, James Stabb’s running grab also at Provender, Olly Wardman’s unlikely last ball victory boundary at Belmont, Bart’s steadiness under fire against Nonington, Benny’s trio of catches against Wickham & Stodmarsh, Patrick Clews remarkable one handed catch at Tenterden, the ring of steel at Benenden, Ed Prest’s 36* in quick time also at Benenden, while under instruction to bat out cautiously, a number of extra-curricular activities in Paris, and Hugo’s remarkable spell at Hollingbourne of 2 for 0 from 5 maidens.
After a long discussion about a number of really exceptional catches and other memorable moments during the 2014 season, the award for the 2014 Champagne Moment is awarded to Ed Prest for his peppering of the Benenden boundary.
After the deluges of 2007 and 2012, and the gloom in the intervening years, 2013 had the benefit of a more typical English summer, with only one game interrupted by the weather, and many played in glorious conditions. In most games the Stragglers rose to whatever challenge was thrust before them, managing 10 victories and only losing 3 times (excluding the loss in the inter-Straggler game). The percentage of victories (10 in 15 games) has only been bettered once, in 1952 (leading batsman in 1952 AJP Woodhouse, and leading bowler PJC Smallwood).
The batting was never quite operating at full throttle (with the elegant exception of Jasper), suffering some notable early collapses, even with 5 centurions. However, there was nearly always someone to step up and save the day, if things looked really tough. Perhaps the highlight was the record-breaking 7th wicket partnership of 115 between Toby and Owen at Belmont, to drag the Stragglers back from 44 for 6.
In the end the batting totals seemed almost irrelevant, as the Straggler attack were up to defending almost any total. At last 2013 swept away a decade of dominance of the bowling by two old, fat blokes and a brewer with a twitchy trigger finger, as the new generation of Straggler strike bowlers launched themselves on to the cricket fields of Kent. Toby, Theo, Ed, Jasper, Al, Archie, Louis, and even Benny tore through batting line-ups with a mix of intimidating pace and deftly spinning control. Adding muscle to the attack came Eliot, Graham and Owen, perhaps no longer quite in the prime of youth. It is a long time since Straggler match managers have been blessed with such variety of pace and style, and such ability. To have six bowlers average under 20 in a season is a throwback to the early days of the Club, when the ball dominated.
Of course, the bowlers tend to rely on a few of the outfielders holding on to the odd catch, and, on the whole, they were not let down. There were some notable drops, of which the two at Provender may have been instrumental in the eventual result – you just don’t get second chances in that game, but a hatful went down at Benenden, and still the Stragglers emerged victorious.
And we cannot forget the men behind the stumps, who also set about creating records. 25 keeper victims in a season equals the best ever in 1959. It would not be that hard to put out an XI of keepers, such is the pool of talent.
2013 has generated the usual flurry of stats.
There were five centurions in 2013 (five has never been bettered in a Straggler season), and Andrew Cox joins the elite group who have scored five Straggler centuries – Toby Cox, Joffy Sale and Simon Schilder. In scoring his century at Belmont, Andrew passed 2,000 Straggler runs, and was followed in that milestone by Matt Smallwood two months later at Egerton, the 15th and 16th respectively to do so. In the same Egerton game, Jasper passed 1,000 career runs, the 40th to pass that landmark. Otterden became only the second ground to see two Straggler centuries in a game (Benenden having witnessed it twice), as Simon Allport and Al Smallwood notched up the 99th and 100th centuries for the Stragglers.
Theo’s winning bowling average of 7.77 was the 11th lowest season’s average in 67 years. In the victory against the Turks, the Chairman became the 6th Straggler to take 200 wickets as he tidied up the tail.
James Grant now has completed 10 innings and enters the all time Straggler career batting list, topping the averages with 58.67. Unlike the batting averages, with 57 Stragglers averaging over 20, and most at the top still playing at least occasionally, the career bowling averages of the Stragglers are dominated by those who played much of their cricket before 1980. The balance then seemed to swing strongly in favour of the bat, so it is very pleasing to have both Theo and Jasper move into the group of 67 whose bowling average is under 20 – Theo at 18.26 and Jasper at 18.28.
