Hollingbourne has been the venue for the Straggler season finale for a decade or so, and we have had many happy fixtures in the soft light of early autumn. This year, moved to the heat of August, with harvest in full swing in the field below the ground, saw another great contest, with a Straggler century, and almost certainly the youngest ever Straggler ‘6 for’. The top order continued the fine form shown at Nonington on Thursday, with Jasper (56) clubbing a series of boundaries and hogging the strike in the initial exchanges. George Baker White followed in a more stately manner to his half century, joined by Hugo (36), when Jasper went for such a long wander down the track that the keeper had time to juggle the ball and call for refreshments before removing the bails. George now upped the pace, and cracked his way to a well earned and elegant century, out eventually for 116. With over two hundred on the board and plenty of batting to come, Al tried to reverse sweep his way into form; the first was glorious, but the bowler had his measure. The innings closed on 275 for 5, with Jamie Lavers and Chris Lark undefeated on 10.
Hollingbourne seemed quite relaxed about the target, and we soon saw why, as both Hugo and Jasper were despatched in all directions, in a manner most unusual; the rate was up at ten an over in the opening exchanges. With pace off the ball, errors could be induced, and Jamie L, having his first run out for the Stragglers for a couple of years, picked up the essential wicket of the Aussie pro from the Gold Coast, well caught by Ben Simpson in the gully. Ben went on to attract the ball for the rest of the afternoon, using almost all body parts in a committed display of fielding. However, catches were going to ground at the other end, and runs kept flowing. The Chairman then used the well tested device of the low full toss to remove the other opener (held by Hugo at long-off), and number 3, this a return catch, the holding of which surprised the bowler most of all. Will Attwood took full toss bowling to another level, and was supported with another gully catch from Ben. But from then on it was the Benny Smallwood show. Benny’s first ball was a potential hat-trick ball, carried over from the Inter-Straggler game; this was kept out, but the next was not. Benny was off and running; two overs later, and Al timed his stumping to perfection. Another couple of overs, and Benny had another shot at a hat-trick, with a glorious triple wicket maiden. The hat-trick ball was again defended, but the inevitable was only delayed for a moment or two. Benny took the final wicket to complete the undoing of Hollingbourne, all out for 184, and Benny with figures of 6 for 17, a triumph of flight and guile, and a day to be remembered.