A week of rain had kept the local authority groundsmen under cover in the week leading up to the Benenden game, and we were met with a outfield ablaze with dandelions and buttercups; aerial options were required, and Matt opted for a Forster opening pair, Eliot modelling himself on Adam Gilchrist at the top of the order. Sadly a back injury and a wildly swinging new ball saw him back in the hutch in short order, but Jasper (84) and Bart (76) then set about the bowling with a ferocity, which risked being impolite. When Bart was bowled in the 17th over, the pair had rattled up a partnership of 154 in a mere 14 overs. Jasper was back in the pavilion soon after, marching down the track to Benenden slow left-armer, Andrew Morrison, closing in on 1,000 wickets for the Club. A calm now descended as the Straggler middle order seemed to be unsure how to proceed from a position of such unusual strength, summed up by the unfortunate calling of Pritchard senior to run out son Rory on debut. A brace of Smallwoods were rolled over smartly (including, finally, Benny who has at last joined mere Straggler mortals and succumbed in his fourth season), to bring the re-invented pinch-hitter Ed Prest to the crease. Under instruction from Matt to play with decorum, both Ed (36*) and Dan (49*) launched themselves at the bowling, to put on another 60 runs in five and a half overs, the carnage only being brought to a halt with the loss of yet another ball in the garden of an increasingly nervous neighbour. 267 for 7 allowed for a comfortable tea break.
The Benenden upper order coped with a couple of early Prest strikes, and Dan rolling back the years, to launch a robust counter offensive, and, at 176 for 3 with more than 20 overs remaining, there was a sniff of defeat in the air. However, the unlikely ring of steel behind the stumps held firm, with Eliot and Matt holding on to sharp chances at gully and first slip, and Al (fresh from playing rugby until well into the Straggler innings) and Jasper scooping up everything that came their way behind the stumps. The highlight of a very good keeping display was the brace of bottom edges held while standing up, of which Al’s was exceptional. 176 for 3 became 219 all out with a final miscued sweep, held, inevitably, by the keeper.