As ever there are a number of contenders for the Champagne moment (or moments) of 2013, featured being the exceptional running at Wellesley House, Jack Wood’s denial of a century for the Master Brewer in the same game, the Tyndall hat trick at Belmont, Benny’s first Straggler wicket also at Belmont, Toby and Owen’s record breaking 7th wicket stand to rescue the Stragglers from humiliation, Nigel’s use of bone in the field at Egerton, and any number of catches in the same game of high quality fielding, Hugo’s 19 ball half century at Nonington, reckless umpiring by the Master Brewer at Goodnestone, Theo’s acrobatic slip catch to win the game at Tenterden by the slimmest of margins, Benny remaining undefeated for a fourth successive time in his Straggler career, and then showing his elders how to catch at Benenden, Jasper’s extraordinary return catch at Otterden, Al and Simon sharing centuries also at Otterden, Al’s being the 100th Straggler century, and the miraculous one handed catch by Jonathan at Hollingbourne.
After a long discussion about a number of really exceptional catches during the 2013 season the award for the 2013 Champagne Moment is awarded to Theo Allport for his diving slip catch to win the game at Tenterden.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Jimmy Cox for his very long service to the Club on the Committee, from which he has recently retired. Jimmy was invited to join the Committee for the 1977 season, and succeeded to the Presidency of the Club at the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Club in 1997, serving in that role for 10 years. Jimmy’s contribution to the success of the Club over many decades has been considerable, and the Committee already miss his sage counsel.
The 2012 season was blighted by the weather. The wettest April, June, second quarter and summer on record had the inevitable result. Undefeated into July, as a result of a failure to play many games, the Stragglers then ran rampant through the rest of the season, losing only one match in 12, picking up a first victory at Provender, and recording huge wins at Bishopsbourne and Goodnestone. While there were only two centurions, there was a plethora of half centuries, and a fair indication of batting success is the fact that the Chairman only padded up once all season. Perhaps the weather assisted the bowlers as Straggler attacks routinely ran through strong sides, and most of the draws saw the bowling attack on top. For the first time for many years four bowlers averaged under 20. Fielding and catching seems to go from strength to strength, and the depth of keeping talent continues to extend – it won’t belong before we can field an XI of specialist keepers.
Straggler Milestones and Other Stats
2012 has generated the usual flurry of stats. The three mammoth totals piled on against Borden (271 for 4), Wickham & Stodmarsh (288 for 7) and Tenterden (284 for 9) in successive weeks in August are the fifth, third and fourth highest Straggler totals on record. The batting strength was such that an average of 206 runs per game were scored from Straggler bats in 2012, the highest ever.
Jonathan Neame becomes the 4th Straggler to reach 4,000 career runs (after Nigel, Wyndham and his father), and Theo Allport is the 39th to pass 1,000 on his way to topping the averages.
The 10 wicket victory at Bishopsbourne was the second highest chase without loss. The 194 run victory a fortnight later against Wickham & Stodmarsh was the second highest total batting first.
The Chairman became only the sixth Straggler bowler to have trundled in for 1,000 overs.
We also have only the second incidence of a father and son (Simon and Theo Allport) combination winning the batting and bowling, the first being Wyndham and Rodney Fletcher in 1956.
As ever there are a number of contenders for the Champagne moment (or moments) of 2012, Robby George’s wonderful running throw at Goodnestone, Toby’s diving one handed catch in the same game, any number of other exceptional catches, Nigel scoring his age at Tenterden, Jonathan’s stunning catch at Otterden, and Benny Smallwood undefeated for 2 consecutive seasons.
The award for the 2012 Champagne Moment is awarded, for a second season in succession, to Toby Snape for his one handed diving catch at Goodnestone, part of a high quality fielding display.
Once more a Straggler season faced the loss of a current Straggler, with the very sad passing of Roger Berkeley in February. Roger was a batsman of grace and style, and achieved an unusual double of scoring centuries at Wellesley House both for and against the Stragglers. He has been greatly missed.
The 2011 season built on the successes of 2010, and for the first half of the season, the Stragglers carried all before them, winning eight of the first nine matches, only denied a tie at Provender by a last ball no-ball, and only dismissed for the first time in August. No target was out of reach, and no batting line up impenetrable. Ten victories in the season is the most since 1990, and 6 consecutive successes and 9 undefeated was the best start to a season since 1952. Three of the highest successful chases were made, with scores in excess of 230 chased down, being the 9th, 12th and 15th highest on record.
