For every cricketer, at whatever level, who claims he or she is not interested in averages, old scorecards, and anything else statistical, there is another one who claims that they are not. Half of them are telling fibs. Indeed, the pointing out of an erroneous scorebook, or indeed the scorebook’s central purpose to cricket itself, is not a vestigial practise. Gathering around the hallowed matrix at close, much like aspiring politicians hover round the Friday morning count, is one of the few traditions that is surviving. One senses that the scorebooks of the future will need more lines for logging the prowess of the blade and its ever increasing domination of the Sabbath. Wanderers will not be immune to such requirements as the batting in the latter half of the season has shown.
The rudimentary task of producing the averages this year has been a joy because The Author has watched as many matches from the boundaries edge this year as played in. I had a discussion with Mr Lincoln towards the end of this season concerning this. We both agreed that one of the joys of cricket, especially on a Sunday, was that one could participate and make a contribution at some many different junctures. No one ever need feel peripheral to events. Umpiring is a joy on a warm summers afternoon, scoring is also a joy as long as Dave Field gives me the odd over off for a fag break. One also gets hustled to the front of the tea queue. So I always sharpen the pencil for Jevington…
The season began at Littleworth. Although ‘began’ is a loose and almost mischievous term. It reluctantly farted its way into existence like a resentful early riser whose sleep had been disturbed by a vindictive, yet dutiful, alarm. Wanderers collapsed that day to the biggest defeat in living memory. At least it couldn’t get worse. The team were unprepared, to use a pre-watershed term, and had clearly not used, or benefited from, the pre-season nets properly. It was a disappointing day of careless and irresponsible cricket that could have easily weaved its way into the social fabric of the club; such was the enormity of that embarrassment. But really, we needn’t have worried.
Two better bowling performances, aided by an enigmatic Plumpton track, began to claw things back. But after the third defeat in a row only one Wanderers batsman had posted more than twenty- The Big Bear, Gywllim. This was to prove no flash in his amply stocked pan. Mid-May was to provide the start to the first turn of fortune. Wanderers suffered another defeat in a highly competitive match at the cycle track against St Peters. Jordan had been dismissed third ball by a straight one that had wisped its way through the gate- much to the mirth of his Saturday colleagues. What followed was the innings of the season from Will Barber. A masterful and elegant 104 not out. His selfless century was brought up in the final over with a beautiful and flighted on-drive to the south boundary. Although Wanderers had to suffer another drubbing in the field that afternoon we saw Peter Slaymaker introduced into the attack. The Author commented about how, despite unsuccessful on this occasion, he was the only Wanderers bowler who really hit the pitch when he was bowling. This observation was to be rewarded as time went on. The Tykes were leading the way.
A comfortable victory over a weak, yet very amiable and spirited, Gully side sent Wanderers into a closely fought and narrow defeat to the Auld Enemy at St James. The Baker brothers, most capable players of all-round ability and characters of all-round decency and warmth, had by then joined the bus. A return to Plumpton the following week saw a season that was now in full motion. June was upon us.
From then on the team were to play consistent and sometimes remarkable cricket. Having lost six of their first seven matches, Wanderers only lost four of their remaining eighteen- all said defeats coming in close and competitive matches. The bat was to dominate the summer, which, despite its usual contradictions, mostly left Sundays to its own devices. Aside of one second innings abandonment, not a single match was lost to weather- although the odd one perhaps outlived its usefulness when rain set in late on.
June saw a defeat two draws and a single wicket victory in a hastily arranged 20 over match that formed part of the Brunswick Village charity day. The twenty run loss to Worthing Gents on the 5th had seen a net of 400 runs in the afternoon. Our very own Lloyd Crathern venting batting fury against us from a lowly number ten. His 76 not out had created a seemingly unassailable two hundred plus target. A month earlier Wanderers would have collapsed under such weighted pressure, but a steady stream of useful, if not substantial scores, had kept the result in the balance for much of the way.
The biggest stand of the season came in the following match against the Hackney Umpires, the big man Jordan topping the seasons individual efforts with 133 not out. His second wicket stand with Will Barber being worth 139. It was this match that saw Peter Slaymaker make his mark with the only five-wicket haul of our season. This was a match noted for a comical incident in which Jordan was unwittingly struck by an errant ball that was lofted in celebration in the outfield. It would have been even funnier had he not appeared hurt. He had, in fact, retired hurt when appearing undamaged after his swashbuckling innings earlier. Cricketing karma ? Both his batting prowess and his miss-fortune that day could be nominated as a champagne moment. I’ll let you decide.
