The fixture at Provender provides one of the high quality highlights of the Straggler season, and this year saw a tense game taken down to the wire. On a glorious summer afternoon, and with a team notably lacking in terracotta warriors, Hugo Snape won the toss for the Stragglers and inserted Provender. Keeping a good line, and with pace in the field, runs proved hard to come by; and the pressure told. Ed Prest induced a false shot, held by Hugo, and then Charlie McLeod held the one handed diving catch of the season, as Hugo strangled Provender’s big hitting number three down the leg side. First change brought on Jasper, who induced a leading edge miscue from both Piesleys in turn; the pressure increased a little more. Patch bowled and almost unplayable spell from the other end, and was unlucky not to get a wicket, but conceded very few runs; after 20 overs Provender had ground to 80 for 4. With batter number 5 leading the recovery and a half-century partnership, the Chairman and Charlie Mc (having swapped keeping gloves with Al) came on to take the pace off the ball. The change worked, the Provender innings stumbled again, Charlie had the ball turning square, and then took another electric catch low to his left, this time at cover. 126 for 4 became 166 for 9 in short order; Hugo returned to wrap up the tail – 167 all out.
Jasper started, as he so often does, crunching his first ball through the covers for 4; both he and James Boyd Moss were dealing with the pace of the Provender openers with some comfort until James edged one behind and Jasper toed a pull to mid-on. From cruise control it was 33 for 2. Al (36) joined Charlie Mc (34), and they dug deep; ignoring the pressure created by maidens, they gained in confidence; the bad balls were put away, and defence resolute. At 90 for 2 in the 19th over, the Stragglers were beginning to cruise again. Al hit four boundaries in one over, but then fell; Hugo (31) joined Charlie and steady progress continued. However, with Charlie out at 116, the middle order wobbled. Will Hilton, carrying a badly bruised hand from a valiant attempt in the field, was followed back to the pavilion by Joe Gordon, a third generation Gordon Straggler making his debut both for the Stragglers and in adult cricket. Joe’s 9 proved invaluable. Provender opening bowler Adey Hussain returned and knocked over both Hugo and Charlie Munton – 157 for 8; the pressure was really on now. Ed Prest held out to see Adey complete his spell; now down to Patch to finish the job, which he so nearly did – caught at slip with 2 runs required. The Chairman did not see the second ball he faced, but used the shoulder of the bat to great advantage to lob a single over the slip cordon – scores level, end of the over. A wild yahoo missed the next ball by at least a yard; close catchers crept closer; the next ball in the slot and a lofted drive over mid-on; the Stragglers victorious.