The batting strength is amply demonstrated by the 3,495 runs scored from the bat, only once bettered previously, in 1996. Five centuries were scored, 2 by Charlie Munton and a remarkable first for the Stragglers as father and son, Chris and Harry Pattinson each scored a ton in the same season. Jasper Smallwood prospered mightily with the bat, and would have topped the averages in any other season.
The bowling lacked the consistency of the batting, rather over reliant on the ageing and increasingly portly third change pair of the Chairman and Simon Allport. Outfield catching was exceptional for a second successive season, with any number of memorable moments, and only really failing twice at Benenden and Provender. Simon’s 12 for the season equalled the best, and the total of 64 has only been exceeded once in 1982. Once again the Stragglers were blessed with a superfluity of able keepers, with Blair Hart, Theo Allport and Al Smallwood to the fore.
Straggler Milestones and Other Stats
2011 has generated another flush of records, firsts and other achievements, indicative of the high level of support and good quality cricket. Ten victories are the most since 1990, and has only been bettered three times (1952, 1982 and 1990), and being undefeated until the end of July, with 8 victories) is the best start to a season, also since 1952. In the field 64 catches were taken, the second highest total, only out done by the 66 in 1982. Of these, Simon Allport, took 12, equalling Andrew Cox’s record of 1999.
Three Straggler batsmen passed 1,000 career runs in 2011; Chris Pattinson at Elham, Hamish Morrison at Wellesley House, and Simon Allport at Bishopsbourne. Charlie Munton topped the averages with the third highest season’s average and the fifth highest season’s aggregate; Jasper Smallwood deserves an honourable mention as the ninth highest average at 64.20. This is the first season in which the two leading batsmen have averaged over 60. In any other season Jasper would have led the field. It is also the first time that centuries have been scored by father and son in the same season, Chris & Harry Pattinson.
Simon Allport became the 17th Straggler to claim his one hundredth wicket at Belmont against The Grannies, and becomes only the second Straggler to achieve the double in the same season (the other being RSG Wood in 1972), and only the eleventh ever. Mark Baker White (at Belmont) and Nick Tapp (at Wellesley House) took their tally past 150 victims.
Champagne Moment As ever there are a number of contenders for the Champagne moment (or moments) of 2011, including a couple of umpiring decisions of note! Among the more memorable are Mark Baker White’s first ball at Wellesley House (double bounce and then nearly having his head removed by the return shot), the Chairman’s croquet fielding at Torry Hill, Toby Snape’s triggering of Mark at Belmont, Charlie Munton’s remarkable direct hit for a run out at Provender, Archie Hammond’s 4 for 0 against Wickham & Stodmarsh, Bertie Berger’s catch over his shoulder at Otterden, and any number of moments at Hollingbourne – the President triggering the Master Brewer, Al ‘Dilshan’ Smallwood’s final shot of the season, and Jonathan retrieving the ball (again) from the field behind long on.
However, the award for the 2011 Champagne Moment goes to Toby Snape for his courageous umpiring under fire in the Fixture Secretary’s match against the Stragglers.
The start of the 2010 season was touched with tragedy, with the untimely death of Toby Cox in an avalanche while ski touring on the Monte Rosa glacier on Sunday April 18th.
Toby awarded himself the soubriquet ‘The Legend’ following his remarkable feats with the bat in the 2000 season, finishing with 580 runs (the highest total in a Straggler season) at an average of 116 (the only batsman to average over 100 in a season). His batting continued to be legendary (leading run scorer again in 2001), and his arrival at the crease was always greeted with eager anticipation. I happened to be scoring, when Toby reached his first Straggler century against Old Wives Lees in 1994. As a ‘counter’ he knew his score, so ran the first run of the requisite 2 with his bat raised to acknowledge the crowd some considerable time before I had alerted the crowd to the need to applaud. Toby scored 5 centuries in his Straggler career, and although his appearances for the Club diminished in frequency during his Paris sojourn, he became, in 2009, the seventh Straggler to reach 3,000 career runs, and was mentioned in despatches for his 7 sixes in four overs against Bishopsbourne.
Toby was an enthusiast and a contributor in everything he did, and we have missed him this season. He would have been proud to see the records fall, fantastic catches held, long sixes struck and unlikely bowlers gleaning wickets, and all in the best spirit of the game, which he personified.
