Pyestock Cricket Club ended the 2014 season with an enjoyable but somewhat confusing and deflating draw in the gloom at Peper Harow.
Despite handing over season top scorer Glenn Taylor as well as Taylor Newcombe, Paul Heath and would-be debutant Rob Hawkes to bolster the home sides numbers, the remainder of Neil Butler’s side came within a whisker of an unprecedented 18th victory of the season.
Batting first, Dan Heath, celebrating his 26th birthday, opened the batting with Jack Bromley, but found the going tough initially against the pace and bounce of Colin Sadler and the nagging length of Paul Heath.
Progress was slow, as the bowlers kept a good discipline, and the pressure was fully on the batsmen, as the early stages progressed. Pyestock were certainly not able to gauge the opening partnership as Sadler and Heath represented the fifth and sixth different opening bowlers in the three end of season matches.
However, the runs did start to flow with Bromly picking off Sadler for a couple of boundaries in the ninth over before the first wicket of the day fell as a short ball from Sadler was pulled away strongly by Heath only for Mike Tait to claim a solid catch at the mid wicket boundary.
This brought Chris Heath to the crease to partner Bromley, and the run rate slowed once again. Jovito Rosewin was introduced for Sadler, who had bowled impressively, but this allowed the pair to release some pressure and score more freely.
In the 16th over, Bromley attempted to move the scoring on at a quicker rate and deposited Heath over the boundary for six, however this was to be the youngster’s final contribution with the bat as an attempted repeat only found the safe hands of Rob Hawkes at long-on.
Colin Butler worked with Heath to keep the scoreboard ticking over, but the pair lacked the necessary firepower to up the run rate to a higher level, meaning once Heath had been caught by Sadler for 17, only 77 runs were on the board from 21 overs. Butler was dismissed 2 overs later after top edging Rosewin to keeper Glenn Taylor.
Tom Threlfall was next to fall after a promising start to his debut innings, caught by Sadler to give Chris Bavin a wicket in the 26th over, leaving regular opener Jon Ford and Ben Bromley to score some quick runs as the innings reached its final stages.
The score passed the 100 mark in the next over as a double change from Peper Harow saw Taylor Newcombe and Steve Bradley entering the attack.
It was to be an eventful spell from Newcombe, who accounted for Bromley with a full toss that produced a stunning reaction catch from Rosewin. The young batsman waiting for a no-ball call which never came and trudged from the field dejectedly.
The next over from the 18 year old proved expensive, as new batsmen Neil Butler went on the rampage for quick runs, but the final ball produced another wicket as Ford was adjudged LBW attempting a slog-sweep.
Pyestock were now 137 for 6, as Pete Harris arrived in the middle, but it was Butler writing the headlines with 2 further maximums off the bowling of Bradley to accelerate the run scoring and the same theme continued into Newcombe’s fourth over.
However, just as in the overs previous, the young bowler fought back as with a defensive field, managed to cause the Pyestock skipper to mistime a lofted pull and only find Rob Hawkes on the boundary for another fine catch under pressure.
Newcombe’s four overs had cost 41, mainly thanks to Butler’s rapid 45 from just 16 balls, but there were no complaints given the way she was eating her way through the Pyestock middle order, and the magic continued by bowling Chris McGovern in the 36th over after the Pyestock number 10 once again tried an audacious reverse sweep.
This rapid fall of wickets allowed scorer Steve Brown to step out from behind the table and make a surprise debut at number 11, and despite being hampered with less than adequate footwear, dumbfounded all who were there with some hard hitting and more than playing his part in a 14 run partnership with Harris, before being run out by Rosewin from the final ball of the innings.
It was a brief but memorable innings from the scorer and one that helped hoist his side to 184 before the close of innings, a score that felt about par with the conditions, and also defendable given solid bowling and fielding.
