Mike Jenner (Horsley 1967)
My journey through Cricket at Cranbrook

SCHOOL

As I recall, I was not a success in school cricket. I was small for my age and formed a healthy disregard for being hit by a hard red ball. Fast bowling was to be avoided by backing away and sparring at the ball outside off stump. And so, I found myself pursuing Frank Evans (Joe) up the slope to the bursar’s office. Joe didn’t walk, he strode at pace, so I was up against it before I asked the question: “Sir, I wondered if I could drop cricket and join the tennis set?”

For those who knew him there was a trademark “ERRRP!” Then a silence, then “ER Jenner, that will not be possible, you have shown some promise as a cricketer”. I considered “an ah BUT Sir”, but he strode on, Decision made then.

What promise I had shown was open to some doubt. A rare 1st X1 appearance at Dover College resulted in a loss as we amassed 48 runs, bowled out by an Indian leggie. Jenner - out second ball for 0. The cricket master accused me of swishing, so not very promising. On the other hand, at fielding practice, when Joe hoisted those huge hits into the deep, I did not miss
many. He had this ability for hitting it exceedingly high, then delaying the call for whose catch it was – “Jenner” would ring out and you would always have ground to cover before that catch (or drop)!

Then, one afternoon at nets (obligatory) Donald Vear came to stand behind me in the net on the pretext of brushing up his wicket keeping ahead of the Masters vs 1st X1 match which was coming up. I think in retrospect he came to advise me, coaching if you like. I learnt that my hands were too far apart on the bat leading to a strong bottom (right) hand. This meant that off drives went past mid-on and playing across the line would mean playing all balls to leg and risk being caught at cover. Moral: Head down and concentrate more, No swishing.

PRE-LYNXES

Though I was elected in 1966 I did not play Lynxes until the following year. I did watch a bit while walking the dog and was impressed with Peter Wagstaffe’s century against Bluemantles. He was an elegant batsman with an air of effortless stroke play, Gower like. His hands were together on the bat and very strong through the offside. I took note.

I had joined Cranbrook Town CC, a half decent side in those days, who often saw off the Lynxes. I batted at number 7 or 8 and had an occasional bowl. In ten matches I think 15 was my highest score until I went to Sutton Valence one Sunday. They were not a good side but we found ourselves 70 for 5 when Captain Geoff Wilkinson (strict Yorkshireman) said “Go on then, go and get your usual two runs” as I went to bat. He shamed me into scoring a quick 50 and then take 3 wickets and add 3 catches.......I was on my way and later two years of
Captaincy of the Town taught me much about cricket and cricketers.

JOINING LYNXES

The AGM was a good bit more formal in the 1960s than it must be today. Does it even take place today? Frank Evans and Tony Congreve were in charge in the upstairs room of the Windmill Inn, Even though the club was only 20 years old there was already muchestablished tradition. You felt privileged to be invited and it was a privilege to play. The memory of that privilege remains with me and I trust it has continued down the years.

I played about 90 games all told and never lost my enthusiasm for the week in August. We gathered on the Sunday morning with the expectation of good cricket, meeting new friends and a sense of anticipation prevailing - excitement even, a common bond. If we batted first,batsmen 8 to 11 had a slow walk round the boundary through the gate to the pub, where PeterWest, John Henry Wybourn and others would gather for cricket chat - wonderful stuff!

SOME MEMORABLE MOMENTS

Here I should start to thank whomsoever compiled the statistics, scorecards etc, (JohnTownsend? John Taylor?) and Tim Spelling for sending me 100 pages of scorecards. Without these memory joggers, I would have not been able to recall matches of 40 or 50 years ago. As it is, memories are more like flashbacks. I know some of us will have vivid memories of ourvarious innings, I am not so fortunate. I will start with a match, which was memorable for all the wrong reasons, for Lynxes, at least, on the field.

LYNXES vs RACQUETEERS 1971

The Racqueteers (Racqs), were a Cheshire side brought down by Andrew Bond and made up of Wilmslow 2nd team players but much fortified by guests. Their philosophy was let’s enjoy the cricket but let’s enjoy it off field a good bit more. Stories are legion about their high jinks (see Peter Ross’s entry for some). On their first visit to the George Hotel in the town they decided that breakfast should be taken in Stone Street, so tables were moved, traffic held up, chaos took over and, as a result, they only stayed at the George one year!