2010 generated enough statistics to send the most enthusiastic ‘stato’ delirious. Three early games were lost to the weather or unenthusiastic opposition, but from mid-June the Club enjoyed an exceptional run. The weather remained fair, many fixtures were over-subscribed, most sides victorious, and we even managed an inter-Straggler fixture at Belmont, when much of the county disappeared in a monsoon. The next generation of Stragglers came strongly to the fore, with centuries from Theo Allport and Jasper Smallwood, and hat-tricks from Theo and Toby Russell Vick, and many other performances of note. Fifteen players made their Straggler debuts, many playing in a number of fixtures. Rarely have Match Managers been so well served with ability, enthusiasm, and such regular availability, as can be seen in the averages with more batsmen and bowlers completing the requisite innings or overs than of late.
The batting, occasionally porous in recent years, produced 5 centurions – Theo and Jasper, James Grant, Patrick Mitchell and Jonathan Neame. There were a number of serious contenders for the batting award, which went to the wire, and was won spectacularly by Jonathan with his unbeaten century at Hollingbourne. The bowling on the whole lacked ferocious pace, but kept the opposition guessing, and for the first time in 5 seasons, there were more than 2 contenders for the award. Honourable mentions go to Barney Taylor, Jonathan Riches and many others who returned excellent figures, and of course, Jonathan Neame again, with the best season’s bowling figures for more than 30 years. Fielding and catching, never points of Straggler excellence, were much improved, with memorable catches at Bishopsbourne (James Grant), Belmont (Jake Ward) and Elham (James Prest). With a century and hat-trick before the end of May, Theo also established himself as a very accomplished keeper, standing up to most, and always in control.
Straggler Milestones and Other Stats
Nigel Snape became the first Straggler to pass 5,000 runs in his innings at Bishopsbourne
Matthew Schilder became the 14th batsmen to pass 2,000 career runs with his half century at Belmont against the Standard Athletic Club
Nick Tapp became only the 5th Straggler bowler to have conceded 4,000 runs, for which achievement he is not awarded a bottle!
This is only the second time that there have been 5 centurions in a season.
This is the first time since 1956 that 2 Stragglers have taken a hat-trick in a season
61 outfield catches is the best for 20 years, and the 4th highest ever
9 victories is the most since 1990
19 successes for the keepers is also the most since 1990
144 wickets is the most since 1996
Champagne Moment As ever there are a number of contenders for the Champagne moment (or moments) of 2010, notable among them were Jonathan Riches return catch during his spell of 7 for 25 at Bishopsbourne; Olla Tennant and Tom Wood bringing a whole new dimension to running between the wickets at Broadstairs; the rock like defence of Matt Smallwood and Mark Baker White to deny Sandwich; and the umpire’s decision that prevented a Neame hat-trick at Hollingbourne. However, the award for the 2010 Champagne Moment goes to Tom Wood for the stratospheric catch off his own bowling to complete victory at Belmont, while fending off a number of other aspiring fielders.
The 2009 season was as the proverbial curate’s egg, good in parts. The bowling attack lacked the ability to run through sides, but managed to contain the opposition in most instances. The batting, however good it looked on paper and in spite of 4 centuries, regularly failed to deliver, with good starts not converted and a number of notable collapses. One exception was in the final game, when a Straggler side of 9 chased down a target of 266 at Hollingbourne. Batsmen and bowlers tended not to perform on the same day, but the Stragglers were blessed, unusually, with a superfluity of wicket keeping talent, and rarely have the bowlers been so well served behind the stumps. Not many Straggler match managers of any era have had to choose from a starting line up with four keepers.
For the first time since 1996, no games were affected by the weather, although four were lost late in the season due to cancellation. Match Managers made sterling efforts to put out full sides, and in only one instance was a cancellation due in part to a paucity of Stragglers. Many of the new recruits of the past couple of seasons played during the summer, but it is clear that to be sure of having XI players, the pool of talent needs to be large.
Champagne Moment As ever there were a number of contenders for the Champagne moment (or moments) of 2009, notable among them Patrick Mitchell’s fine catch at Goodnestone to remove Simon Mount for the second year in succession; Jonathan Neame finally getting his man at Provender having been deposited in the field frequently in the previous 2 overs; Toby Cox for his display of brutal batting, smiting 7 sixes in three overs at Bishopsbourne; the record 4th wicket partnership at Beneden between Bertie Berger and Matt Smallwood; and Harry Thomson’s 6 off the final ball of the season to complete the dramatic victory at Hollingbourne.
