Pyestock fell just 7 runs short of a record breaking seventh straight victory this weekend as an indifferent fielding performance and an astonishing umpiring decision let them down against Godalming CC at Holloway Hill Sports Centre.
No fewer than four regulation catches were grounded as Pyestock toiled in the heat of the summer sun as the hosts piled on the runs in the early stages as the visitors normally safe hands were strangely missing. All the similarities from last seasons encounter were present again as the tourists were treated to a shortened 35 over format, a poor outfield, yet hard flat, batsmen friendly pitch and a strong home batting line up to match. Its a venue that batsmen love, but bowlers and fielders loathe.
Despite this, Pyestock Captain Neil Butler won the toss and decided to bowl, confident that his team would be able to chase any target set by their hosts, and as play commenced, along with Chris Heath got to work, however the aggressive nature of George Dukes and George Stow made the opening sequences difficult as the opening 2 overs were dispatched for 20 runs. This trend continued as Heath in particular was treated with disdain in his opening 3 overs, although the opener can count himself unlucky as he twice forced Dukes into wild and uncontrolled shots that looped high into the air, both chances were spurned though as the hosts powered on.
After only 6 overs, with the score a healthy 39 without loss, Pyestock made a double bowling change introducing Jack and Ben Bromley into the attack, but the momentum did not change as Dukes and Stow continued to add to their teams cause with regular and destructive potency. Dukes was again dropped off the bowling fo Jack Bromley, Colin Butler unusually the guilty party this time.
As the score moved past 50 and towards the century, and the visitors were beginning to become demoralised, further chances uncharacteristically went down as it was starting to look as if it was not to be their day, but just as the performance was starting to unravel, an unexpected lifeline was handed out as Dukes retired himself upon reaching his half century. It was a surprising move and not one usually encountered, however given the respective importance of Sunday fixtures at Godalming, as opposed to Pyestock, perhaps it shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise.
Adam Cook replaced the departing Dukes and immediately proved more defensive, allowing the Pyestock fielders and bowlers the opportunity to exert an element of control over proceedings. At the other end though, Stow, the Godalming Captain continued his impressive innings, as unlike Dukes before him, did not offer a single chance on the way to a flawless half century.
In similar fashion, the skipper also retired, and as much as Neil Butler’s side were glad to see the back of another chief tormentor, it had left a slightly disheartening feeling that the only progress being made was in the form of gifts rather than reward, even though no shortage of effort was being shown.
After a much needed drinks break, Butler turned to Taylor Newcombe, making her first appearance of the season as an 11th hour replacement for father Vaughan, as well as reintroducing himself into the attack. The second half of proceedings though, began in a different style as Cook and new batsman Ieuan Jones struggled for the same eloquence as the opening pair. As the overs ticked by and the run rate slowed, Pyestock became aware that it may be justifiable, even prudent, given the limited overs nature of the match to extend Cook and Jones’ stay at the crease for as long as possible.
Butler bowled successive maidens, the only two of the innings as Pyestock began to eventually apply some pressure, restricting their hosts to only 5 runs from 6 overs before Newcombe bowled Jones for a 17 ball duck. Whether this was a clever ploy could and was debated as the formidable figure of Harri Mayne strolled to the middle. Maine is a man well known to those in the Pyestock ranks with many impressive performances with the bat, including a ferocious quickfire 46 back in 2012. It was obvious that the game tempo was to swing once again and the visitors needed to respond.
To Newcombe’s extreme credit, her bowling was, in the main, probing and on a good line and length and in her next over, accounted for the patient Cook, who looked to hook away a slightly shorter delivery, and was caught out by maybe a slight lack of bounce, and was dismissed LBW. This brought another familiar foe to the forefront of the action. Carston Horne’s daunting powerhouse of a figure brought back memories of his unforgiving style. Indeed Horne had previously demolished Pyestock attacks scoring an unbeaten 98 in 2009 and followed that up with a fine century, again unbeaten a year later.
Chris Heath was now charged with keeping these two batting dynamos quiet, but in a similar tale to his first spell, the batsmen came out on top as the seamer struggled to extract any movement in the air or from the pitch. In fact the left arm bowler was almost a lamb to the slaughter as his final four over spell cost 39 runs as Mayne picked off the variations in length at will. The only moment that deviated from the onslaught, a fast, shorter ball, which drew a full blooded slash from the advancing number 5, a feint edge surprising Dan Heath behind the stumps and another (difficult) chance had gone.
Maine brought up an impressive half century, the third of the innings, with the penultimate ball of the innings as Godalming CC closed on 205 at the end of 35 overs. It had been hard work for the men of Pyestock CC, on a difficult fielding surface, and a little bad luck, but at tea felt that the winning target was not beyond reach.
