At the top end of the spectrum, Saracens continue to impress in the professional ranks of the game. Joe Leach (M 2004-09) captained Worcestershire to the County Championship Division Two title with an impressive haul of 69 wickets (the highest in the country) and 347 runs as well as leading the side to the semi-finals of the Royal London One-Day Cup. Joe was ably supported by Ed Barnard (PH 2012-14) who really cemented his place in the side with a string of fine performances, ending the season with 47 wickets, 580 runs and a host of impressive one-day performances.
Elsewhere in the County game, Ed Pollock (I 2011-13) made a big impression when given the chance in the Birmingham Bears T20 side including an impressive 50 off 24 balls in the semi-final victory over Glamorgan leading to former England captain Michael Vaughan backing him for a future cap:
Both David Lloyd and Ruaidhri Smith (Rt 2010-12) made appearances for Glamorgan and George Panayi (Ch 2011-15) debuted for Warwickshire, taking 3-41 in his first appearance against Lancashire as well as playing for England U-19s. Ollie Westbury (S 2013-15) also signed professional terms with Worcestershire capping a fine year for Saracens in the professional game.
Ben Williams’ reign as Cricketer Cup captain got off to a disappointing start with defeat at home to Stowe Templars in the 2nd Round. Having dispatched Repton Pilgrims by an impressive 209 runs in the opening fixture (Saracens 276-7, Pilgrims 67 all out), the Saracens couldn’t cope with the batting of former Northants opener Rob White who scored 149 out of a total of 278-4, losing by 126 runs after being bowled out for 152. The silver lining was that four Saracens made competition debuts and the pool of talent at our disposal increases. The 2018 draw pits the Saracens away to Old Cliftonians whose recent results have been impressive and will be a tough fixture. The 2017 competition was won by Old Wellingtonians beating Old Eastbournians in a one-sided final having beaten hot favourites Malvern in the semi-final. The standard of the competition continues to improve year on year and there are increasingly few easy fixtures.
In other cricket, the Saracens fulfilled a new T20 fixture in London against Shepherd’s Bush CC who count a number of Saracens in their league side. Impressive batting from Ben Chapman (Rt 1995-00) and Tom Cox (M 2000-05) led the Saracens to 182-3 which was easily defended with Shepherd’s Bush managing 163-5 in reply.
The fixture against the School 1st XI resulted in a cracking finish and plenty of Saracens debuts for recent leavers. Looking for a long time like being out of sight, the School ended on 231-6 from 40 overs after some fine death bowling from George Panayi dragged us back but at 87-6 in reply, the Saracens looked dead and buried. A spirited partnership of 130 between Joe Carrasco (Rt 2012-14) who finished on 78* and Rob Hillman (M 1994-99) with 68 took the game to the last over but ultimately the target proved just out of reach with the boys hanging on for a 5 run victory.
The fixture against the School 2nd XI was sadly washed out without a ball bowled leaving the Saracens annual pilgrimage to Devon as the last on field action of the year. Touring numbers have remained healthy over the last few years but with Henry Lewis (I 2007-12) now at the helm and a strong recruitment drive instigated, 33 Saracens toured to picturesque Instow. As ever, our generous hosts at North Devon CC looked after us splendidly and we were all delighted when their favourite son Craig Overton made his England debut in the Ashes. Craig has been a long time supporter of the tour and has frequently manned the bar in the evenings and played against us (and occasionally for us). We wish him well after a very successful season with Somerset.
On the field, Monday’s fixture against North Devon was dominated by an innings as surprising as it was good from Ricard Mackay (S 1995-2000) who brought up his century in some style as the Saracens posted 283 before bowling North Devon out for 195 to register a well deserved win and take us into the Monday night dinner in fine spirits. A host of senior Saracens joined us from the golf course to celebrate as over 50 Saracens (including wives) enjoyed excellent hospitality under the famous thatched pavilion.
Tuesday’s fixture, again against North Devon brought an almost entirely fresh XI to the field but they were met with a strong batting display from North Devon who declared on 289-9. Struggling at 135-5 in reply, the tour manager strode to the crease to form a fine partnership with Ali Pollock (I 2010-12 ) to bring the Saracens home by 5 wickets.
Wednesday’s fixture fell foul of the elements as a bleak day meant a total wash out. The finale to Tour is now a round-robin T20 competition with the Brasenose Strollers and North Devon which has often been the achilles heel of previous tours. Not so this year as the Strollers were dispatched by 30 runs in a low scoring thriller to ensure the Saracens remained undefeated on what was a memorable tour.
Off the field, the Saracens have increased numbers and improved admin (including the website which is now fully up to date with match reports and photos - https://www.shrewsbury.org.uk/page/latest-saracens-news) considerably and look forward to a strong showing in 2018 and beyond.
Rob Hillman, Secretary.