Unsurprisingly, Glenn Taylor opened the batting for the visitors with Mike Tait, and Pyestock knows only too well the dangers Taylor possessed, but with just the 6th ball of the innings Taylor mistimed a shorter ball from a pumped up Chris Heath and with the ball sent skyward, Neil Butler took a simple catch at first slip.
This was a huge early breakthrough for the away side and one that brought fellow Pyestock player Taylor Newcombe to the crease.
Neil Butler’s side were in full flow with the bowling asking questions every ball and the fielders not giving an inch , Tait and Newcombe dug in to survive the early onslaught, with the number 3 in particular dealing with a number of brutal shorter deliveries on a lively pitch designed to not allow the innings to settle down.
The result had the desired effect as in the 7th over, Newcombe was surprised by a fuller ball from Chris Heath and was bowled for 3 leaving the hosts in a quandary at 11 for 2.
Rob Hawkes became the next man to the middle and after initially seeing off the remainder Chris and Dan Heath’s overs began to stamp his own authority on the innings, but not before Dan Heath broke the defences of Tait who departed for a patient and well constructed 17.
Hawkes was now joined by captain Steve Bradley, and the pair attacked the bowling as much as possible without exposing further risks to their sides chances as both Jack and Ben Bromley partnered Neil Butler in the bowling attack desperate for wickets.
As the match entered the final 20 overs , Peper Harow still required 135 runs but with 7 overs remaining were just gaining the momentum required to unnerve the visitors with some high scoring overs.
In the 24th over, Hawkes finally perished as Chris Heath claimed a catch in close to the bat which saw the partnership broken, but the introduction of Colin Sadler meant the match was nowhere near finished.
Despite a nervy start from the number 6, Sadler pulled together all of his skill and ability to combine with Bradley for the biggest partnership of the match and one that brought the hosts right back into the match.
Chris McGovern was introduced to the attack for a rare bowling stint to try and obtain a wicket from the well set duo, but it was to no avail as the pair successfully moved Peper Harow into three figures with eight overs remaining.
The run rate was hovering around 10 an over, but the concerns in the field appeared genuine with the previous four overs costing 32 runs, and in response, Neil Butler reintroduced himself to try and oust one of the now confident batsmen.
It took just 6 balls for the captain to come up with the goods, as a quicker but wider delivery found the edge of Bradley’s flayling bat and was superbly taken by Tom Threlfall behind the stumps.
It was a superb wicket to take and Threlfall rightly took his share of the plaudits for a confident catch in what was turning into a very impressive wicketkeeping performance, and suddenly with 42 balls remaining, Pyestock were 4 wickets from victory.
In what was a magical final bowling spell, fitting for the end of a record-breaking season, Butler then trapped Rosewin LBW but saved the final twist in such a dramatic finale for the final over.
With the light fading, and in-swinging delivery accounted for the impressive Sadler who had contributed a fine 47 to his teams cause, but with just 4 balls remaining the game seemed up with 24 needed for victory.
The drama wasn’t finished however as with the penultimate ball, Chris Bavin was bowled leaving Pyestock celebrating under the brightness of the moonlit sky thinking victory was secured.
Unknown to the fielding side however, Peper Harow were frantically strapping pads to emergency number 11 Sam Acres who had been spectating for the majority of the match. Normally such actions would not be permitted and would have caused uproar in the Pyestock ranks, but given Steve Browns similar inclusion earlier in the day, it was decided to ride out the situation and attempt to dismiss Acres with the one remaining ball. Despite the most aggressive field probably ever seen, Acres survived to secure a draw in the gloom.
It was a fantastic match with two sides giving their all, strong batting performances from Neil Butler and Colin Sadler, were counter-acted with the wicket-taking prowess of Butler himself and Taylor Newcombe, ensuring that despite a lot a huff and puff from Pyestock, a draw remained a fair result.
So with the season over and an unprecedented 17 victories, Pyestock can relax and prepare for another enjoyable season in April 2015.