Finally the Straggler season blossomed into life. Rain, a cancellation and a fixture list light on early season games played havoc with the fitness training and loosening of elderly joints. In the end it took the itinerant Parisians of Standard Athletic Club to bring out the sun and fire up the season. The Straggler attack enjoyed the slow Belmont wicket but failed to break through, as the openers ground out a century opening stand. Jasper, bowling a long and increasingly effective spell up the hill, finally parted them on 124. A big total still looked likely with plenty of batting to come, but Jasper struck again, Jonathan Riches was run out, and Bart Forster, on debut, got in on the act encouraging the other opener into an error. And then the years rolled back for Matthew Roberts snaffling a reaction catch over his head at short extra. It was suddenly all going with the Stragglers, and skipper Matt Smallwood, having exhausted one son, brought on another, and Al duly wrapped up the tail with 3 for 11.
The lower SAC order had conspired to use up plenty of time and 197 looked quite a testing target. At 19 for 2, testing was an understatement; and with the demise of both Jasper (35) and Al to slump to 79 for 5, survival was the order of the day. The run rate was lagging, Ben Bowles, batting beautifully, was picking fielders with unerring precision. In strolled Theo Allport to cause immediate mayhem. A fistful of boundaries in quick succession, the bowling attack, so controlled and controlling in shreds, and it was a very different game. A tactical drinks break removed the shackles from Ben, who now found the gaps with equal precision, and the required rate came tumbling down. It all looked very easy, as they put on 108 for the sixth wicket, but Straggler chases are not without their moments of tension, and Theo scooped one too many on 56, to leave Bart to tidy up with Ben, undefeated on 90, in the final over. What more perfect start to the season could we wish for?
SAC announced the presentation of the inaugural Toby Cox memorial Toby jug (Toby attired in a Straggler cap and SAC sweater), which was presented by Jimmy to victorious skipper, Matt Smallwood.
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