After the interval, Jon Ford and Glenn Taylor looked to get the visitors off to a solid start and in the initial exchanges, it seemed as if the bowling of George and Oscar Craven didn’t seem to pose too many problems.
In the third over, Ford can be thankful of an alert umpiring decision as a smart reaction catch from Horne was met with dismay as his teammates watched on. The no ball call from the men in the middle reprieved the opener.
The next over, did contain the breakthough, with the score already on 32, disaster struck as Glenn Taylor was unfortunate to play the ball onto his own stumps whilst trying to continue his impressive strike rate. His 21 from 11 balls an exciting pace that Pyestock were keen to maintain.
Ford at the other end,was also on his way in the very next over when another no ball was called as Stow took a meaningless catch. What happened next though was pure brilliance, as a mixture of quick thinking and sniper-like accuracy, the captain fired the ball back at the stumps, running out the stunned batsman for 11.
At 39 for 2, Pyestock now had to rebuild and Jack Bromley and Dan Heath set about adding solidity once again, whist trying not to get bogged down by Oscar Craven and new bowling partner John Allen. The pair comfortably dealt with their initiation at the crease before launching a tirade of leather towards the boundary.
The belief of the away side was growing, but with the score on 71, Bromley skied a delivery from new bowler Carston Horne which was well held by Ieuan Jones to again peg back the progress of the chase.
The skipper waltzed to the crease, determined to kick-start the innings once again and he and Heath began to dominate the bowling with attacking drive and fluency. Probably for the first time in the match, the visitors looked favourites as the scoreboard began ticking. In the 17th over, perhaps the defining moment of the game arrived, and it proved as significant as it was utterly baffling. The Godalming supplied umpire who had spent the match officiating from the pavilion end without causing too much of a stir, despite standing at a distance of about 15 metres from the non strikers stumps away from the action inexplicably changed the cause of the events that caused a whole range of emotions from both set of players and spectators alike. Heath who got the better of Jones towards the end of the spinners spell, reacted to a leg side delivery with an attempted but failed slog-sweep with thudded into the thigh of the number 5, and generated a half-hearted appeal from the home side. The umpire, fearing for his safety from the aggression of the shot taking place a full 30+ yards away ducked and retreated away to somewhere approaching mid off. The appeal was frivolous, but in no way as outlandish as the umpires decision to resume his position and raise his finger.
Had Heath not been so utterly bewildered, he would probably have been fuming, but as it was, the disbelieving batsman trudged from the field of play to meet his team-mates on the sidelines, not knowing whether to laugh it off, or demand retribution. It was probably fortunate that the drinks break arrived just seven balls later, where Heath was consoled by all, including the home players and contingent.
Needing to regroup yet again on 97 for 4, Taylor Newcombe joined her captain at the crease, with the earlier controversy still ringing loudly across the pitch, the youngster did extremely well, to contain composure and support her captain as Pyestock conjured up their highest partnership of the match, which was only ended as Newcombe was caught following the introduction of Ieuan Jones to the attack.
The pendulum of the match continued to swing as Jones and George Dukes produced a fine spell of bowling to bring a flurry of wickets seemingly ending the resistance of the stubborn visitors. Firstly, Butler tried one huge shot too many as he too was caught by the inviting hands of Stow, before Ben Bromley was bowled for 8 and Colin Butler was also caught to give Jones his second wicket.
Last but one pair Pete Harris and Chris McGovern had the unenviable task of trying to secure the remaining 53 runs from the last 8 and a half overs, and between them pressed on at a reasonable rate until McGovern latched on to ball from Dukes that looked destined to score a maximum, but in a moment fit to win any match Harri Mayne, on the mid-wicket boundary pulled off a phenomenal catch which drew plaudits from both sets of players. It was a catch worthy of winning any contest, however, last man Chris Heath joined Harris looking to salvage a win with a last gasp rescue attempt. Heath had been in this situation before in 2012, when some late heroics with Taylor Newcombe saw Pyestock fall just 1 run short when the odds appeared stacked against them.
In this fight though, Harris took the lead role and confidently played each ball on its merit and scored quickly and, coupled with consecutive boundaries from Heath had somehow heaved Pyestock into a position where 16 runs were required from the final over. Unfortunately, a couple from Heath and a powerful third boundary from Harris, that was sandwiched between byes, was not enough as the visitors closed on 198 for 9, just seven runs short.
it was a fantastic end to the game, and one that probably ended with the right result given the strong performance by the Godalming batsmen. Once again, Pyestock had pushed their hosts as close as they could, but for the third year in succession failed to get over the winning line. Many will feel the result hinged on the truly baffling LBW decision that cost Dan Heath his wicket,but in truth, with the innings top score a paltry, yet joint 27, the fluency and control was never firmly set enough to warrant a victory for Neil Butlers side.