Pyestock CC returned to Theale and Tilehurst CC looking to avenge the 4 run defeat from last season while proving their batting is not as fragile as shown when a clatter of wickets cost them an almost certain victory. Despite claiming victory this season, mainly thanks to 107 from Glenn Taylor, yet another batting collapse again almost cost Neil Butler’s side another win.
Fielding first, it was good to see the Pyestock captain back on the field after a 4 match absence, and his team started well with Chris and Dan Heath terrorising batsmen Arsalan Ahmed and Barrie Stroud, who could only muster four runs from the opening six overs.
Stroud in particular was having difficulty picking the line of Chris Heath, and it seemed just a matter of time until the 30 year old picked up the opening wicket, but when he did in the seventh over, no one would have predicted how it fell. A strong drive from Ahmed ricocheted off the boot of the opening bowler and onto the stumps with Stroud stranded out of his ground at the non-striking end. The desperately unfortunate batsmen trudged to the pavilion, as Pyestock apologetically celebrated.
Heath caused more conventional damage with Ahmed trapped LBW and Mehul Mehta caught well by jon Ford at square leg as Theale crumbled to 21 for 3. In fact, “crumbled” was thebuzz-word around the Pyestock ranks as concern was starting to set in with regards to the dry, dusty pitch which was already well worn from previous matches and was beginning to break up offering incredibly variable bounce. The last thing that was needed was for Pyestock to ease off the pressure in what looked like it was to be a low scoring match.
Chris Heath continued to cause problems with the unpredictability of the wicket as the home skipper Rob Dimmack faced a turbulent start to his innings. Two leading edges in quick succession saw both Glenn Taylor and Vaughan Newcombe fall agonisingly short of what would have been sensational catches, whilst a pair of mistimed drives fell just over the bowlers head and flashed through the slip cordon respectively. Dimmack was living dangerously.
At the other end, Dan Heath was quietly going about his business, and deservedly collected the wicket of Rob Why as Neil Butler claimed a catch from yet another leading edge, but that was where the procession of batsmen ceased as Dimmack and Alan Why stabilised the innings.
The change bowlers of Jack Bromley and Neil Butler continued the good start but runs began to flow a little easier as the batsmen’s composure paid dividends on a pitch that was beginning to settle down. With a very quick outfield, suddenly most shots were finding their way to the boundary as the score raced to 70 for 4 from just 17 overs.
In the twentieth over, Bromley claimed the wicket that the away side desperately needed to break what was becoming a problematic partnership as a feint edge from Dimmack was collected by wicket-keeper Tom Threlfall. The breakthrough however, did not swing the tide back in the favour of the visitors as new batsman Shields held up an end while Why attacked the bowling of Bromley, Butler and latterly Jay Threlfall.
In an impressive partnership that continued to the 37th over, the pair put on 69 runs, and although at one point Shields had just 10 runs from 3 scoring shots in 35 balls faced, the number seven more than played his part in ensuring the home side posted an impressive target, and once Why perished to a good catch from Glenn Taylor, providing Threlfall with his first wicket of the afternoon, opened his arms and boosted his side further with some useful late runs, despite proving somewhat fortunate with a pair of catching opportunities squandered.
A further wicket fell as good work from Pete Harris at long-on was enough to run out Tim Kasozimusoke, but shields continued to torment and brought up his half century with the final ball of the innings as Theale and Tilehurst closed on 192 for 7. It was a hefty score considering the slow start to the start of the innings.
After tea, Jon ford and Glenn Taylor began the chase against the long-haired Scott Stroud and Kasozimusoke, and the start failed to match the tight opening stages of the opposite innings with 52 runs plundered from the first eight overs. Taylor in particular taking a liking to the bowling and benefited from the quick outfield as the runs piled on.
In fact, such was the force of Taylor’s shots, that by the time he had brought up his half century in the eleventh over, the opener had scored 50 of his 54 runs in boundaries, and the domination continued as Shields and ex-Surrey namesake Alistair Brown started their spells. In the 15th over wicket-keeper Rob Dimmack jubilantly celebrated a catch behind from the danger-man, the ball however drifted past the bat as it made contact with the surface.
Brown bowled well and claimed the wicket of Ford in the seventeenth over as Ford mistimed a drive and was caught by Rob Why, and two overs later Jack Bromley fell in an identical fashion to leave Pyestock an imposing 122 for 2
Theale also thought that they had claimed the prize scalp in the 20th over as a high full toss from shields drew a shoulder high slap shot from Taylor which was caught at extra-cover. This time the no-ball call curtailed the celebrations, and Pyestock looked set for a commanding victory.
Things, however are rarely that simple in the Pyestock ranks and when Dan Heath was adjudged LBW for just 2 runs, The domino effect began to run its course. 167 for 3 became 180 for 9 as Vaughan Newcombe was well caught for 20 before Dimmack stumped Taylor for a hugely impressive century, his second of the season, however the mood was still jovial as Pete Harris and Colin Butler took to the crease, but once Butler and Jay Threlfall were trapped LBW the mood changed to one that much more tense.
Tom Threlfall added four runs but was bowled and once Harris was caught by Mehul Mehta it was up to last pairing Neil Butler and Chris Heath to eek out the remaining 13 runs. In the captain and vice-captain’s favour was that 10 overs were left in the match to claim this and the pair carefully and watchfully brought their side to within 2 runs of victory.
A mis-field from Barrie Stroud allowed the scores to become level and when Shields found his fifth ball of the 36th over to be guided through the slip cordon by Chris Heath, victory was complete.
It was a very tense but entertaining end to a brilliant game of cricket, played in a wonderful spirit throughout. Pyestock managed to avenge their narrow defeat 12 months previous, however will need to find a cure to their middle order batting woes.