Shepway Stragglers 283 for 9 (dec) & 175 for 7 (dec)
Standard Athletic Club 256 for 7 (dec) & 141 for 9
Cricket is a wonderful game – two days of intense competition, 168.2 overs, 855 runs and still the sides could not be separated!! I believe this to be the first two-day, four-innings game played by the Stragglers on home shores (following on from the success of the equivalent fixture in Paris in 2014). Standard Athletic Club won the toss on a gloomy and cold morning, and inserted the Stragglers on a wicket with a green tinge. Jasper (66) and Jack (41) knuckled down to build a score in the face of some ferociously brisk bowling from the sub-continent, and set the Stragglers up for a big first innings total with a partnership of 119 (this turned out to be the first of two century partnerships for the openers as they did it again in the second with 109). The Stragglers then failed to build on the start as Praneeth Kumar worked his way through the top order, eventually finishing with remarkable figures of 19-4-63-6. At the other end Abhishek Gulati bowled with real venom, but without success. Toto Berger (20), Nick Wright (23) and Benny Smallwood (13) made it to double figures, but with only 214 on the board when the 9th wicket fell, the fist innings had fizzled out somewhat. However, that only opened the door for a furious barrage from the final pair. Blair Hart (48*) was returning after a two year lay-off, and the Chairman (19*) is not known for his fluent run scoring. Today was different, and there was a moment when Blair had 6 sixes in an over in his sights – in the end one only managed 4. In a six over blast, the score raced to 283, placing one of the oldest Straggler records at risk – that for the 10th wicket partnership. In the end a declaration left Blair two short of a half-century and the record safe by a mere 14 runs. It was a slightly shell-shocked SAC who came in for tea.
Duly refreshed Alastair Thomas and Shravan Kumar (who had kept beautifully) dug deep and kept the Straggler openers at bay, and then almost all the change bowlers at bay. False shots were induced, half chances did not quite go to hand, Matt took off like a leaping salmon and so nearly hung on, but all to no avail; SAC marched on. In a remarkable spell of cricket between the 9th Straggler wicket and the first SAC wicket some 38 wicket-less overs were bowled and 223 runs scored. Then, with fewer than 3 overs left in what had been a long day, Jasper struck, bowling skipper Alastair for 69, and then in the final over of the day did the same to S (66). A night-watchman was recruited to protect Jon Riches. The score at the close of play was 157 for 2, the game interestingly poised, and dinner in Canterbury calling.
Back at Belmont for day 2, if a result was to be achieved, Jasper needed to take wickets, and SAC required quick runs, and both came quickly enough. Both Jon Riches (3) and James Grant (45) were undone trying to up the pace, the latter confused by the great height from which Jack Taylor releases the ball very slowly. Praneeth Kumar, apparently un-phased by his efforts with the ball on the day before, hit a swift 31*, and a declaration came with the fall of the 7th wicket to protect the tail – 256 for 7.
With around 65 overs left in the match, the Stragglers needed to post a swift target. Jasper (72) had reset to T20 mode, and flayed the ball to all parts, occasionally enjoying slices of luck, when vertical edges went so high that the fielder beneath got the jitters. Jack Taylor (37) supported well again, but more steadily, and the supporting cast chipped in with modest contributions, this time with Ed Earl picking up a string of wickets to end on 5 for 13. Blair and Benny were undefeated at the declaration on 175 for 7 from 28 overs, leaving a target of 203 in what turned out to be 35 overs.
The opening few overs of the SAC chase were as explosive as you will see anywhere. The Kumars came to the crease with a mission, with Jasper and Billy Richardson cranking up the pace, and plenty happening in the field. Jasper induced an edge to Jack at point; Praneeth hit Billy for 18 in four balls before Blair took the most electric stumping, standing up to Billy in his Hannibal Lector mask and flashing the bails off, when Praneeth over balanced for a moment to lift his back foot. Jasper then struck again twice to remove Jon and James – at 38 for 4 the chase was stalling. With plenty of time it was down to Alastair to rebuild and keep the score ticking along, and with Ed Earl he had a partner who could stay with him. When he holed out to Jasper (inevitably) off Theo (only playing for day 2), the anchor was dropped. At 96 for 6, with 15 overs remaining, the tail had a job to do, and the shots dried up. Jasper took another (5 for 25), and the Chairman winkled out 2 more, but the final pair of Paul Goring and Robin Groom managed to block the final 15 balls – 141 for 9 – to earn a draw.