However, the award for the 2009 Champagne Moment goes to Nigel Snape for passing the career record of the founder, Wyndham Fletcher, during the game at Wellesley House, to become the leading Straggler run scorer. Nigel has found a new lease of life, regularly running 3’s, and with 4,915 career runs to his name.
The 2008 season saw the flowering of the youth policy for the Stragglers, and, while the results were variable, it was hugely encouraging to see two centuries scored and a hat trick taken by those who are the future of the Club. In spite of another wet, cold, windy and miserable summer, not a single game was lost to the weather, although two were played in somewhat damp conditions. Recruitment remained a challenge for some games, and over 60 players turned out for the Stragglers during the season. Inevitably this lead to limited continuity, and only six batsmen and two bowlers completed the requisite number of innings or overs to be counted in the averages.
Champagne Moment There were a number of contenders for the Champagne moment of 2008, among the more memorable were Patrick Mitchell’s remarkable catch of Simon Mount at Goodnestone, Toby Cox’s all run 5 in the heat at Sandwich, and Jamie Lavers’s four wickets in 4 balls at Highland Court. However, for successfully pouching the highest catch that most have ever seen, the 2008 Champagne Moment goes to Tim Burleigh.
The 2007 season saw an influx of youth to the Club, but their ability to participate was sadly hampered by the weather, as 5 games were abandoned to the rain without a ball being bowled. The game against Wickham and Stodmarsh was rained off twice, which must be a Straggler record. However, in spite of the cancellations the matches that were played were remarkably closely contested. Four Straggler victories were achieved by a margin of 15 runs or fewer. Two of the three defeats were in the last over of the match. Only the defeat by OKS proved to be a one sided affair. For the first time for a number of years the Stragglers put out 11 players in every game, and had 11 selected for every game cancelled/rained off. The 2007 Champagne Moment, an award introduced in 2007, goes to Ollie Spry for his remarkable stumping at Benenden, of which most regular keepers would be proud.
Shepway Stragglers did not lose a wicket – but lost. Quite an eventful weekend of cricket in Folkestone district with one club losing their match although they never lost a wicket and their opeing batsmen scored a century apiece. This happened in the match between Shepway Stragglers and IS Graham’s XI. The Stragglers knocked up 207 without loss. WJS Fletcher and JLA Barnes each scoring 100 before the declaration. Then the Straggler’s opponents got the necessary runs for victory with three wickets to spare!
Put into bat the Shepway Stragglers declared at 250 for 1, WJS Fletcher being 102 not out and ML Lawrence 88. Losing three wickets for 6 runs, Folkestone managed to draw the game, thanks to a firm stand by G Heyer (59) and David Blacklocks (115*).
The one disappointing feature was the fielding which was at times ragged and lazy, and the throwing untidy. This must at all costs be put right as our opponents expect nothing but the best in this department.
The week’s best batting: 97* AJP Woodhouse 94* Hon R Yerburgh (Shepway Stragglers vs. Selsted)
Shepway Stragglers, despite the rain on Sunday, managed to to complete their game against Saltwood, winning by 129 runs, good batting by Manners and Lawrence being followed by a fine performance with the ball by PJC Smallwood, who took 8 wickets for 37 runs.
In results the season was almost identical with 1949 but was in fact a little disappointing, as after a very good start the side rather fell away, The weakness was mostly in the batting, as the early batsmen nearly all lost their form together in the latter part of the season, and showing up at its worst against our two strongest opponents, the Mote and Highland Court.
The fielding generally showed a great improvement, particularly the catching. Demery was absolutely outstanding at cover and Mathieson got through a lot of work. Walters and Barclay were generally reliable behind the wicket. Though in theory the dry summer should have favoured the bat, in fact the lack of water made wickets distinctly lively and favourable to the bowler; several quite small innings were worth many a fifty in the circumstances in which they were made.
Even making allowances for the consistently wet wickets, the batting was disappointing; the lack of a good opening pair and concrete in the middle order being severely felt. Fletcher was fairly consistent in the first half the season and H Pares played some very valuable hitting innings, but Collins and Walters never got going.
The bowling was quite steady with Kenny, Smith and Tuff doing the lion’s share; they would have done better, but the catching had been so deplorable. Symington performed prodigies with bat and ball in the two matches in which he played.