In 1971, they had two notable guests, RMO Cooke (Essex) and one Geoff Dymock (Queensland and Australia). The latter was christened Zoob, because that was the noise of the ball singing through the air. A likely story. At Test level he was medium quick but even on Big Side’s feather bed he was a real handful! His opening bowling partner was a lad, who had trials for Lancashire and was also a bit quick. They batted first and struggled against John Henry Wybourn’s in swing, HJ had good and bad days with his loopy action but this was one
of his best and his 5 wickets saw the Racqs all out for 109. Of course, 109 is not enough on a good Cranbrook wicket, or so we thought. I went in at number 6 and arrived at the crease with the score reading 9 runs for 4 wickets, but, before I could start my innings, there arrived the landlord of the Windmill Inn, Tony Collinge, pushing a wheelbarrow with 15 pints of Pimm’s on board. Typically, the Racqs even tried on a repeat order to which Tony’s retort was unrecordable. What would have Frank Evans thought of it all? Probably fuelled by Pimm’s, I had decided to take the game to the aforementioned quicks. To stick around was just waiting for an unplayable ball. So first ball went past cover point and next I managed to turn the expected short ball past leg slip for another boundary. That was it though. I got stuck at the ‘easier’ end, lasted another three overs, then nibbled at a short ball which I should not have played at (as the lad took great pleasure in telling me over a pint in the Windmill).They gave us a few runs later and we lost by 15 runs. But we were well beaten really.

BLUEMANTLES VS LYNXES 1967 (NEVILL GROUND TUNBRIDGE WELLS)

My debut match, I think. The BM’s were an experienced side – a sort of veteran professional team. What they could do was bat and so we found ourselves up against 283 for 3 on a worn track. We had a strong batting line up as well but as soon as their spinners, Bernie Thomas and Bob Baramian got going we were in trouble. I think I batted at number 8 and I was greeted with 4 slips and 4 short legs. I was also subjected to a lot of gentlemanly chatter. “Sledging” they call it now. So upper class “sledging” it was then. Being youthful, with long hair (it was The Beatles era) did not help me much. I batted out a couple of overs then
reverted to type. A couple of swipes to cow corner - sorry Donald Vear – followed. Eventhough I missed, a few intended sweeps were enough to show them that the close fielders stood there at their peril. They retreated, as did the chatter. I think Tim Barlow and I put on 60 runs and we were within touching distance of a draw when I got a turning, lifting delivery from Bernie which I gloved. Just could not get out of the way. So disappointed but we did our best.

LYNXES VS TUNBRIDGEWELLS 1969

Perhaps this was my best game. Tunbridge Wells were a strong club side in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Of course, it depended on who they brought to Big Side, but they had always plenty of decent batsmen. Lynxes had not won this fixture for a while, so it was gratifying to record an unlikely victory. As I recall, the morning was overcast allowing David Winterbottom and I to get some swing. He with his tight away swingers and me with flighted in duckers. David bowled a long spell and gave nothing away, as per normal. He was not a lucky bowler. He
beat the bat so many times but so many times the scorebook showed the man bowling the other end took the wickets and so it was that morning. David took 2 for 15 from probably 12 overs, leaving me with 6 for 54. TW reached 190 but this was a pawky score for them as they usually had a free-flowing batting line up. So, a late declaration left the Lynxes with much to do. In those days there was no such thing as 20 overs in the last hour, so time was an issue. With our captain, Peter Wagstaffe, out early, only Andrew Bond of the established batters
was left when I joined him. We made some progress but then he was out going for it- as he tended to do, This left the Lynxes about 60 runs short, with 3 wickets and 8 overs to go. TimSpelling came in and after a conflab we decided to proceed with caution. Sensing our decisions TW brought on their spinners. Note that T20 had not been heard of so run rates of 8+ an over were not common. Also, seeing we were not attacking, our Captain came to the boundary and flourished his bat in “attack mode”. He left us in no doubt. So I managed 2
fours over mid off and one of my leg side sweeps for a 6 in the next over. For his part, Tim had TW in a panic with his running between the wickets (pretty optimistic some of it). More than once he called “Yes” to short midwicket, who could have easily run me out, but takinghis eye off the ball, then gave us two overthrows. Madness, but it worked. Lynxes romped home with an over to spare. Much celebration! I do not think I ever thought of playing for a draw again.

GARY MARSHALL CATCH vs BLUEMANTLES

We played on the wet end of the square, with a short boundary for the right handers and probably 70 yards to the off-side rope. Tim Barlow was asked to bowl his flighted filth (aka tempters) to Nigel Bett, who was a more than useful left-hand bat. Diddy Barlow bowled one of those 3 yards behind the crease, full tosses that went higher than longer. The temptation is to run down the wicket, but Nigel waited. When the ball finally did arrive, he gave it a mighty clout to square leg. At first sight it was a six, but then Gary Marshall, came running in
from the boundary until he realised the ball was going over his head. Back pedalling, he took the ball one handed ending up on his back and holding the ball aloft – in roughly the same position he found himself outside the Duke of York pub, later that evening, holding a pint! An astonishing catch.

