Club Cricket Conference

Monday, 21st September 2020

Primary reasons for Beckenham's incredible season

By Charles Randall

2 October 2017

Perhaps Beckenham CC were better known as the Primary Club founders and as the 'other' ground in the Kent county fixtures. That was before  they provided the surprise packet of 2017 by winning the Kent Cricket League for the first time in 34 years.

Alex Senn's side benefited from the form of seamer Will MacVicar, the league's best bowler with 40 cheap wickets, and their home-grown Kent batsman Alex Blake, but it was all-round strength that held off the vibrant challenge of Bexley, so close to their first league title.

Senn has decided to organise a celebration dinner for the whole club near the end of October to mark an outstanding season. Such communal elation at Foxgrove Road has not been felt since 1983, the only previous title year.

The Primary Club was founded in the pavilion at Beckenham in 1955 from discussions that followed four golden ducks on the same day. Anyone out first ball can become a member, and under patronage of Beckenham's best known product Derek Underwood, the former England spinner, many thousands of pounds have been raised for blind charities.

The fact that Kent do not use Foxgrove Road as their outground in the town is a curiosity. The broader acres of the old Lloyds Bank ground at Worsley Bridge Road have been developed by the county, though Beckenham CC apparently hosted county games up to 1905.

The other main surprise in the league proved to be the relegation of Hartley Country Club, champions for the previous two seasons and six times in the previous nine years. Strong in batting and vulnerable in bowling they freefalled into relative obscurity to join Bromley (nine titles), The Mote (six), St Lawrence and Highland Court (six) and Ashford (two). But out of obscurity Bromley Common were promoted into the top tier for the first time alongside Bickley Park.

Beckenham clearly had strength in depth. For example, wicketkeeper Ollie Robinson was called up for England Under-19 for much of the summer, and second-teamer Adam Dicker deputised very well. The new ball attack was bolstered by the Pakistani overseas seamer Tabish Khan, but it was Junaid Nadir, relegated to third seamer, who took the most wickets behind the outstanding MacVicar, 25, a former Loughborough University regular.

Off-spinner Adam Senn, Alex's brother, enjoyed his first full season after university, and Blake's aggressive style produced 585 runs in his 11 matches, with his sharp fielding offering added value. Before his first season in charge Alex Senn felt Beckenham  were capable of finishing top. "We always believed we had the potential in the side," he said. "We just needed to find that consistency. We came together as a unit and developed a good team spirit."

After desperately tight comeback victories in mid-season - by four runs at Sandwich and by 23 runs at home to Blackheath after Robinson's 81 helped turn  43-5 into 204-8 - Senn knew this could be their year.  "Somebody would always find a performance when needed,"he said. In the penultimate match Beckenham dusted down visiting Bexley by eight wickets, with MacVicar taking five wickets and Adam Senn three. This effectively settled the issue.

Hartley had no problem scoring runs through their South African import Dominic Hendricks, top of the overall league runs with 824 at 54.93. Richard Selvey-Clinton, with 720 at 51.43, finished second, and James Thompson and James Hockley scored heavily in top the 10 aggregates. But the reigning champions were rarely secure and ended their season with eight consecutive defeats.

Hartley's best win was against Sevenoaks Vine in June when Selvey-Clinton (135) and Hendricks (154) put on 288 together unbroken to win by nine wickets, the side's last success of the season. Earlier the two batsmen put on 235 against Tunbridge Wells in a 50-overs score of 326-3, just enough for a 12-run win. But on the final Saturday they were demolished by Bexley - all out for 110 - while Sevenoaks, inspired by their captain Oliver Durell's 82, won handsomely at Blackheath. This allowed Vine to jump past their relegation rivals.

So this was Beckenham's year as the 'other' club in town. Outground county cricket goes to major club venues such as Guildford, Colwyn Bay and Scarborough these days, apart from school facilities such as Cheltenham, Merchant Taylors and Oakham.

Thinking of non-headquarter towns hosting first class cricket, one could think of  a few cases where a secondary venue was favoured for first class cricket, perhaps a company ground or manor house estate. In the relatively recent past, Somerset visited Bath and Weston-Super-Mare and used relatively crude strips in public parks rather than the local town club for championship cricket. One could argue whether Yorkshire's matches in Sheffield were held at the city's 'main' ground.

On the subject of old grounds, Chris Arnot's lavishly illustrated book Britain's Lost Cricket Grounds (Aurum Press) gives lasting pleasure. Published in 2011, it is still in print at £16.