July was hardly the height of summer, but the matches were played. Well, except one on the 17th where an established club pulled out at 7.30 on the morning of the match. Such late withdrawal was met with understandable disdain- especially as the weather had forgotten its vocation. A mixed bag of close results kept the month interesting. There were two six run defeats and a tie in the gathering gloom of a 20/20 evening at Lower Beeding. These were interspersed with a victory over Worthing Gents and a draw with age-old opponents Heathfield Park. What was noticeable was the good-natured spirit of these games, often commented upon, and the general contentment of those who attended the matches.
Interestingly, July had produced a match run aggregate of 376 (including 20 over matches). Surely amongst the highest I have ever known for any sustained period. With the results becoming so balanced and close in their outcome they almost became peripheral to the enjoyment of the occasion. However, there seemed to be an unconscious effort on behalf of Wanderers batsman to avoid the 50 jug. Five batsman were out in their forties, four in these fifties. Five times out of six Wanderers batted second. It doesn’t take a schooled statistician to work out which discipline was flagging.
Max Wheatley’s colossal 73 against the Zambuca attack was as embarrassing as it was devastating, the regularity, and the distance, of which the balls cleared the boundary was an indicator of how Sunday cricket often needs a balance. In contrast, and ironically, Wanderers were to lose that match by six runs. One Goliath doth not make an army victorious. The Big Bear, with equal aplomb, was to smack 98 off a young and inexperienced Heathfield Park attack, only to lose his head to possibly the youngest and most inexperienced bowler amongst them. Gwyllim had entertained us all with an array of splendid stroke play but fell as the moving pictures rolled and spectators poised to clap enthusiastically. This innings was an indicator of his newfound confidence, which peaked later on in the summer. It should be noted though that Wanderers did take plenty of first innings wickets, if expensively, with Prash being the pick of the bunch. His left arm swingers accounted for four top order Zambuca batsman shedding a miserly nine runs. Prash is the leading bowler of the current crop yet needs time and regular cricket to hone his masterful technique and awareness of conditions.
Wanderers ground out an attritional draw against Greys in early August and then played their part in a superb foray against Preston Nomads at the splendid Fulking. Setting Nomads 207 to win on a clear evening, with Gywllim again taking the opposition bowling apart with 94 from his colossal club, the home side eased home with talented youth and the unhinged stability of experience. It was at this time that Wanderers bowling troubles were most exposed. Yet despite this the match was rightly remembered as a perfect advert for the Sunday game- and Luke Smith the perfect example of a Sunday captain. Rather than closing off the game, and negating opportunities for players to be given a chance, the bowling was still spread among the team. This could be seen to contradict and challenge the earlier bowling lament. But those who are rightly given these chances need coaching as well as the overwhelming encouragement they receive- and nets before and during the season is the time.
A poor match at Angmering on a pitch and wicket deserving of the same description was abandoned a little later than necessary. Wanderers then ended the month with two victories. One, again in poor conditions at West Hoathly in a match that got ever shorter, and another at Lingfield in what was, by all accounts, a complete team performance. Will Barber’s 59 in the north Sussex rain was a testament to his gritty and tuned technique. The victory at Lingfield was on the back of batting first and posting another 200 plus total. Lloyd Crathern and Rob Black, two irregular but most affable and welcome Wanderers, were among the runs that day. Rob is a talented batsman and self-effacing spinner of the ball. He lives in Leicester but joins us when he can. His dog, Darwin, was the club mascot until Junior took his place like a lion chasing off the head of another pack. The club should consider a sponsorship deal with Pets Corner.
September came and saw Wanderers undefeated with four very absorbing games. A sweating Jevington pitch saw a game of attrition with the level headed Barber leading Wanderers total to 134. He was dismissed for 49, with a camera again at the ready, to market the new 40s club again. Wanderers bowled well, and ate well, that day. Peter Slaymaker picked up four and the opposition fell a few runs short in a drawn affair. The draw the following week at Chailey saw an opening 50 from the unstoppable Bear as Raunak Naidu treated us to a display of batting destruction that eclipsed anything Jordan, Max and Gywllim had blazed the trail with previous.
