Otterden Place is one of the more idyllic places to play cricket, a perfect sense of timelessness lost in the North Downs. It clearly resonates with Jasper Smallwood, who has now scored exactly 200 runs there for one dismissal, but more of that in a moment. Otterden came out to post a big total, and were constrained for much of their innings by some canny bowling and exceptional catching; Kieran Wardman, Bertie Berger, skipper Carl Brown (twice) and, close to the wicket Giles Brealy and Chris Pattinson, supported their bowlers wonderfully well. At 177 for 6 off 38, and tea approaching, Carl became concerned that we had been to miserly, and, finally responding to Giles’ chirruping from slip, made the change. The unexpected pies were gratefully tucked into, and tea arrived shortly thereafter at 238 for 7.
When the first Straggler wicket fell at 42, Jasper had scored 36 of them, relishing the conditions and the bowling alike, and for a few overs thereafter was joined by Chris Pattinson, who deposited a number of balls over the fence into the parkland beyond. With Jasper and Chris firing on all cylinders, and a middle order full of firepower, victory seemed assured, but Straggler batting reverted to type. Chris (44) and Jasper (88) were caught at the wicket; indeed the Otterden captain bagged a Smallwood left and right (appropriate for a ground in the middle of the shoot), taking a return catch from Al’s first ball. Bertie Berger was then run out at the non-striker’s end having faced one ball, and it all became a struggle. Simon Allport blazed briefly, and re-kindled hope, but the final wicket fell at 214.