Pyestock found themselves suffering their fourth defeat of the season at the hands of Hartley Wintney CC in a match muddled with a mixture of different formats this Sunday. The tone of a complicated day, was set early when the format was only decided once the toss had been made and the home side knew what they were to be faced with.
Stand in Captain Chris Heath lost the toss, and batting first, Colin Butler filled the void left by Jon Ford at the top of the order as the away side looked to register an imposing total to defend. The task was made difficult as Hartley Wintney captain Gerry Morgan had asked before play for batsmen to be restricted to 50 runs before retiring, a fair, but unusual request for Sunday cricket, and one that had not been imposed on Pyestock CC at any other point in their 67 year history. Bowlers were also to be restricted to eight overs despite there being no overall limit, meaning if more than 40 overs were bowled, a sixth and possibly seventh bowler would be required.
Amidst the background noise of the discussing of connotations, the opening pairing started well against the right bowling of James Pack and James Brooke-Webb and despite only 15 runs coming from the first seven overs there seemed little danger although Butler did edge a straightening delivery from Pack, but wicket keeper John Puddifant could not claim.
Batting did get easier as the new ball lost its shine and the runs started to flow, mainly from Taylor, who after an early period of frustration was now finding the boundary in a more regular basis, and in the 18th over planted change bowler Naqi Sadiq over his head for a huge six on a big pitch.
Unfortunately for the visitors, this brought up Taylor’s half century and he headed for the pavilion, but his replacement Vaughan Newcombe more than justified his number 3 position in the order as he continued the patient but assertive start made by the visitors.
The impressive Daniel Bowles entered the attack in the 26th over but he too was unable to disturb the batsmen on the slow and predictable surface, but the next over produced somewhat of a surprise as Colin Butler who had anchored the innings so well, volunteered his own retirement to allow the runs to flow further. Unfortunately, this tactic did not pay off as Graham Seldon finally produced a wicket in the 31st over as Jack Bromley mistimed a drive and was caught by the jubilant bowler.
Remarkably, given the sterile bowling conditions, and the time taken for the hosts to claim a wicket, the second scalp took just two balls as Pete Harris repeated the trick giving bowler Seldon a second catch and departed without scoring.
Suddenly the tone of the innings had changed and Pyestock began to feel the pressure of the scoreboard as only 135 runs had been added in 31 overs, Jay Threlfall perished trying to move the score along before Ben Bromley was adjudged LBW giving captain Gerry Morgan 2 wickets.
Amongst this comparable carnage, Newcombe remained solid and positive at the other end and just 3 overs from the interval had to retire having also reached the half century milestone, leaving the closing stages to newcomers Dan Heath and Billy Leader, to eek out every available run before the end of the innings. Pyestock finished with 171 runs on the board having lost just 4 genuine wickets. This felt a little light, but with retirements affecting the continuity of the innings it was also considered a defendable target.
It was all out attack as Pyestock took to the field after tea, as Matthew Brown and Andrew Martin opened the chase. Pyestock were already aware of the stubborness Martin possessed at the crease following his match saving exploits for previous club Eversley CC in September last year, and knew it would take something special to remove the Hartley opener.
It therefore came as a surprise that in just the fifth over Ben Bromley, who was bowling with purpose and intent, bowled the ex-Eversley stalwart to set the wheels in motion for a Pyestock victory. Bromley continued his impressive spell and repeated his earlier dominance by also breaching the defence of John Puddifant and the hosts slumped to 23 for 2 inside nine overs.
At the other end, Chris Heath was keeping his lines tight, restricting Brown to a few well placed boundaries, but could not back up the wickets of Bromley, and Billy Leader was introduced to try and continue the positive momentum, and although the pair huffed and puffed at the doors of Brown and Matt Hook, the home side survived without further damage, to the drinks break with only 46 runs on the board.
With only 20 overs now remaining, Heath opted to rotate his bowlers in search of wickets, using Jack Bromley, Dan Heath, and himself again in search of the 8 remaining wickets, along with some attacking field places designed to unsettle the batsmen. Dan Heath claimed the wicket of Hook who found Colin Butler lurking at deep mid-wicket as the result only seemed to be going one way and when Jay Threlfall claimed the wicket of new man Tom Brooke-Webb in his first over, it seemed as if the hard work was mainly done.
Hartley Wintney had yet to play their joker-card however, and as Daniel Bowles sauntered to the crease the match turned on a sixpence. Immediately the all-rounder showed an authority in scoring 10 runs from his first 5 balls as the first signs that the match was not over were there for all to see. Suddenly Brown, who was quietly accumulating the runs while trying to keep the visiting bowlers quiet could play a much more supportive role as Bowles began to dominate the arena with an array of powerful strokes.
The bowling continued to rotate, but Bowles seemed unfazed as anything loose was immediately punished, but in the 28th over, Jack Bromley beat Brown for pace to bring the 5th wicket of the innings. Pyestock now felt that with Bowles retirement imminent, following his powerful stroke play, and the hosts still 64 from victory with 10 overs remaining, if the tail could be taken cheaply, it may leave the number 6 with too much to do. James Pack entered the fray with other ideas though and, like Bowles, attacked the bowling.
With the impetus now with the home side and the required rate tumbling, Chris Heath was forced onto the defensive and attempted to save runs wherever possible, abandoning his attacking plan. The rate hovered around seven runs per over, but on a large and quick outfield this proved difficult to contain, as singles seemed easy to collect along with the regular boundary.
Dan Heath, Billy Leader and Chris Heath were unlucky not to pick up the wicket of Pack, as loose shots seemed to be placed just over fielders heads, and in the 35th over Pack skied a quicker delivery from the Pyestock skipper, the ball fell agonisingly between bowler, wicket-keeper and Jay Threlfall to sum up the switch in the match fortunes as the home side powered towards victory.
Bowles retired for a half century as impressive as you will see, in the next over, and in a frantic spell of cat and mouse, new man Graham Seldon was run out by Chris McGovern as the end of the match approached, and as the match entered what was believed to be the final two overs, only 6 runs were required.
With 12 balls to keep 6 runs, Heath brought the field up, but just 2 balls in a edge for four by Naqi Sadiq brought a well earned victory for Hartley Wintney and won in which they played the conditions and the format better on the day and deservedly took the match. It was not until after the match it was discovered the scoreboard was incorrect, and the match was actually in the final over. With only 6 balls to defend the 6 required runs, would the outcome have been different? Maybe the field have been more defensive and would Hartley Wintney have made it over the line? The answer to those questions will never be known, but questions could be asked to the Pyestock captain as to how he did not realise the innings would be finishing at the wrong end of the pitch.
The result obviously will stand , as Pyestock fell just 4 balls short of a draw which at most stages of the match, looked almost a consolation prize. The match was an excellent advert for social and friendly cricket, and the hospitality afforded by Hartley Wintney, both at Bramshill and back at headquarters after the match will only serve to strengthen relation between the two clubs.