Belmont was baking in early August heat, and the track had been prepared with some real spice. Jack Wood’s decision to bowl looked fair, and with Hugo and Nick W opening at pace, and plenty of change bowling available, he was looking for early inroads. However, Jasper just loves this game and seems to have a particular fondness for Straggler bowling, and, in spite of taking a couple of body blows from Hugo, got stuck in. Will Fenwick (13) was so content playing second fiddle, that he sacrificed himself to an unexpected call for a single that was probably never there. Patch Mitchell (10) came, watched Jasper accumulate in a partnership of 50, and went. Archie Hammond (25) made a more meaningful contribution in another solid stand with Jasper, but the rate was always just a little steady (148 from the first 30 overs). However, once Jasper had reached his 11th Straggler ton, acceleration was immediate – Harry Pattinson hit for three sixes in an over, and Jasper retired himself a couple of overs later on 139*. Wickets then tumbled in a bit of a hurry, with Theo (13*) unable to get on strike, and Isaac W, Toby, Jamie A and captain Tom all perishing in short order, with Harry the principal beneficiary (3 for 44), and a couple of steepling catches well taken by Hugo and, most particularly, by captain Jack. A final over of fraternal mayhem from Freddie Evans (12*) despatching twin William, brought the total to 250 for 7, 102 runs scored in the final ten overs.
George won the 2019 batting award with three big centuries and an all-round display of real class. However, he has two chinks in his armoury – the first innings of any overseas tour and the Inter-Straggler game. And so it proved again. George ducked out of opening for the Fixture Secretary’s XI, only to find Al on his way back to the fourth ball of Toby’s opening over (having already taken one on the helmet). George’s visit was even shorter than Al’s, the score 0 for 2 after 6 balls. Ben Simpson was having none of it though; there was a target to chase, and, when joined by Charlie Munton, replete with green suede cricket shoes, at the fall of the third wicket, Ben brought out a very long drive indeed. The Chairman rapidly developed a crick in his neck watching the ball tower back over his head – 26 conceded in one over to Charlie, and almost as many to Ben. The last, rather desultory, laugh was had when Jasper clung on to a very sharp drive to remove Charlie for 36. Ben was not taking any prisoners, and having seen off the Chairman (1 for 55 from 4 overs), he set about young Freddy Evans, who he hit on the foot with another thundering drive – Freddy had to exit the field of play for an ice pack. Joffy, making his first appearance since 2005, was undone by the bounce extracted by Isaac and sharply held by Patch in the covers; and then Archie came on to remove Ben (85), Matt (12) and captain Jack (10) in a spell of real control (3 for 30). However, even at 185 for 8, with 10 overs left and Hugo now at the crease, the target was in sight. Jamie Adams came on to remove Seb, and just when Hugo and Nick Wright looked as if they would steer the FS XII home, Toby was reintroduced, now bowling uphill with even more bounce on offer from the wicket. Nick Wright skied one to long-off, where Will F held an exceptional catch running backwards (and misjudged almost all of the way). Hugo smacked two more boundaries, leaving William Evans to face the last ball of Toby’s over. Another sharp lifter from Toby and it was all over, caught behind – 229 all out, Toby finishing with 4 for 16 from 5 overs. It is rare that Straggler keepers are given so many opportunities, and rarer still from them to hang on to them all, but today George picked up three and Theo four catches.