“Cricket to us was more than play; it was worship in the summer sun”

Edmund Blunden

2021 Season

2020 will forever be the season of Covid-19, with no cricket for more than half a season, which was blessed with the most perfect cricket weather, tragedy indeed.  The 2021 Straggler season continued to feel the effects of the pandemic, with three games cancelled, some residual hygiene controls, and saddest of all, the continuing absence of cricket teas.  No longer can we dream of pies and cakes, egg sandwiches and strawberries.  A few noble stalwarts provided sustenance at a handful of games, and we would have been fed royally at Belmont, had we been able to represent the Belmont Trustees.  It looks as if cricket teas may be the long-covid impact on a great tradition.  Having written the above, those who played in the final fixture at Kenfield were treated to a veritable feast.

The final day of the Straggler season coincided nicely with Kent’s T20 triumph at Edgbaston, with two Straggler adversaries from the past on show – man of the match, Jordan Cox, and umpire Martin Saggers.  Cricket is a wonderful game indeed.

More than 12 years have passed between the first and second Straggler to notch up 5,000 career runs.  Nigel passed that milestone in June 2009, and his rate of aggregation has slowed somewhat in recent years, blue suede cricket shoes notwithstanding.  Jonathan scored the boundary required to take him to 5,000 in the game against I Zingari at Torry Hill in late August in his 183rdStraggler innings.  Both now look over their shoulders at the looming Jasper, who knocked another meaningful chunk off the target (542 runs in 2021 to leave a modest 88 for the start of 2022).

Some 55 batsmen strode to the middle on behalf of the Stragglers in 2021, eight of whom managed the requisite 4 completed innings to qualify for the batting award, which was won by Will Fenwick by a whisker.  Will very sensibly chose not to bat in the final game.  42 bowlers turned their arms over, with only five completing the modest requirement of 25 overs.  Ben Simpson emerged triumphant.  As seems to be common in recent seasons, Match Managers tend to be spoilt for choice of keeper.  In 2021, Benny was the most regular and successful.  And eleven players made their Straggler debut.

Records and other statistical milestones

Cricket will always throw up statistics worthy of note, and 2021 was no exception.

  • George Baker-White ended 2020 a handful of runs shy of 2,000 in his Straggler career. These were duly knocked off in his first appearance of 2021 at Milstead.  George is the 19th Straggler to have reached that milestone, and now sits at 15th on the list with 2,318 runs.
  • Jasper strode to the middle for the 100th time in 2021, the 18th Straggler to do so.  He remains some way behind his father (150 innings) but can be expected to overtake his grandfather and President (120 innings) within the next couple of seasons.
  • With another three tons in 2021, Jasper has now scored 14 Straggler centuries, some way ahead of the following pack.
  • In the final game of the season at Kenfield, magnificent tea notwithstanding, Ed Solly scored the 150th Straggler century.  It is worth noting that it took Straggler batsmen nearly 50 years to score their first 50 centuries, 17 years then to reach 100, and only 8 seasons for the third 50.
  • The top two batsman in 2021, Will and Jasper, averaged 79.50 and 77.43 respectively, the 4th and 5th highest averages for a season.
  • And Jasper’s aggregate of 542 runs was the 5th highest – Jasper also holds 1st and 2nd place in that particular metric.
  • Will Fenwick’s wonderful season has propelled him to 4th place in the career averages at 55.00, marginally behind Jasper on 55.82.  Jasper is closing the gap on Giles in 2nd.  Giles is considering his return from retirement.
  • In the outfield 60 catches were taken in 2021, the 8th most successful season.
  • And with a catch against Stowting at Belmont, the Chairman moved into third place on the all-time list with 66.
  • Straggler bowlers were unusually successful in 2021, with 35 of those who turned over an arm picking up a wicket.
  • Ed Prest and Nick Wright both passed the 250 career overs landmark.  Next season should see both, along with Al, reach 50 career wickets.
  • And the Chairman became only the second Straggler bowler to concede more than 9,000 career runs

2021 Awards

Leading Batsman           Will Fenwick                  477 runs at an average of 79.50

Leading Bowler              Ben Simpson                 10 wickets at an average of 13.90

(Ben was also leading outfield catcher with 7 catches)

Champagne Moment

The Straggler Committee met in October to decide on the award of the champagne moment for 2022.  Among the contenders are Will Fenwick’s leaping catch at mid-wicket to halt the charge at Sissinghurst, the diving slip catch by Al at Milstead, Nick Wright’s return catch at Sheffield Park (along with  a couple of others requiring a lot of diving), the remarkable direct hit from the boundary by Angus Balfour at Faversham to leave the batter well short, the  career best 16s scored by both Ricky Churchill and Will Renwick at Egerton, Patch Mitchell’s captaincy at Highland Court to set the bear trap along with his brace of sharp slip catches, Benny’s catching behind the stumps, particularly the two at Faversham along with an inside edge and flying somersault at Nonington, and Jonathan’s stylish cover drive to take him to 5,000 career runs.  We might also mention James Tribe’s catch in the deep; James had been plucked from the crowd at Faversham, provided with ill-fitting whites and obliged to put his body on the line, when he had hoped to spend a quiet afternoon in the sun, watching Tom perform.

After much discussion, the 2021 Champagne Moment is awarded to Patch Mitchell for the exceptional planning and execution (aided by Theo with the ball and Jasper at cow corner) of the ‘bear trap’ to tie the game at Highland Court.