An unexpectedly warm and sunny Birleys greeted the Stragglers for the opening fixture of the 2018 season. Losing the toss, the Stragglers were inserted by Kings, who opened with lively pace, and dislodged Will Attwood (6) early, only to bring Jasper out to join a watchful Hugo. The dismal batting of 2017 was put behind them as Kings rotated bowlers, good balls were defended and loose ones despatched. Jasper (28) fell to a straight one, which brought Ben Simpson to the crease.
Ben chose to ignore any early season rustiness, and set about the bowling with gusto verging on the disrespectful. The electronic score sheet came equipped with a WASP total score predictor, which was soon heading north of 250. As so often happens, the drinks break brought a wicket, Hugo sharply caught at extra cover for 43, followed by Theo and Ben (69). The target had diminished somewhat, but the innings was jolted back into life by Tom Wood, showing off an array of shots, which he had managed to conceal previously. By the end of the 35th over Tom had just not quite had enough of the strike in the final few overs to reach a maiden half century, stranded on 45*, and the total a challenging 229 for 7.
The Kings openers exuded class, and took the attack to Sam and Toby, posting 38 in 6 overs, a sharp chance going down at mid-off. Patch introduced Hugo, who stemmed the flow, although he kept Theo on his toes behind the stumps with a couple of balls swinging like a boomerang. One opening bat had a guard well across his stumps; Hugo called an LBW shout, and, two balls later, had his man. Rory Boyd, who turns out for the second XI at Kings, and after promotion, made his case with his first ball, bowling the Kings captain with an absolute Jaffa. Hugo knocked over 2 more in the next over, induced an edge which so nearly became a champagne moment, as Ben dived to his right in the gully, and the chase stalled. Opener Zac Rahman was still at the crease, driving beautifully back past the bowlers, but failing to get enough of the strike to exert any pressure.
Every bowling change brought another wicket, and the innings rather limped to a close at 173 all out. Zac was 9th man out for a well-crafted 67, having hit out as his partners deserted him, and giving the Straggler outfielders some well needed catching practice.