When James Pollington is asked “where were you when Ben Stokes hit the winning runs at Headingley in the 2019 Ashes”, he will answer “in the middle at Tenterden about to knock the ball into the leg-side to reach my century”. In this remarkable season of Straggler centurions, James hit the 12th, the first for him in any form of cricket, and perfectly timed to hear the cheer from the car-park (radio), then the pavilion (TV) for Stokes and then for himself. The innings had not begun well. With a Straggler team packed with Pollingtons, Will and Tom had opened, and both were back in the pavilion at 7 for 2. Al (30) arrived bristling with intent and crunched boundaries up towards the long boundary, but was undone chasing a wide one, caught behind. Ben Methven (centurion on his last visit to Tenterden) and Seb Pollington flattered to deceive, and at 99 for 5 in the 18th over, the Stragglers needed a partnership of substance. The fall of the fifth wicket brought Theo together with James, who had been quietly accumulating, while his partners ran up the white flag. Theo imposed himself immediately, the run rate accelerated, and James, taking inspiration from his partner, upped the tempo. He reached his half century and immediately launched a car damaging 6 into the car park (dent in the bonnet), and they went on. With the declaration imminent and the partnership worth 129, Theo (58) skied one to mid-wicket, leaving James 4 short. One clipped 2, Stokes’ winning boundary, another 2 from James and the Stragglers declared on 232 for 6 from 32 overs. A testing target but with plenty of time for a result.
Rory Boyd, on his first outing this season, made the early breakthroughs, a slower ball dipping wickedly into a yorker to deceive the bat, and a fine edge through to James P, now keeping wicket and requiring regular hydration. However, Tenterden were quietly accumulating, and with over 40 overs available, did not need to rush. Nick Wright, sweating beer, in the tenth over of a gruelling spell followed up with two in two balls to leave Tenterden firmly on the back foot (81 for 4), and the door open for the spinners to weave some magic. The first piece of magic was a deep running catch by Al from the pace of Tom Pollington – 98 for 5. Another Pollington wicket followed (Will) and then a long spell of gritty rear-guard defence, as Mark Kokkinos, who has kept Straggler bowling out in the past, and Fred Pearman dropped their bats on almost everything. Harry Churchill, who has clearly been taking coaching from the Master Brewer, was introduced to give the batsmen something really different to unsettle them, but the experiment resulted in a couple more dents in the car park. Fred was finally whistled out by Theo (163 for 7), but the next batter looked as if he were just going to block as well. Theo brought back his openers, and Rory, having conceded a huge 6 into the field, persuaded the batter to have another heave – skied and held by Tom P (while fending off at least one brother). That catch took the total for outfield catches in 2019 to 67, past the previous best of 66 in 1982. Two wickets now required to win, but, in spite of a couple of ferocious overs from Nick W, the line held. Nick’s final ball produced the perfect yorker to remove Mark for a very determined 44 (he had been at the crease for 33 overs) to make the result look at little tighter than the reality. Nick ended up with figures of 3 for 65 from 13 overs, a really determined spell of aggressive bowling, and Rory with 3 for 31. Tenterden ended 195 for 9 (of which 52 were extras). A great day at both Headingley and Morghew Park. Nick’s third wicket took him to 20 for the season, only the second time in Straggler history that the 4 leading wicket takers in a season have taken 20 or more wickets – Rodney Fletcher (46), HT Patten (36), Peter Canney (21) and Alastair Gordon (21) in 1982; Al Smallwood, the Chairman, Hugo Snape and Nick W in 2019.