By Chris Heath
A superb unbeaten century from Glenn Taylor ensured Pyestock CC their first victory of 2015 in a mesmerising opening match at the home of Eversley Cricket Club.
Taylor, who had earlier stepped up magnificently to aid a visiting bowling crisis, smashed 137 not out from just 101 balls to start the season in devastating form.
After winning the toss, Neil Butler’s side were initially delivered a harsh reintroduction to the summer sport as the captain himself limped away from the bowling attack after just 2 overs, while Chris Heath proved out of sorts allowing the Eversley opening pair of Kieran Thomson and Thomas Howorth a fruitful start.
Gradually the muscles loosened and Pyestock began to restrict the opening pair and in the seventh over, achieved their first breakthrough of the season as a clever leg break from the captain’s replacement Dan Heath caught Thomson’s leading edge and fell safely into the hands of Glenn Taylor at gully.
2 overs later, the same bowler repeated the trick and so nearly claimed the wicket of Howorth as a mistimed effort fell just over the head of Colin Butler at mid-wicket and trickled away for 4.
Howorth and Jack Ford then began to turn the momentum back in the favour of the home side with some lusty blows from the bowling of Dan Heath and Jack Bromley, with the short boundary on the clubhouse side of the ground proving an easy target for the pair, and in the 21st over, the first after the drinks break, Howorth smashed a maximum over the clubhouse roof to bring up his half century and move his side onto a comfortable 102 for 1.
The absence of first choice spin option Ben Bromley alongside the earlier loss of Butler was hurting Pyestock, who turned to Glenn Taylor as the predominant spin option. After a couple of overs to find his length Taylor, improved steadily and soon became the visitors best chance of finding their second scalp of the afternoon, and despite the healthy run rate, it came in the 26th over. Ford, who had earlier been given a second chance after Vaughan Newcombe had failed to hold on to a firm nick, whilst stood up to stumps, found himself bowled by Taylor for 34.
Howorth continued however and looked the most damaging despite him too being dropped in the slips by the struggling Butler, but the mood of the innings changed as Jack Bromley also bowled Trevor Edwards to reduce the home side to 143 for 3.
Dan Heath picked up his second wicket of the afternoon soon after as James Forsyth was the third Eversley batsman to have his timbers disturbed, as it began to seem as if the core of the hosts batting line-up had been dismissed.
That man Howorth remained though, and was continuing to target the short boundary to good effect. And in the 37th over the opener brought up a well constructed century with a dabbled single into the leg side after his sixth maximum of the day had moved him onto the dreaded 99.
With 3 overs still to bowl, Pyestock feared the onslaught, with Howorth now having the century under his belt, it was likely the fireworks would start, however in a curious move, the batsmen retired himself, maybe content with his afternoons work, or under instruction to allow another player the chance. The result was a little strange as the expected push for every available run just never materialised. A further wicket for Jay Threlfall who took a solid catch from his own bowling, was the only highlight of the final stages as Eversley limped to 40 overs posting 209 for 5. It could, and should have been more.
Pyestock were confident during the interval considering the short boundary and strong batting line-up as a potential mix for victory, and Jon Ford and Glenn Taylor started comfortably against the pace of Anam and Ben Martin. The runs did not immediately flow, but the hosts started well, and added pressure to the opening duo.
In the 8th over, the hosts struck for the first time. Several strong LBW appeals had already been dismissed, but once Martin thundered the ball into Ford’s pads, the umpires finger was raised.
Jack Bromley succeeded initially in settling matters back down as Pyestock looked to kick-start their innings. Runs started flow more freely once the the speedy Anam and uncharitable Martin had been replaced. Jack Ford initially struggled to prevent himself bowling no-balls, and this cost the young bowler the wicket of Bromley, who was cleaned bowled by a beautiful in-swinging delivery, the umpires call curtailed the celebrations.
Ford’s partner in crime, Tony Critchley did however pick up the Pyestock number 3 in the next over as a loose drive saw Anam claim a regulation catch in the covers. At 70 for 2, with a little over 26 overs remaining, the match was beautifully set.
As the game moved into the final quarter, it was looking more and more likely that a grandstand finish was on the horizon, but the visitors were dealt a blow in the 23rd over as Dan Heath, who had shown caution in his innings so far was adjudged LBW from the bowling of Kieran Thomson. There appeared to be a major doubt over whether the Pyestock number 4 had managed an inside edge onto his pad, with 2 definite noises echoing around the ground, but the umpires finger pointed skyward and the frustrated batsmen left the field.
At the other end, Taylor was having no such concerned and plundered 13 runs from James Forsyth’s solitary over as the sums showed the visitors requiring 88 runs from 84 balls.
Pete Harris supported Taylor until his demise in the 27th over, as Vaughan Newcombe took his place at the crease. The Pyestock wicketkeeper beautifully farmed Taylor the majority of the strike as the match moved into the final 10 overs, whilst also picking up valuable runs in his side’s cause.
With 71 runs need from 60 balls the pendulum arguably was swinging in favour of the hosts, who were no operating opener Ben Martin once more and could still call on Anam should he be required. The overs and the scoreboard ticked on, with little of the obvious pressure showing from either batsmen. Ten overs left became eight, and eight became six. The Eversley captain blinked first and reintroduced his primary weapon, Anam. However , with Martin now all but bowled out his allotted 10 overs the decision had to be made as to who would partner the pacy opener. The baton was handed to Jack Ford, who had proved expensive in his first 6 over stint, and the theme seemed to continue as Taylor smashed the biggest and most eyecatching six of the afternoon back past the bowler to celebrate a wonderful century. There was still work to do, as Anam was proving difficult to get away. 29 was needed from just 3 overs.
Ford’s penultimate over registered just seven runs as the home side began to sense victory and despite Anam conceded his joint most expensive over (8 runs) it left a huge task for the facing Newcombe and the heroic Taylor as the match entered the last 6 balls.
With 14 required Jack Ford set about starting the final over of the day, and Newcombe delicately played a single to allow Taylor the limelight. The next two balls both brought boundaries including a huge shot pulled round to backward square leg. It was a stroke the would have brought six on any other ground that Pyestock will play at this season, but the gigantic boundary deemed only four.
Five runs from three balls, and Taylor swung hard but only found 2 runs. The penultimate ball also saw a scampered double to bring the scores level with just a single ball remaining. Forsyth reacted by bringing in the field for the tense final delivery. Taylor had nothing to lose dragging his side to a position where they couldn’t lose, and swung hard, and beautifully connected to bring cheers from the clubhouse. Pyestock had chased down the target with perfection, and the accolades and congratulations afforded to Glenn Taylor were more than deserved. His unbroken partnership of 91 with unsung hero Vaughan Newcombe pivotal to one of the most tense but satisfying victories in Pyestock Cricket Club’s history.