Band of Brothers

258/9 dec - 259/6
Full Time
Representing The Belmont Trustees
Won by 4 wickets

Match Report

It seemed fitting that, in the 75th season of Straggler cricket, the Stragglers should record a first win against the Band of Brothers in what proved to be an excellent game of cricket with a nerve jangling final few overs. Played on a lovely summer day at Belmont, the Straggs were also delighted to represent the Belmont Trustees on 15th anniversary of the redevelopment of the ground, and grateful to the BB for hosting the players to lunch and tea.

As far as I can ascertain, this was the first game in which the Stragglers were captained by a Kiwi, Alex Reese, one of a number of Kiwis on show.  And the result was testimony to Alex’s skills not just as a leg-spinner on his favourite ground but also decisive and innovative decision making (a mix of Stephen Fleming, Daniel Vettori and with a hint of Shane Warne).  His first contribution was to lose the toss on a day, when there was no clear advantage either way; the Straggs were asked to bowl.  Ben Foster (the one from the Wairarapa not from Watford) opened with good pace and a lovely line and length, with Nick Wright steaming in up the hill. Nick disturbed the stumps early on, but the batters were increasingly comfortable on a good track.  Something needed to happen, so Alex introduced the Chairman at first change to induce a false sense of security.  The plan worked to perfection, as the batters relaxed into some easy runs, but fell foul of the next change, when Alex brought himself on.  His fifth ball bounced wickedly and was adjudged to have brushed the glove before cannoning into the batter’s helmet and dropping neatly in the Theo’s gloves behind the stumps. At the other end, Ben had been replaced by Ed Wright, another Kiwi Straggler, bowling a lovely shape, but seeing the edges induced fly through or over the cordon.  Alex was not done yet, and in his next four overs reduced the BB upper order to a state of near total confusion.  The surviving batters were pleased to escape to the safety of lunch on 132 for 6, Alex having taken 5 for 7, supported (mostly) by some reliable catching all-round the bat.  After an excellent lunch, the strike bowlers returned, but, in spite of bowling tidy lines, failed to strike.  Other spinners were given a couple of overs, and the Chairman brought back to hurry the run rate along.  But nobody was doing what Alex was doing – taking wickets, and he came back on for a second spell with immediate success.  When Piers Richardson, BB skipper undefeated on 60, called the innings to a close at 258 for 9 from 44 overs, Alex had figures of 8 for 26 from 8 overs with 4 maidens.  Research to identify the last Straggler ‘8 for’ is ongoing.

The Straggler openers were parted early on, when Ed Wright was unfortunate to edge one which bounced round the slip cordon before coming to rest in Ben Regan’s hands.  At the other end George was building an innings, while Theo pushed the rate along.  When in form, Theo bats with great elegance, and he was in form today, but frustratingly managed to turn a poor ball around the corner and into the hands of square leg for 36.  Jamie Lavers, making a first appearance for a few years, came and went, to bring Charlie to the crease.  Together Charlie and George began to take the game away from the BB, Charlie channelling his inner-Bairstow while aided by a couple of important drops.  With around 7 an over required after the tea interval, Charlie and George hit long, ran hard and were comfortably ahead of the rate, almost cruising.  Everything changed when Piers bowled a slower ball, Charlie (86) was a fraction early on the shot and found deep mid-wicket with unerring accuracy; no reprieve this time.  In the following over, George (73) plinked one back to the bowler.  A free-flowing partnership of 129 came to an abrupt end, with 35 still required, two new batters at the crease, seven overs left, and the BB sensing a draw to be salvaged, or possibly something better.  Al ran furiously for a second run and was an inch short.  It was down to the Kiwis, Henry Wright (9*) and Ben Foster(14*) to bring the Stragglers nervously (at least for those on the side-lines, perhaps not for the batters themselves) home with an over to spare, victory by 4 wickets, the 7th highest run chase in 75 years of Straggler cricket.


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