ANDREW BOND vs RACQS AND LYNXES 6 A SIDE

It was a wet week, and by the Wednesday the square was just not fit. Nothing for it but to retire to the Windmill pub. BUT, the sun came out and so Andrew, as keen as ever, organised a 6 a side game for those that were up for it. I have seen many an injury in these ‘beer’ matches and so it proved. The wicket was wet on top and hard underneath, Andrew got himself in a pickle trying to hook a lifting ball and was hit on the nose. Blood everywhere and off he went to Pembury Hospital. More overnight rain and the Bluemantles match was
cancelled. However, Andrew was again arranging an all Lynxes 6 a side game on the Thursday afternoon. This time he kept wicket and when Malcolm Pemble was batting he attempted an expansive pull to leg but his flailing bat missed the ball and caught Andrew.You guessed it - on the nose. He was greeted at Pembury with “Oh no, not you again”.There must be a moral there somewhere.

PETER ROSS (THE ROCK) RACQS

I can see him now - crawling slowly along the Windmill bar towards the landlady, Lynn, a lovely lady. How he got up there I do not know. He was built like an English prop forward17 stone, squarish, a strong man. Here he was, inching his way towards Lynn on hands andknees licking his lips with his intensions quite clear. “Give us a kiss Lynn”. His intended was not so keen and asked husband Ron to intervene. Ron laughed as did the packed pub. Peter milked the situation for another five or so minutes until Lynn ducked under the bar flap and
made her escape. Ross, the gentle giant, of course made amends with a bottle of vodkafor Ron and Lynn and then behaved like a perfect gent for the rest of the evening. It could only happen with the Racqs!

OLD SUTTONIANS

The match in question was I think in 1984 and was the subject of much heated discussion. The boys from the school on the hill were on their high horses from mid-afternoon, when they thought a Lynxes declaration was long overdue. We played on a slow, low wicket; it was so difficult to hit the ball the square - unusual for an SV track. We batted first and although we got to 195 it was only down to a quick 30 runs from skipper John WW Taylor at the end of our innings. I think it took me over an hour to get 29. John was not inclined to declare until just before tea and our hosts were visibly annoyed. However, they had contributed to the
situation by bowling Des High and Neil Richards in tandem to defensive fields for much of our innings. So tetchy were they that they talked of little else. Even abandoning the match as a draw! Silly stuff looking back. They batted unwillingly, still moaning but actually made a good fist of it. 20 runs short with the last pair at the wicket at the end made for a good match. It was not the view of the Sutton hierarchy, who were going to write a stiff letter of protest,
drop the fixture etc etc. It is funny how schools and their pupils have certain characteristics.What do you think would be the characteristics of Cranbrook?

LASTLY TWO REGRETS

Bowling the Club President second ball for 0. Peter West, a keen supporter of all things Cranbrookian, came to the wicket when the President’s X1 needed 20 to win in the 25 th Anniversary match v The Lynxes XI in August 1972. I was prevailed upon to give the President a run. I did not need to be told really, but first ball was a leg side half volley which Peter missed. Next was a similar delivery and he missed again but disaster struck. The ball would comfortably have missed the wickets but it caught his pad and deflected onto the leg stump. Sorry Peter, that was not in the script. He just smiled and with a twinkle in his eye said “Well bowled”.

CATCHING ANDREW BOND FOR 98

Playing for the Racq’s, Andrew was batting as well as I ever saw him. Somehow, I found myself fielding at long on, not my normal first slip. Andrew could have taken a couple of singles for his 100, but that was not how he played. He really collared a straight drive. I did not have to move and considered not catching the ball before it arrived. But it was not in my DNA to let it go for a 6. Andrew shook his head at me on his way back to the pavilion.” I thought you might have missed that one, Jugger”, he said. I did not tell him that I had wanted to.

CONCLUSION

Well, there it is. A few thoughts and a few matches. I hope you have enjoyed the experience and flavour of largely 1970s Lynxes cricket. I certainly did. Each week brought new faces or guys returning to Big Side. So, every week had its own character. But through them all was a sense of belonging to ‘THE TEAM’. Management and leadership training courses stress the need for honest, 1st class managers and in my time playing for the Lynxes we had Frank Evans, Peter West, Jeremy Barham and Gary Marshall as our leaders, Thanks to them.
I need say no more, although some of Jeremy’s tackles on a hockey field made me wince more than once. He would say “hard but fair” and somehow these three words sum up

Lynxes Cricket. Hard but Fair.
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