At last, after many years of endeavor (since 2010), the Stragglers, lead on this occasion by the Master Brewer, have defeated Otterden. On a cool and windy afternoon, the Stragglers chose to bat, and after a handful of overs were indulging in the batting collapse to end all batting collapses. To give them full credit, the Otterden opening bowlers used the conditions to best advantage, bowling a perfect line and length, one that was clearly well beyond the ability of the Straggler upper and middle order. 16 for 3 became 40 for 5 off 16 overs of toil and turmoil. Our leader, who had chosen to bat well down the order, elevated himself to number 7 to stem the flow, and with Toby Snape, who was clearly playing to a different set of geometric rules, began something of a recovery. However, with the score on 86, the wickets tumbled once more, Jonathan gone for 24, the other batsmen preferring to remain anonymous. Toby now made a crucial decision not to allow his partners to have the strike – they were clearly not up to the task. And in that mode he thrashed 10 sixes to all parts of the ground, and well beyond the trees to worry the sheep. The ninth wicket partnership managed 26, the total on to 125; the final pertnership got all the way to 34, before the Chairman, utterly determined not to face any bowling, managed to run himself out, very sadly leaving Toby high and dry on 98*. However, a target of sorts – 159 – had been set.
Otterden had time to face 8 overs before tea, and did not hang about. Ed Prest and Toby, while bowling with some venom, found that pace on the ball also went swiftly to the boundary – 45 runs from the first 7 overs. With what seemed a last throw of the dice, the Master Brewer tossed the ball to the Chairman to bowl the last over before the break. It is difficult to tell if it was the slower ball, but there is no doubt that the batsman, in essaying a slog sweep over cow corner, had sufficient time between completing the stroke and the ball arriving to rattle the top of off, to make and enjoy a cup of tea; the faintest glimmer of hope as we trooped off. The number 3 bat then proceeded to deposit both the Chairman and Joe Gordon over the trees with brutal effect. However, Ed at the other end was swinging the ball wickedly, and richly deserved his three wickets at the top of the order – 3 for 37 in an eleven over spell. At 110 for 4 Otterden were still the bookies’ favourites, but most of the big hitters were now back in the hutch. The Chairman returned, and aided by a sensational catch by last-minute substitute and debutant, Ricky Churchill, who seemed to need to juggle the ball a few times before grasping it one handed an inch from the ground, began to work through the lower order. At every wicket our great leader summoned up edited highlights of Churchillian speeches to encourage the troops; and the runs dried up as the wickets fell. The Otterden skipper, fresh from a big hundred the week before, fell into the Tapp – Churchill trap – 125 for 7; Jasper came on to remove another – 135 for 8; Al pounced on a wonderful leg side edge (dreadful ball) – 145 for 9; and then Harry Churchill, also on debut, took the final catch to bring the curtain down on an extraordinary Straggler recovery, the Chairman finishing with the unlikely figures of 6 for 43 from more than 11 overs, Otterden all out for 147.