On a day which had seen a number of events, including the first day of the Cowes regatta cancelled due to gales, Stragglers gathered at a very windy Belmont (small branches in the outfield) for the annual Club fixture, sides captained in 2019 by a brace of Attwoods. The full Clews media circus attended the toss in the middle, won by Sam who chose to bat. George BW, opening for Sam’s Fixture Secretary’s XII, has a habit of getting himself out in this fixture to wonderful catches behind the wicket. It should be no surprise that an opener gets the odd edge, much more unusual is that these edges find a fielder able to hang on. This time George tried to steer it through to third man, only to find Jasper at third slip hanging on an inch above the grass. Henry Wright joined Patch M, and they saw off Toby who was bowling with real venom, and were putting together a sound base for a big total, when the wheels came off in slow motion. 53 for 1 became 77 for 7 in 9 overs of tight bowling. We have finally worked out the conditions in which Seb thrives, bowling uphill into the wind with a bit of drizzle in the air – unplayable, he finished with 2 for 11. The excitement was clearly too much for him, as he limped off mid-over with a torn hamstring. At the other end the Chairman knocked over Stan’s off stump, and then benefitted from a quite exceptional catch hard by the boundary. When Olla middles the ball, it goes a long way very quickly (his last innings was putting dents into the roof of the stand in Eymet); today he smacked one almost straight at Toby at deep wide mid-on, hard enough for Toby very obviously to decide to wave it through, and then, in a split second change of mind, stick a hand out to pluck the bullet from the air. Hard hands saw the end of Patch C, a simple chance to the ring of short extras, and Charlie in his new dancing shoes sent Matt back to the pavilion, but this brought Hugo and Nick W together to begin a recovery. The run rate had been languishing at under 4 an over, for the next 9 overs, Hugo and Nick hit boundaries for fun, marching on at over 10, spinners taking a bit of punishment. It was ended when Nick (42) slightly miscued another big hit over cow corner to be caught by Jamie Adams off the Beetle, 83 put on for the 8th wicket. Ben knocked over Rufus, before Hugo (44) decided to practice reverse sweeping the returning Chairman; he connected but only to lob the ball up in the direction of Alex at point, where another magical one-handed catch was held. The five-for was denied, when Sam’s gentle lob to fly slip was put down (the Lark Catching Cup has a new home). Al, arriving late at the crease, hit a swift 36 to take the score past 200 and set a decent target before falling to a rain induced umpiring decision – time to get undercover. 223 all out would not be easy to chase in the wind and with a pitch offering plenty of bounce.
The chase started badly, with, for the second game in a row, a wicket falling to the first ball, Paddy undone by Hugo. And it didn’t get better, with Inigo, who had kept very tidily in difficult conditions, now offering a return catch to brother Rufus, and then Ben (21), looking in great touch, offered a sharp chance to gully. In some doubt if the ball had carried, Ben tried the BRS (Brewer Review System, which involves refusing the leave the crease), but was persuaded that the catch was good. When Hugo bowled Charlie shortly thereafter, the Stragglers were under the cosh – 45 for 4, with Hugo and Rufus rampant. However, Jasper was now joined by Toby, and they dug in. Well neither really dig in, Jasper looking in great touch regularly finding the boundary, and Toby aiming to launch rockets. Sam shuffled his bowlers, changing ends, changing angle of attack, but all were treated with disdain. With 60 needed and the batters well up with the rate, Hugo was reintroduced to try to expose what looked like a fragile lower order. But Jasper (119*) and Toby (60*) were giving nothing away, and with 6 overs remaining, comfortably eased past the target, burgers and sausages ready on the BBQ (thank you, Pete). This is the first successful Straggler chase in 2019, and Jasper’s ton his career 10th and the 11th for the Stragglers this season. The undefeated partnership of 180 between Jasper and Toby proved not quite enough to overcome the record for the 5th wicket of 195* dating from 1951, which Jim Woodhouse and ML Lawrence put on against the Bluemantles.