For those who wish to analyse an extraordinary innings for future annals, the statistics of Raunak’s Chailey bash are not fully recorded in TMS details. He was in, however, for a period of 14 overs, probably around an hour. His innings of 99 contained seven sixes and nine fours. The 29th over went for 29 runs (doubtless one of the most ever recorded by a Wanderers batsman in a main match). Raunak scored 99 of the 127 partnership. Joe Baker also carried his bat during the carnage for a more sober and anchoring 35 not out. This hasn’t happened, that I can remember for sometime. If only we had kept such detailed records before. The match ended in a draw with an excellent century from opener Demberry- the only one against Wanderers this year.
With two matches to go players were keen to get their chance on the field. Wanderers travelled to Rudgwick with a strong side. Batting first another fumbling search for the absent annals was sub-consciously made. The opening four partnerships all yielded fifty runs. Surely a record. What was most discussed was how retired batsman, two in this case, should be recorded in the averages. I wont start that again. A simple peak at tomorrow’s averages by the individuals involved will reveal an answer… Another draw occurred here, although prospects were briefly raised of an unlikely win when seven wickets fell in as many overs. The final pair held out.
And so to the final game. A jolly affair and a splendid end of match barbecue against Arundel at a temporary Chailey home. Arundel were weak and Wanderers had too many wanting a final bite at the cherry. Three players were leant, none of which caused vengeful embarrassment (they did volunteer) and Wanderers won comfortably. Another fifty from the Big Bear leading the way at the end. To ensure that any collapse wasn’t too dramatic Wanderers used every outfield player to bowl. A reflection, again, of the nature and spirit of the club these days. Arundel set another probable record when opening with a bowling partnership that had 72 years between players (the eldest was 86). One wonders if in a couple of decade’s time this will not be beyond us. Keep loosening up, Dave.
The Wanderers log has seen scores of visitors this year and a number of comments have been made about how folk are feeling in touch with events at distance. One article, about the Brunswick Village charity match, had 139 readers. It seems that for everyone who plays in a match there are four others who want to read about it. The club is clearly held in much affection beyond the playing field itself. Southwick Wanderers, despite the erosion of Sunday cricket in the county, is in a healthy state at present. This season has shown this more than any I can remember. But much of this emanates from the attitude we see on the pitch. An old Physics teacher told me, when I was twelve, that attitude + ability= Success. Let that continue to be our platform.
Brighton Lines: Awards Of The Season
Batsman Of The Season
The Big Bear, Gwyllim Jones had finished the 2015 season in poor form. The match report from Warninglid on last year’s penultimate game claiming: ‘Normally an influential presence at the crease, one senses time is running out for the Big Bear to turn it round this season, but he will doubtless be back and firing next’ He started the season with a duck, but 681 runs later we have the product. Gywllim only knows how to play one way. His timing and shot selection this year has been more measured and his defence more focussed.
Player To Watch
Joe Baker has a steady and impenetrable defence that could calm many a potential collapse- although, after having carried his bat for two and half hours at Chailey, he may be suited to the opening roll. There is a need for more time exposed at the top order and an encouragement to overcome his reticence to drive or pull the ball the times. That’s what nets are for.
Bowler Of The Season
As a former, and rather frustrated, bowler myself my judgements are more likely to be harsh than fair. Yet Peter Slaymaker proved that it’s often age and cricketing wisdom that mends an ineffective attack. Peter’s focus was a traditional line and length and believes in hitting the pitch hard. Bowling no more than medium pace off a few steps he caused batsman to think a lot more about pursuing the cavalier approach that permeates the game nowadays.
Player To Watch
Prash Meshram is the best bowler in the club. But with his commitments he cannot play as often as he would like. His flowing action and ability to cut the ball across the batsman would prove even more effective if he was able to give the game more time. He’s also an all-round decent chap.
Fielder Of The Season
Shall I call them ‘Wiljo’ or ‘Joiam’ ? The Baker brothers took sixteen catches between them this year and provided outstanding support to all the bowlers in the field. In fact, the fielding this season was of a high standard in general.
The approach on the field sets the standard for environment of it. Luke Smith is the best Wanderers captain in the The Author’s time for fostering an inclusive and welcoming environment. History shows that folk follow this lead. Whilst many have made a huge contribution to the club again this year, Luke’s attitude and approach has held it together. Even as captain, he will sit out to give others a chance. Folk understand that giving an inexperienced bowler opportunities can cost a match, and it has, the fabric of the club is made stronger by people accepting this. Luke, unlike many others in this form of the game, will do this. There are club’s who would have been in civil war over the start of the season. Wanderers just carried on. That’s why the club is so strong in a melting environment of Sunday cricket.