A spell of relentlessly precise death bowling by Ben and Jasper took the Stragglers from what was heading to certain defeat to the brink of a remarkable victory at Folkestone, the match only decided on the final ball. The Straggler innings began slowly and got slower still, a five-day match clearly in prospect. Leading batter for 2021, Will Fenwick, tried to up the tempo and perished. Benny has the disconcerting habit of running to every ball he middles, regardless of its destination, and so managed to lose Theo, who was alert to the particular fielder to whom Benny had hit a smart drive. Jasper (19) joined Benny to up the rate from one end but edged behind. Debutant Jack Maunder (12) reminded Benny of the urgency of running hard to turn singles into twos and twos into threes – you could see Benny beginning to wilt. However, it was the fall of the fourth wicket in the 25th over with the score on what looked to be an insufficient 117, and Ben’s arrival at the crease, which saw the innings take off. Together Benny, finally out for a well-ground 70, and Ben, with an electric 74 including a dozen boundaries, put on 57 for the 5th wicket. Al arrived at the fall of the next wicket and pummelled an unbeaten 29, accompanied for the final few balls by Nick Wright (3*), and the innings came to a lusty close at 251 for 7. The final ten overs had added 96 runs.
A man short in the field was always going to be a risk, but the early part of the Folkestone innings suggested that three or four would be needed to stem the flow. Nick W (1 for 22) and Tom Tribe bowled with pace, but the short straight boundaries were punctured frequently enough to get the Folkestone innings off to a strong start. There was a momentary pause in proceedings, when Jasper in the covers took two catches in succession off the Chairman (the first one handed, while seeming to hang in mid-air). Spinners came and went, the runs kept coming down to a very modest thirty-six required from the final 10 overs. Surely all would be done and dusted with a few big blows. But Ben had other ideas, and bowled a ferocious length and line, aided by some sharp fielding to keep Nick Ward (averaging over 100 against the Stragglers in recent years) away from the strike. Joined by Jasper at the other end, giving even less away, runs suddenly seemed hard to come by. Another catch by Jasper, almost running to the boundary from extra cover to take a diving catch at Al’s feet, had the number 3 back in the pavilion for 86, and then Al got in on the one-handed act with another. The rate slowed further. The final over arrived with 3 required and Nick Ward on strike, surely a gentle clip through the leg-side field would be sufficient? But, no, Theo moved himself in front of square and took grateful receipt of a very slightly mistimed shot. Still 3 required and 5 balls left. Three dots, and pressure increasing on Folkestone skipper, Chris Jay. A single, not quite there; fielders all in the ring to prevent a run from the final ball, but the batter placed it just behind the fielder at point to run the two required. The missing man, perhaps, would have made the difference.