There is an immutable law of cricket, which says that if you drop Jasper three times in an innings AND suffer the inexplicable vicissitudes of an umpire of Antipodean origin calling ‘no ball’ on height, you will lose. And so it proved in the Inter-Straggler (Fixture Secretary’s XII) game of 2021. It is the role of a leg-spinner to sufficiently confuse the batsman for him to miscue big shots for the benefit of the boundary fielders – Al performed his part to perfection; Jasper slightly miscued; the ball went to hand… and to ground more than once. The final insult was added, when a Jack Wood beamer, definitely below Jasper’s shoulder, was turned round the corner to be snaffled in the leg trap, only for the Beetle to call a no ball. On a day for which heavy showers were forecast, we were fortunate to complete the game with only one rain interruption, as black clouds, thunder and lightning passed either side of the ground. George BW won the toss (by proxy) and elected to bowl, and the plans were working pretty well, as James Pollington (9) and Benny Smallwood (10) were sent back to the pavilion by the 6th over, in spite of regular warnings to Ed for endangering low flying aircraft. James Felton (22) and Angus Balfour (50) dug in for a more substantial partnership both removed by Freddie Horlick. But this just brought skipper, Will Fenwick, and Jasper to the crease. Will, mindful of his pole position in the batting averages for the season, survived a caught and bowled, and some challenging calling, to grind out 48*, while Jasper thrived on the missed chances to mark up his 13th Straggler century with 106, the partnership worth 132. The declaration came at 254 for 5.
The Straggler innings caught fire almost immediately, as Benny Sharp on debut took on all comers, both before and after the rain interval, ignoring the large damp patch where the covers had leaked in the rain. During the rain break, the sky over the ground filled with swifts, as the low cloud brought them down from insect hunting at altitude. Back on the field of play, Will turned to Hugo to steady the ship; Hugo found an edge, and Jasper did the honours in the cordon to remove Benny (46 of the 62 on the board). Tom Tribe tried one yahoo to many, and then Freddie H (12) was the first to fall to the guile of the Beetle. Alex, who had turned up in Kent to watch the Snapes play cricket, found himself standing in on a temporary basis for Nige (as ever with his head in a reluctant combine) and then permanently to cover for an Aussie no show. The conditions were to his liking – ball turning, moisture in the air, batsman offering limited resistance, and, most importantly of all, catches were held. George (38) hit a couple of big sixes, and looked as if he might restore some order, with Jeremy Godden (15) blocking furiously at the other end. When they both fell to Alex the score still only at 128, the end was in sight, the only possible salvation a return of the rain. Bowling in tandem with Angus Balfour (2 for 18 and will start his next game on a hat trick), Alex finished with 7 for 29, the first Straggler ‘7 for’ since Jon Riches 7 for 25 at Bishopsbourne in 2010. Note: Your correspondent has been admonished for his failure to recall Will Fenwick’s 7 for 39 in the Inter-Straggler fixture of 2016. The Stragglers were blown away with the final 4 wickets falling on 151, and then the sun came out for the BBQ.