1976 was a season in which we broke even. There were six wins, six defeats and six draws. Inevitably perhaps, after our league success of the previous year we were likely to experience anti-climax.
The reasons for the relative decline in our fortunes seem most attributable to brittle batting and to a lesser extent to a failure to field the same attack in more than a handful of matches. In 1975 the Brian May - Alan Senior partnership had been such an integral part of our success but this year out of eighteen games we had a different opening attack on thirteen occasions. However, whilst our bowling resources were inconsistent and often thin, we were nevertheless more than creditably served by those who did perform and succeeded in bowling out the opposition fourteen times. On the other hand our batsmen failed to pass 150 runs on all but three occasions - although as we specialised in batting second, clearly we won a number of games without having to make that many runs. Rather more telling is the nature of the starts which we made. Over the season as a whole we had an average of 2.5 wickets down before we reached 30 and 4 wickets down by the time 50 runs had been scored. Only twice did our opening batsmen reach the latter total without being separated and in fact 30 was passed a mere three times with all our wickets intact.
The lack of availability to play cricket on a regular basis which bedevilled the club as a whole in 1976 certainly affected the Saturday second XI too and despite the fact that we often performed well against the odds, our hopes of retaining our league title were effectively negated very early on, which in a disastrous week in late May we feebly succumbed to Denham and then Stoke Green - both times with severely depleted sides.
I felt our most satisfying win to be that against Hatch End late in the season although as with a number of our other victories it was a bit of a struggle. The drawn game against Burnham was also a good result and in dismissing Hurst first XI (for 97) we bowled and fielded outstandingly. Individually honours must go to Alan Senior who in nine games took 42 wickets and was only taken off on two occasions. Barry Jones proved the season's most valuable acquisition and his persistence and accuracy were rewarded with 48 wickets. Certainly he was the most consistent element in our attack over the season as a whole. David Thornley turned in an excellent 7-30 in a league fixture against Farnham Common.
Among the batsmen Simon Christy invariably played elegantly and Keith Hawthorn rediscovered his 1975 form in September when he almost won the Burnham game for us before being caught by an over-zealous substitute fielder. It was the younger batsmen, David Greenaway and Simon Wigmore, who attracted most notice however. Both matured appreciably and their record seventh wicket partnership of 81 against Marlow Park saw both reaching their highest scores for the club together.
To all members of the side, and especially perhaps to those not mentioned above, I would like again to record my appreciation of the uncomplicated effort and enthusiasm which largely characterised our performances in the field. The Saturday second XI remains the easiest of sides to lead and I hope that the cricket was enjoyed even when it was not entirely successful. The enjoyment of the occasion is of course sustained in no small measure by those not directly concerned with playing cricket. Colin Abbott's contribution as player turned umpire was especially appreciated and the delectable qualities of our teas were only surpassed by those who served them.