VIP access only. These clubbies have a lot of tons in the bank.
Scoring a hundred is regarded as the best feeling in cricket. Sure, there’s the fifth wicket of a five-fer, the one-handed screamer at gully, or the relief of hanging on to a high ball that’s come down with snow on it, but the euphoria of bringing up three figures is incomparable.
Reaching a century requires skill, patience, determination and, for most of us, luck. For some, scoring a hundred is a once in a lifetime achievement. For others, it may never happen. For these four titans of club cricket who make up our 100 Hundreds Club, hitting tons is almost routine…
JOHN STUCK, 72
I last made a hundred seven weeks ago. Last summer I made eight hundreds. I was on 192 at the start of the season, and that final one brought up my 200th hundred. The slightly disappointing thing about it was that I was guesting for another team. I would have preferred to get it playing for my own team, but I wasn’t going to give it away in the nineties…
Clacton in Essex has always been my club. I’m Suffolk born and bred, so Clacton, just over the border into Essex, was a good choice for me. As a batsman and wicketkeeper it was good to play on a good pitch, and Clacton always had them. I joined in 1963 and I’ve been here ever since.
I don’t play first XI cricket any more but I still play for Clacton’s Sunday team. And I play veterans’ cricket – Suffolk Over 50s for 17 years, Essex Over 60s, and now Essex Over 70s. That’s where I get most of my runs now – for Essex Over 70s.
When I was young, all I could do was pull and hook. I couldn’t play any other attacking shots. Then my schoolmaster got an Australian cricketer called Jock Livingstone, who was playing for Northants, to show me how to play the off-drive. He worked with me for an hour, and that’s the only coaching session I’ve ever had in my life.
Technically I’ve always played fairly square-on, so before helmets I used to get hit in the head quite a lot. I probably held the record for stitches in my head!
The quickest bowler I ever faced was Imran Khan. It was a Gillette Cup game for Suffolk against Sussex, my only List A game. Imran bowled me for nought! It was no disgrace, because I’d never faced anyone bowling 90mph before.
There was one year when I scored 10 hundreds. It was in the early Seventies, and I was playing for Clacton first XI. I made a hundred for Suffolk in the Minor Counties competition in 1970 against Buckinghamshire, which I think of as my standout innings. We were made to follow-on, and I had a terrible hangover when I went out to bat. I saved the game for the team and almost pulled off a win.
My other standout innings came against Australia at Brisbane in the Over 70s Ashes. It was about 35 degrees, and I had to retire hurt on 106 because I had cramp in both calves. Then I had to keep wicket for 50 overs! We won that game and took the series 2-1. In all I’ve made 111,000 recorded runs, and recently brought up 1,000 catches behind the wicket.
My schoolmaster was a fanatical cricket man and got me an offer to join the Lord’s groundstaff. I turned it down on the basis that I didn’t think I was good enough, and he didn’t talk to me for many years after that! I still think that was a good decision. I was able to play and enjoy my cricket without any real pressure. I would only ever have been a ‘bread and butter’ county player, struggling to make ends meet – in those days you’d have to find another job in the winter, and I preferred to have a proper career. No regrets.
The social side of the game has almost gone. At club level especially. When we were young we’d drink all night in the club bar and then drive home. That was the way we were. But you can’t do that now. A lot of teams just go straight home, so you lose some of the spirit that used to exist between the teams.
I still love all formats of the game but I prefer the Test version. I suppose I’m a bit old-fashioned in that way. That’s the cricket I enjoy, and that’s the cricket I can play! I’ve never been that quick a scorer – I’ll leave that to the flair players – but I’ll still back myself to bat all day.
I’ve not got any plans to pack up. As long as my body lets me play, I’ll carry on.
RAY SWANN, 66
I’ve scored 114 centuries – I just include the competitive ones. My first came for Blyth seconds in June 1966. I was 15.
When I turned 50 in 2000, I stopped playing first-team cricket. I was on 96 hundreds. Then in 2009 my club Northampton Saints asked me to register just in case they were short. I was also coming up to be old enough to play for Northamptonshire Over 60s. Then I started to play again.
I scored my 100th hundred in 2010. The last half hour seemed to last forever; I was fully aware of how close I was and I lost all rhythm. Eventually I got over it and funnily enough the person who was bowling to me when I reached my hundred was a man who I used to teach years ago.
