Many congratulations to Mark on reaching such an impressive landmark!
The stats don’t lie – he has been our most valuable, most consistent batsman. Not only is he nearly 1,000 runs ahead of his nearest rival (and unlikely ever to be caught), but he has 6 of the top 10 highest season aggregates, and 2 of the 3 highest partnerships, not to mention being one of only four centurions in the club’s history. But the stats barely tell half the story. It has been a privilege to have been at the other end of the pitch while he’s scored quite a few of those runs – here are a few random reflections on what I’ve learned in that time:
Mark has phenomenal powers of concentration – a “proper” batsman prepared to work for his runs, but one who’s also always looking to move the score along, and rarely lets a bad ball go unpunished;
An amazing cricket memory – my first thought, on hearing that he scored his 5000th run, was that I wouldn’t mind betting he’d be able to give a pretty good account of the other 4999, but that’s not fair, because he’d probably be able to give a decent account of most of my runs, not to mention those of most of the rest of the club (and in particular those of such batting stalwarts as Chris Bunton and James Airey). More importantly, it wouldn’t be unusual for him to be able to tell me what to expect from some 3rd change opposition bowler who played against us once 5 years previously;
what an all-rounder – batsman, wicket-keeper, captain, safe pair of hands in the field, not to mention amateur commentator, often while participating in the game (usually he gets away with this, but no-one who saw it will forget the “Thanks Andy” with which he greeted a shortish delivery from our current skipper, while moonlighting for Newage a few years ago, before slapping it straight into cover’s hands!). There is of course an exception that proves the rule, and there remains an unclaimed (and unwanted?) place in Exiles history for the skipper who brings Mark on to bowl;
As Wil comments in his piece, Mark has always shown unfailing support for other players in the side, provided that is, of course, they are committed and trying their best. Woe betide, however, anyone who fails this reasonable test (I daresay Mark would be able to guess who of Exiles past I have in mind); and finally and most importantly
a good friend without whom my time playing for the Exiles would not have been half as much fun as it has been.
Well done, mate!
Author Keith Roberts