An improved all round performance was not enough this week as Pyestock CC fell to a narrow 21 run defeat at Theale and Tilehurst CC.
After a very disciplined and controlled first innings where the hosts were only able to post 152 for 9 thanks to some impressive bowling and fielding, Chris Heath’s side were unable to chase down the target despite being in control at 115 for 4 after 25 overs.
Fielding first, Pyestock burst out of the traps with the skipper bowling both openers in the first 6 overs as Tom White was trapped on the crease, and Rob Dimmack was cleverly deceived by a slower ball, Theale found themselves 12 for 2.
Pyestock remained on top as Barry Stroud and Hassan Ali failed to find a way to deal with both Heath and Jack Bromley in a track offering much assistance if also a low and turgid bounce. The bowling duo rattled off 14 overs between them conceding just 27 runs.
The change in attack paid immediate dividends for the away side as young Ben Armes claimed his first ever Pyestock wicket with a brilliant ball that rattled off stump and sent Stroud on his way for dogged 6 runs.
At the other end Jay Threlfall was proving more expensive as he looked to get back into the groove following a 3 week break, new batsman James Martin taking advantage as Theale breathed a sigh of relief as the run rate finally started to accelerate past 2 an over.
In the 21st over a brilliant piece of fielding almost brought Pyestock their 4th wicket, as Martin drove fiercely into the offside, and set off for a single not anticipating a superb diving stop from Scott Taylor. Stranded completely, Martin gave up as the ball was returned to Armes and the run out completed, or was it? Armes wheeled off to celebrate, but the bails had somehow remained on the stumps, Martin reacted quickest to the bizarre situation, perhaps thankful that the safety of the crease was in the same direction as the clubhouse he had been trudging to. Quite how the bails did not fall only the bowler will ever know.
Looking to capitalise in this stroke of luck, Martin stretched his arms and added vital runs, but even so, Theale would have expected more than 61 for 3 at the half way drinks break, although Pyestock, having seen this before expected nothing other than a barrage of big hitting as the second half of the innings got under way.
Dan Heath was immediately introduced in place of Armes and swung the flow of the match in Pyestock favour as he dismissed both Ali and Martin in the 25th over to reduce the hosts to 73 for 5 and with a big rebuild job to complete.
Bowling the two middle order stalwarts set the home side back and captain James White and Imran Malik cautiously looked for a way to settle down. The unusually tame Threlfall (0-37) was replaced with Glenn Taylor, and once more the change provided a welcome wicket for Pyestock as White was bowled for 4. Once Dan Heath had claimed his 3rd wicket with an incredible caught and bowled to remove the unlucky Malik, Theale found themselves seven wickets down, with only 9.4 overs to add to their 99 runs.
The wickets continued to fall as Jon Ford took a smart reaction catch at slip as Brian Coopers edge ricocheted from the shoulder of wicket keeper Tom Threlfall, and Dan Heath bowled Coker for 9 as Theale entered the last 10 balls of the innings with only 125 on the board.
The final pairing of Mark Mason and Michael Holder certainly did not match up to the usual stigma of the last partnership as suddenly, out of nowhere, Pyestock were on the back foot. transpiring that Holder was filling in for a Theale player who needed to leave urgently, he was certainly not your average number 11 and it immediately became apparent that Pyestock needed to defend, whilst Mason used all of his experience to add valuable runs as Theale ended with 152 runs to defend.
After a sumptuous tea, Jon ford and Glenn Taylor started the reply, and the initial signs looked good as Rob Dimmack struggled to contain the early run rate as Pyestock had done despite Mark Mason at the other end keeping proceedings generally quiet with some impressive medium pace in-swing.
By the end of the eighth over the visitors had amassed 41 runs and were looking good bets for victory, however in the previous encounters between these two, Pyestock’s batting has crumpled spectacularly and sadly this time was to be no different. A bowling change saw Coker introduced and with his very first ball accounted for chief tormentor Taylor who drove strongly into the leg side, but was comfortably caught by the impressive Holder.
Ben Armes wasted no time in announcing himself, by hammering his first 3 balls for 8 runs, but the fireworks were sadly short-lived as Mason found a way through the youngster, who departed for a brisk 11. Coker doubled his wicket tally in his next over as Ford top edged, presenting a simple catch to wicket-keeper Ali, before Tom threlfall was also caught as Pyestock lost 4 wickets in 20 balls and now found themselves 56 for 4.
Jack Bromley and Scott Taylor thankfully settled the innings down and after a cautious start, successfully saw off the remaining overs from Mason and Coker and looked to attack replacements Brian Cooper and Imran Malik.
Malik, an impressive spinner who looked to turn the ball both ways, and generally succeeded would prove a major thorn in the latter overs, but for now, the Bromley/Taylor partnership was coping admirably and were slowly dragging Pyestock towards their target.
It was in the 26th over that the turning point in the match occurred as Bromley was caught for 23 and Pyestock lost their 5th wicket, but with only 38 runs required, hopes were still high, but, in what is now a Pyestock trait, the lower order folded embarrassingly. Once the impressive Taylor departed for a top-scoring 34 two overs later, the prcession started as Pete Harris, and Dan Heath failed to play themselves in, before the cautious Chris Heath could only add 1 run from 16 balls, before being dismissed by Tom White (gaining revenge for his own earlier dismissal) , leaving Colin Butler and last man Jay Threlfall to find 22 runs for victory.
Unfortunately for the visitors, white proved too good for Threlfall and Pyestock fell 21 runs short, in an enjoyable encounter. Pyestock continue to suffer batting frailties, hopefully these can be addressed. As always, an enjoyable game was had at Theale and Tileurst and we look forward to crossing paths again next season.