I played Minor Counties for Northumberland and Bedfordshire but the problem I had [in terms of going pro] was that I was very feisty and I don’t think I did myself any favours with the way that I played the game. Where I came from in Northumberland you were playing against lads who were spending most of the week down the pits, and they played very aggressive cricket. As a young lad there are two ways of dealing with it: you either ignore it or you become equally as assertive as they are. My way has always been to fight fire with fire.
When I came down to Northampton the cricket wasn’t as aggressive but I just played the way I’d normally played. It ruffled a few feathers and Northants probably looked at me but felt I was too much trouble.
Do I have regrets? I said to my son Graeme [yep, that one] recently, ‘I would give up every hundred I scored for one in first-class cricket’. If that’s a regret then I regret it, but I’ve only got myself to blame.
My most recent hundred was against Warwickshire Over 60s. I got a hundred against them at Northampton and then I got another one against them two weeks later at Warwick.
I’m calmer than I was! Instead of the double teapot I tend just to get the one teapot out. There’s no point, is there? It takes you a while to realise that all the angst is just wasted energy. I blow up every now and again but generally I’m much calmer.
I should think I’ll carry on for at least one more year. There are one or two people who want me to carry on till I’m 70 to play for the Over 70s. Mavis [Ray’s wife] is thinking: ‘Don’t you think you’ve had enough? Why don’t you just go and play golf?
MEL HUSSAIN, 53
I think I’ve averaged about three to four hundreds a season for the past 35 years, so it’s not too tough to figure out that I’ve got over a hundred hundreds.
When I first came back to this country as a kid from India, conditions were completely alien to me. Having played on beautiful slow wickets that were spinner-friendly, here they were seamer-friendly and the ball did plenty.
Before my very first colts match, at Shepherds Bush, I was bribed by my dad. It was when the first Gray-Nicolls One Scoop came out, and he said if I scored a hundred he’d buy me one. I don’t think he really thought I’d do it, but I scored a hundred. My brother Nasser scored a hell of a lot of runs with that bat. He never got rid of it and I think he used it up until his early days with Essex.
When I joined Hampshire CCC the first thing they said to me was, ‘You have to play club cricket on a Saturday if you’re not playing for us’. So I moved to Hythe, who were bottom of the table and had never ever been anywhere else. If there’d been relegation they’d have been in Division 10, they were that poor, but I absolutely loved it there.
It was a fantastic club, you couldn’t get a better bunch of guys, and we won the league. I scored a double hundred there and six of the guys that I batted with sacrificed their innings to get me on strike in order for me to break a 40-year club record.
It was when I came out of professional cricket that I really started to enjoy my game. One of the things I enjoyed the most was the England Amateurs, where we used to play touring Test sides as part of their warm-up games.
I hit Warne for two straight sixes out of the ground on his very first tour of England and against Pakistan I dismissed Saleem Malik – at the time No.1 batsman in the world – first ball. I should have had Inzamam out two balls later but he was dropped and went on to score one of the quickest hundreds I’ve ever seen.
Last season I played in the first XI all year, bar one match, for Bishop’s Stortford in the Hertfordshire Premier League, and I think it was probably my worst season. It’s the first season ever that I didn’t score a hundred. I made some decent scores against good bowling attacks but I suspect my first-team days are over now. My body’s just letting me down.
MARK WILLIAMS, 61
I was an opening batsman. I scored 107 hundreds and my hundredth was for I Zingari at Widford in Essex in 1999. I scored my first hundred when I was around 20 years old, for MCC.
My most memorable hundred was against Worcestershire for Shropshire at New Road. Worcester had Hartley Alleyne, Phil Newport and Richard Illingworth. So three international bowlers. I was actually bowled off a no ball before I’d scored, shouldering arms!
I remember facing Ian Botham in a school match. He was with the MCC Young Cricketers. The fastest bowler I ever faced was Wayne Daniel when he first came over from Barbados and was playing for Enfield.
I’ve played a huge amount of cricket. I went to Cambridge, didn’t get a Blue, but I did play one first-class match. I played Minor Counties for Shropshire and I played league cricket in Middlesex and Shropshire.
I was a schoolmaster for 38 years. I taught at Shrewsbury, Harrow, and Eton. I was master in charge of cricket at Shrewsbury and Harrow. As a schoolmaster, in the holidays you could almost play seven days a week! In 1988 or ’89 I got 3,700 runs.
I retired from playing when I was 47. I’d achieved everything I’d set out to achieve. I didn’t bowl very much and I gradually felt more and more uncomfortable when I was fielding. When you don’t bowl, you’re spending half a game doing something you’re not enjoying. Since then I’ve been a county second XI and Minor Counties umpire and now I umpire in the Middlesex Premier League.