It seems an age since we last met, in April 2019 to celebrate the performances of 2018. Since then we had the record breaking, glory season of 2019 – the tour to Menorca, 14 victories, 4,588 runs from the bat, a record breaking first wicket partnership of 221 by George and Benny, most outfield catches (73) and only the second time that four bowlers had taken 20 wickets or more, and most remarkably, 12 centuries (in a season when the highest score by an opponents was 94*). Just as we were about to do it all again, the world turned upside down, and even this week the virus did its best to disrupt the drinks party. So, thank you to Ange and Nige for stepping in at the last minute to allow us to celebrate the performances of what became the very intense and Covid foreshortened season of 2020. It is great to be here on the evening of what should be another nail-biting inter-Straggler fixture.
Before I come to the performances of note from the 2020 season, I would just like to remember Stragglers who are no longer with us.
- Robin Baker White was a Straggler with a modest cricketing record, but a strong supporter of the Club and landlord of the ground at Street End, where we have played some wonderful games.
- David Walters played 85 innings between 1947 and 1976 and scored 1381 runs. He was the leading run scorer in the first full Straggler season of 1947 and took 27 catches in his Straggler career.
- Guy Yerburgh, Lord Alvingham passed away in March 2020, at the time the oldest surviving Straggler, and one whose interest in the Club never waned. He would ring me once a season to pass on his congratulations and best wishes to the Club, and was particularly thrilled when we toured to Majorca. Guy played for a decade from 1952, and scored the 5th Straggler century, when Straggler centuries were unusual achievements. In 1953 he scored 491 runs in a season, a total not bettered for 44 years, and participated in the record third wicket partnership, which also stood for 44 years. And those of you who were at the dinner in 2017 will recall John Burleigh’s Straggler alphabet – “A is for Alvingham, record holder proud”.
- Lieutenant Commander Neal MacLeay played Straggler cricket from 1953 to 1976. Neal did not bowl and contributed modestly with the bat, but was a highly accomplished keeper. His record of 7 stumpings in a season in 1961 (shared with David Walters) stands to this day, one of the few keeping records not to fall to Al.
- Bobby Neame was one of the great accumulators for the Stragglers. He made his debut in 1955 and played in every season until 1994, with a final outing in 1999, and now standing in fourth place in the all-time list of run scorers with 4,669 runs. On debut he made a modest 6, but the card warranted closer inspection, as that proved to be the highest score on either side, as the Stragglers were skittled for a record low of 17 and lost by 6 wickets. Bobby was not built for speed but had the disconcerting habit of calling “two” for the sharpest of singles, which sowed confusion among the fielders, and caused great concern to his partner, who had not expected to be batting with a greyhound. Looking at Bobby’s run scoring in the early ‘60s, the prospect of one JB Neame seemed to upset the flow. Leading run scorer in 1961 and 1964. Bobby only managed 22 runs at 3.67 in 1963. With brother Rex, Bobby held the record for the 4th wicket partnership for 56 years from 1961, until they were overtaken in 2017 by a brace of Smallwoods. And Bobby served on the committee for 35 years.
Now to 2020, and the glorious, entirely cricket free early summer, a tragedy of lost opportunity. However, we did get underway eventually, and then did not lose a game to the weather or to cancellation and had almost no trouble raising sides in a frenzy of cricketing enthusiasm. Indeed, such was the enthusiasm to play, that Theo was proposed as the first winner of the Straggler Euclid award for basic maths – for an inability to count to 11. We won 6 and only lost 2 of 9 games played (not the fewest games in a season). And we fitted in 2 Inter-Straggler fixtures. Sadly, the tour to Paris was called off, as has the possible re-run in September this year, and our Parisian friends from Standard Athletic Club have not made it to Kent for 2 years. In the tie at Nonington, only the 8th in Straggler history, advantage swung back and forth to be settled on the final ball.
Among the more upsetting casualties of Covid has been the cricket tea, now turned from an occasionally sumptuous feast laid out on trestle tables in the traditional style to a last-minute petrol station sandwich. I fear that teas may take some time to recover to their former glory.
The season began at Egerton and ended at Street End, and I can say with some confidence that the Stragglers drew larger crowds to every game than were allowed to watch England playing behind closed doors. This was particularly true at Egerton, when the entire extended Neame family were present to support Jonathan.
Harry Heming became the third winner of the Peter Budden/Shepway Straggler award. Sadly, Harry damaged his hand playing cricket earlier in the summer and is unable to play tomorrow.
- Fred Sharp 101 vs St. Lawrence and Highland Court
- Jasper Smallwood 139* in the first Inter-Straggler game
- Harry Pattinson 112 vs Stowting
- Will Hilton 114* vs Folkestone
- George W 100* in the second Inter-Straggler game
Batting award George Baker White with 356 runs at 59.33
- Ben Simpson 6 for 54 Egerton
- Nick Tapp 5 for 18 Stowting
Bowling award Toby Snape with 11 wickets at 9.09, one of a very select modern group with an average in single figures for the season
The Inter-Straggler game has given us a few champagne moments to treasure over the years, including Toby’s heroic umpiring decision in 2011, and the mutual wicket taking of Alastair and Joe Gordon in 2015.
I am not sure if there is a formal term for the equivalent of night-watchman sent in to open an innings in the middle of the afternoon to protect the opener on the card. However, Al was persuaded by George that he should open the innings and face one of the more effective overs of hostile bowling from Toby. However, George still found himself facing Toby in the opening over, as Al had only managed to fend off the fourth ball to the keeper, having been hit by the first three. George’s innings was shorter still.
However, the winners of the champagne moment for 2020 came from the second Inter-Straggler game. The Committee decided to make it a family award to James, Will and Ed Stabb, who between them took 8 for 58. My personal favourite among the wickets was James’ first ball for the Stragglers in 6 years to bowl the master brewer.