@reverse_sweeper 5 minute read
Credit: Suffolk Free Press
Scott Oliver meets John Stuck, a record-busting run-machine from the coast of East Anglia and an inductee in the Wisden Club Cricket Hall of Fame.
First published in issue 25 of Wisden Cricket Monthly
For the vast majority of club cricketers, recalling one’s centuries is unlikely to be too taxing a task (indeed, the anecdotes have probably been polished into legend). Not so for John Stuck. Before retiring this year, aged 75, due to an arthritic pelvis, he had notched over 200 three-figure scores, all duly archived at the back of his locally published biography, Stuck in the Middle.
Stuck grew up in Suffolk, near the Essex borders, playing friendly cricket for both the village of Bures and Sudbury, where he attended the grammar school. He went on to board at Woodbridge, whose cricket master sorted him a five-year contract on the Lord’s groundstaff. “I didn’t think it was right for me. I was never going to be good enough to play county cricket. Even if I’d made it, I was going to be a fringe player, on low wages, working in winter.”
Instead, he became the BBC’s first ever computer software engineer, devising stock control systems for the expensive valves used in broadcasting, and “playing cricket for fun”. In 1963, still a teenager, he took his cricket to Clacton-on-Sea CC, “a good strip, used by Essex seconds, and a very wise move for my run-making!”
He went to live in Clacton in 1967 and would end up scoring over 43,000 runs for the club, beginning in friendly cricket before the advent of the Two Counties Cricket Championship in 1971, which he finally won in 1992 alongside West Indies rebel, Alvin Greenidge. He made his final first XI hundred in 1994, by which time 50 of his 73 tons had come at Vista Road.
He wasn’t quite done with first-team cricket, though. The East Anglian Premier League was formed in 1999, with Clacton a founder member, and in 2000, when he was a quality manager maintaining the UK’s air defence system, the then 56-year-old was called up to keep wicket against champions Vauxhall Mallards. Clacton skittled their hosts for 56, then things went south: “I thought I’d be batting No.11 but the skipper put me up the order. I went in at 20-4 and made 15 not out off 92 balls and we won by three wickets.”
Stocky and square on, Stuck’s MO was to get stuck in, to scrap his way to 20, no matter how many he’d made the day before. “Bore them to death then take them apart,” he laughs. His steadiness got him picked for Suffolk, for whom he played 64 times, including two successful Minor Counties Championship-securing ‘challenge matches’ against Durham in 1977 and ’79. There was only one minor counties hundred, however, against Bucks at Slough, after a chastened Suffolk had followed on. A hungover Stuck had been carried back from the pub the previous night.
“The majority of my hundreds have come in veterans cricket,” he says, and indeed Stuck played for Suffolk over- 50s for 17 years, then Essex over-60s and over-70s, while making 51 hundreds for Two Counties veterans teams.
In 2008, he took part in the inaugural veterans international match (he has also represented England over-60s at badminton) and in 2015 scored his favourite hundred, for England at the Allan Border Oval, Brisbane, in the Over-70s Ashes. “I retired on 106 with cramp in both legs, then the physio got me ready to keep for 50 overs.”
Number 200 arrived a year later, with little fanfare, for East Herts Cavaliers: “I had to retire at 70, but smashed a quick 30 and went mad. Nobody on the ground knew it was my 200th hundred until I came off.”
The final hundred – number 209 (“I may have more but you can only count what you’ve got a record of”) – came in the Sudbury Festival this August. But having broken the last of his bats in making it, and with that dicky pelvis, he has called time to play a little golf, do a little umpiring, just the 110,000 runs in the bank.
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