On the 11th May 2008 long serving Mark Bradshaw became the first Energy Exile to break the momentous figure of 5000 career runs since he joined the club more than 10 years ago in 1996. Another result of John Priestland’s recruitment campaign, I think I first met Mark at an away game against Harrowdene, though this is difficult to verify as Mark for many years has been my cricketing memory bank.
He joined a rather disorganised group of cricketers with a shared love of the greatest game in the world. Captained by a man who frequently decided whether to bat or field without looking at the pitch, a wicket keeper who didn’t believe in stopping balls down the leg-side unless edged and a fast bowler who was more concerned with his piles than mastering the arts of fast bowling. Add to that a Cumbrian with dreadlocks to the small of his back who never seemed to bowl a ball not on the stumps, a founder member who was then and still is a severe judge of batting and a miserly bowler whose son, initially our scorer, is now a mainstay of the batting line-up. And they were the sane ones. What he thought when he first played for us is difficult to know, but whatever he thought he seemed to slip seamlessly into the ethos of Exiles cricket. His first few games were a steep learning curve. Having been brought up on pitches in Lincolnshire where the ball often didn’t get above shin height, he initially struggled to deal with the bouncier wickets of the South. Quickly he got the hang of it, eradicating his propensity to cut the ball in the air and he rapidly moved up the order establishing himself as the Exiles top batsman.
Over the next ten years Mark became one of our most consistent performers with the bat only being challenged when Keith Roberts and Jon Taylor joined the club. Not only was he our premier batsman but he also became one of the Exiles most strident cricket evangelists. He has given everything to this club without ever seeking any reward. An enthusiastic tourist, he organised and kept everyone amused on our yearly excursions to Grantham. He introduced many a bemused Southerner to the local nightlife personally demonstrating how and how not to behave. His various drunken speeches on the importance of ‘cricket fitness’ were common, my particular favourite was his tirade directed at Jeff who was in the process of eating a kebab in Leicester, ‘Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh don’t eat kebabs’ he forcefully maintained between sips of his favourite brand of vodka, Morrinov. Without his input the yearly tour would have ended years ago.
Mark’s contribution to the club is immeasurable. From his successful captaincy, his tireless encouragement of lesser batsman, his role as team jester, club historian and general good egg were all backed up by his wholehearted dedication to the cause of the Energy Exiles. Playing for the Exiles for me would have been a lot less enjoyable over the years if Mark had decided to play for a proper club rather than doss with a bunch of cricket misfits.
Well done Mark, here’s to another 5000 runs.
Author Wil Scott