The longest day just past, and summer finally put in an appearance at Sissinghurst. The Stragglers continue the successful 2019 format of batting first, posting a large total and defending it, although doing so this time in a rather careless fashion in the field. With two Australian ringers (Chris Kelly and Rob McClay – thank you, Theo) and irregular Stragglers Ed Solly and Justin Hubbard, both making a first appearance for a couple of years, skipper Ed Prest had plenty of known unknowns to take into account in juggling his batting order. In the end Angus Ward and Chris Kelly got the nod as openers (note that Chris plays a lot of sport, but had not played cricket since he was 12). Chris was not hanging about to rediscover youthful talent, seeking to hit every ball as if he was on the tee of a long par five; the problem was that the ball was not sitting nicely immobile in a tee. A flurry of extras was followed by a couple of wickets (both openers out for 8), which brought Ed Solly and the Master Brewer to the crease (much to skipper Ed’s surprise as Jonty had talked himself up the order in his perennial efforts to overtake first Wyndham and then Nige and install himself as leading Straggler run scorer before Jasper catches him). Ed and Jonty took advantage of some gentle change bowling and the odd dropped catch to push up the run rate nicely. Indeed, there seemed very little chance of dislodging either until Jonty’s concentration was undone by a change of umpire, when his nephew, Harry, let him know he was on 49. In an attempt to make a show of reaching a half century, he was well caught on the boundary. Ed very nearly followed on 99, put down at point, and then, having passed his century, went into reverse sweep mode, flicking two sixes over the short boundary before being caught there for 122. Will “the limpet” Attwood (20) had changed from static mollusc to active crustacean hurrying about the crease, smacking boundaries and running singles like a swimming crab on speed. And Theo came to the crease for a final flourish, hitting a couple of towering sixes to bring the innings to a close on 250 for 5 from 30 overs.
With a big total to defend the Stragglers were feeling pretty confident and packed the slip cordon. Remarkably, Ed induced an edge on to which Theo (at third slip) clung, in spite of the ball ricocheting off any number of flailing hands on the way through. Another sharp chance was held in the gully by itinerant Aussie, Rob McClay, but Straggler catching then reverted to the same Sissinghurst pattern as in 2018, with any number of chances grounded, some of them remarkably simple. Harry Churchill was the unluckiest bowler, who should have had three wickets. And Angus may be forgiven his drop having dived to his right to catch a remarkable one handed effort only to land hard on his elbow and dislodge the ball. The fall of the second wicket had brought young Seb Littlestone to the crease, and Ed, fearful of causing irreparable damage to a young career, took himself off. With the final overs approaching, and Seb still safely ensconced and keeping lesser bowlers at bay, Ed brought himself back on only to see his first bumper neatly ramped over the keeper to the boundary (opposition champagne moment, except Seb is too young). Ed’s pace proved too much for Seb in the end, edging through to Ed (S) behind the stumps (a third keeper victim; Ed had also taken two smart stumpings). With both Theo and Will weighing in with wickets, Sissinghurst ended 51 short on 199 for 7.