Over Saturday and Sunday we played a two-day match against Shepway Stragglers. SAC won the toss and inserted the Stragglers on a wicket promising movement. Praneeth Kumar and Abhishek Gulati opened the attack, found said movement, and troubled the openers greatly. Abhishek bowled a particularly impressive opening spell, and it almost beggared belief that he did not pick up a single wicket, let alone the two or three that his spell deserved. Credit must go to the Stragglers’ openers, especially captain Jasper Smallwood for some gutsy batting early on and then counter-attacking impressively. The Stragglers managed to put on 119 for the first wicket before Praneeth changed ends and found his rhythm. He then produced a wonderful spell of bowing to take four quick wickets, including a peach that hit the top of, off last ball before the lunch break, to leave the game in balance. Another highlight was Paul Goring’s stunning one handed diving catch at second slip. After lunch Praneeth picked up two more wickets, and with assistance from Les Clack (two wickets) and Paul Goring (one), reduced the Stragglers to 214 for 9. However, two dropped catches followed shortly after and these were to prove costly as the last wicket pair put on 69 via some clean hitting from their wicket keeper, Hart. The Stragglers declared at tea on 283 for 9. Praneeth finished with 6 for 63 off 19 overs.
SAC’s reply started very well with openers Shravan Kumar and Alastair Thomas putting on 154 for the first wicket. Shravan made 66 and Alastair 69, but both were to fall shortly before the close of play – leaving SAC on 157 for 2 overnight, and the match once again evenly poised. Day one ended with a very enjoyable meal in Canterbury attended by both teams.
Day two began with a wonderful lunch held in Toby Cox’s honour, kindly put on by James and Elizabeth Cox. When play began, James Grant continued the good batting making an elegant (as usual) 45 and was supported by Praneeth Kumar’s 31 not out, before SAC declared 26 runs behind to open up time for a result. The Straggler’s second innings started off with a clear intent to score quickly and set up a chase in the final innings. A second hundred run opening stand was the result, but the Stragglers’ momentum was then halted by a fantastic spell of swing bowling by Ed Earl, who claimed 5 for 13 off five overs. Paul Goring also bowled well to claim two wickets. The Stragglers then made an inviting declaration at 175 for 7, leaving SAC 202 to win off 35 overs.
Unfortunately our second innings did not start as well as the first, with SAC quickly reduced to 45 for 5 despite Praneeth’s quickfire 22. Thomas (47) and Earl (15) attempted a recovery, but after they were dismissed thoughts of victory had to be put aside. The tail were instead tasked with holding out for the draw in the last 7 overs. A combination of stoic efforts from Messrs Willey, Parkin, Goring and Groom got the job done, with SAC finishing at 141 for 9. Never in doubt. The draw also meant that SAC retained the Toby Cox Jug that was won in Paris two seasons ago and had been defended in Kent (similarly 9-down) last year. Well done lads.
On Monday we played our regular limited-overs match against Smarden, which turned out to be the Abhishek Gulati show. SAC lost the toss and were asked to bat on a green tinged wicket. Ed Earl opened and made a good 30 to set up the innings (although, in a somewhat embarrassing moment, he was dropped at gully by SAC’s Thomas who was sub fielding for a late arriving Smarden player). But the real story was Abhishek who strode to the wicket at number five and proceeded to smash 107 not out in 20 overs to lift SAC to an imposing 260 for 5 off our full contingent of 35 overs. Shravan provided excellent support with a speedy 39. In reply Smarden started strongly, with their captain, Richard Turner, making a quick 50. Abhishek was consequently required to enter the attack and promptly removed Turner before being banished back to deep mid-wicket for the middle overs. With eight an over needed near the end, Abhishek was required once again and, ably supported at the other end by Ed Earl, he ensured a SAC win conceding just four off the last over when 10 were required. He added figures of 3 for 28 off five overs to his ton. Not a bad day. Certainly made up for leaving a straight ball on day two vs the Stragglers!
Thanks to all, especially Robin for once again planning/running the tour. We now look forward to next year’s tour.