The season 2016 was ultimately one of disappointment for the Tigers, at least on the field, where 14 of the 23 matches were lost (60%). Despite this there were some outstanding performances: a record individual batting score of 126 not out from Chris Boden,
which included a six hit over the Winchmore Hill pavilion, as part of the club’s first double century partnership (206 with Mike Herlihy, who made his biggest club score of 85 not out), a record season individual aggregate of 728 at an average of 52 from Chris Wright, plus a second Tiger hat-trick from Stewart Taylor, together with some outstanding catching on occasions.
Good luck with the weather meant only one fixture was cancelled, allowing a record 23 games to be completed, three more than in 2015. All three extra games were lost, the club’s historic win ratio dropping below 50% for the first time since early 2012. The template was set in the season’s opening contest at Southgate Compton, where the team squandered a winning position in the last over, but the more demanding scheduled proved too much for some of the members, as the club needed to utilise 21 guests to augment the 18 playing members, making a total of 39 players for the season, the previous highest being 28 in 2014. Eight of the guests were from the Winchmore Hill connection, which at least showed that the affiliation is beginning to pay dividends. There were enjoyable tours to Porto and Herts/Essex, though none of the games were won. In Porto the side lasted out 60 overs for a hard-earned draw, with the record opening partnership of Chris Wright and Jim Shea remaining unbroken until the 41st over!
The outstanding player of the season was undoubtedly Chris Wright, who stormed back from a disappointing 2015 with 728 runs at an average of 52, and 26 wickets at 21.15 each (both club records – eclipsing Chris Dane’s 491 runs in 2013 and 25 wickets the following year). If he had batted in all the matches a total of 1000 would not have been beyond reach. Stewart Taylor led the team by example, with much thoughtful captaincy, missing only two games, scoring 310 runs at 22.14, taking 23 wickets at 24.73, and bagging a club season record 12 catches, a safe pair of hands anywhere on the field. The other outstanding batters were Chris Boden, with 385 runs at 48.13, Ian Porton – 307 at 27.91, the ever dependable Mike Herlihy (294 at 26.73) and Mike Delanian (278 at 16.35).
Chris Dane had a frustrating season with the bat, his 274 runs being only three less than 2015 but in seven more visits to the crease. But overall the batting was inconsistent. There were fewer mid-innings collapses, though tail-enders were frequently arriving at the crease with 10 or more overs remaining. Curiously, the Tigers outscored their opponents over the season, but the average total per innings of 171 was 19 fewer than 2015 and the average individual score per wicket fell from 25 to 22.
After just one century recorded in 2015, there were no fewer than 3 in 2016, two by Chris Wright, bringing his total to six for the Tigers, and Chris Boden’s 126 against the Railway Taverners, coming only a week after Wrighty had posted a new individual record of 121 not out against Cincinnati. He almost made it three tons, falling one short in the run chase against The Gentlemen of West London. Ian Porton also fell just short on 96 in the N2 Casuals game and recorded two other half centuries.
Four other batsmen posted fifty-plus scores (Rowan Allerton, Dane, Herlihy and Taylor, though the overall total of 10 was three less than 2015 and six fewer than 2014.
But it was the bowling that was to prove the biggest disappointment, despite four bowlers (Wright, Dane, Taylor and Matt Webster) capturing in excess of 20 wickets each – effectively 56% of all dismissals, the other main wicket takers being Mike Delanian, Simon Warren, Ian Daffern, Steve Bignell, Rowan Allerton, Craig Murray and Steve Rennie, but they rarely all performed well in the same innings, bowling out the opposition in only 7 of the 23 matches and averaging 7.26 wickets per innings.
With Bignell often required for wicket-keeping duties, and Craig Murray rarely available, Mike Delanian was often the only option to take pace off the ball, the lack of variety in the attack becoming more pronounced as the season went on, culminating in the infamous ‘Day of the Seven Trundlers’ in the defeat at Railway Taverners.* Taylor’s hat-trick occurred in the final match of the season when he reverted to his slow left-arm style.
Dane, Wright, Webster and Taylor all finished with averages of just over 20, Daney’s 25 at 20.24 each and less than 4 an over being the pick. Matt Webster’s 20 wickets at 21.70 were also achieved at less than four runs an over. Craig Murray (6 wickets at 15.17 each) and Simon Warren (9 at 16.56) were the best of the occasional bowlers.
The fielding and catching also improved, with a total of 76 catches taken, 19 more than 2015 though in 3 extra innings. Taylor, Boden and Delanian all bagged ten or more, though some of Chris’s were behind the stumps. In the absence of the consistent Barnaby Pinfield Bignell, Boden and Porton shared the ‘keeping duties, with varying degrees of success, though some good catches were taken. However, this is a problem position that requires a more regular performer for the future.
Records in batting, bowling and fielding: so where did it all go wrong? Great individual performances do not always mean a great team ethic. Getting a full side on the field proved difficult, particularly in May (2 wins in 6 games) but more especially August, when there was a huge turnover of guests and new players, with all three fixtures ending in heavy defeats. The club is clearly in a state of transition, the annus mirabilis of 2013 now a distant memory.
* Something of a misnomer, as only six trundled during the Taverners’ innings, though Chris Boden was available but not utilised. On a helpful wicket, Steve Bignell emphasized the point taking 4-34 with his leg breaks guesting for the opposition.