By Taylor Swift
Last season, the first visit to Bentworth to face the Vagabonds struck a real chord with the Pyestock faithful as the opponents, setting and atmosphere made a real impression. It was therefore a given that this seasons fixture was very much anticipated as soon as the fixtures were released, and it did not disappoint as all of these traits remained coupled with edge of the seat drama that unfolded in an incredible tied game.
Losing the toss, Pyestock were placed into bat and continuing with the policy of rotating the team, it was the turn of Paul Bright and Chris Heath to open proceedings against the home attack comprising of Tom Nokes and Steve Hyde. A patient start was shattered in the third over as Bright lost the ball in the hedge for the first time in the day as the visitors registered their first boundary, but sadly the first wicket was not too far behind as Heath prodded at a lifting Nokes delivery and was caught well by opposite skipper Richard Boote diving backwards at second slip.
Sam Armes was next to arrive, and depart, making only 2 before also being caught as Pyestock began their innings in similar fashion to last week with a clatter of early wickets. Jon Ford joined Bright and steadied the ship well as the score past 50 in the 11th over. Unfortunately the hard work was undone spectacularly in the 12th over as firstly, Bright was run out for 29 in an almighty mix-up, after good work by Boote, before Ford was unlucky to see a defended ball from Nokes roll back to the stumps with just enough force to dislodge a bail and suddenly all the hard work needed doing again at 51 for 4.
Step forward Jack Bromley who batted sensibly to rescue his side from further collapse, and with good support from Jay Threlfall, the change bowling of Luke Harding and Al Whitman allowed runs to flow.
Whitman, obviously a seasoned campaigner used all of his experience and guile to subtly change his pace and length in an attempt to break what was becoming a troublesome partnership for the visitors and it paid almost immediate dividends as Threlfall fell to a great yorker for a useful 16, before further support from Jake Baldwin, Ben Bromley but mainly Chris McGovern, helped Pyestock to 143 for 7 as the Pyestock number 6 passed his half century.
The runs continued to be built up steadily if not cautiously until the 36th over when just a ball after seeing McGovern run out in an attempt for a tight single, Bromley was bowled for 70 by the returning Tom Nokes to give the opener his 4th wicket of the afternoon. This left last pairing Pete Harris and Ben Armes to collate a further 15 runs, before Harris hammered the ball straight at mid wicket Nokes, to end the first innings of the match for 170.
After a superb tea with some immense home-made cake, Pyestock started their defence with both Ben Bromley and Ben Armes looking to stifle any reply from Vagabonds. The batsmen James Harding and Tris Hutchings started cautiously, but in the third over the improving Armes snuck through the defences of Harding to set Pyestock on their way with the first wicket.
Despite some good bowling from both of the ‘Bens’, no further wickets fell to the openers as hutchings and Richard Boote looked increasingly comfortable with the power of the Vagabonds captain proving a threat wigh a high majority of runs coming in firmly struck and stylish boundaries. The change bowling of Chris Heath did not significantly alter the flow of the innings as the score eased past 50.
The turning point and breakthrough came once Heath reverted to bowling around the wicket, starving Boote of the width he had previously been enjoying and after only scoring 1 run from 9 balls against the left-armer, was bowled for 35 to break the partnership worth 53.
2 overs later Heath had his second wicket as Bertie Clay was trapped LBW and thoughts of victory crept back into the visitors camp. Hutchings however was proving extremely stubborn and was now joined by the positive Tom Postle.
At the other end of the pitch, Ben Bromley was bowling well and was extremely unlucky not to pick up a wicket in his first spell, finishing with 0-29 from 9 overs, and was replaced by Jay Threlfall, who bowled well, to keep the pair as quiet as possible, however, in a display of clever batting by the home side, the bad ball regularly found the boundary to keep the run rate healthy enough to keep Pyestock on their toes.
By this point, the visitors had lost the influential Chris McGovern in the field, who had struggled since early in the innings having taken a hefty blow on the forearm, preventing any further involvement. in an unusual situation, Pyestock had a selection of players on the sidelines enjoying the afternoon, and it was Glenn Taylor who drew the short straw and provided a substitute appearance for the rest of the match.
With 20 overs remaining the match was set up perfectly with 100 runs with 7 wickets in hand, and it appeared that Vagabonds relished the challenge as Hutchins and Postle moved the hosts past 100 in the 27th over as Sam Armes bowled 3 fruitless overs, and remained wicketless along with Threlfall as Vagabonds began to emerge as favourites.
Needing just 51 from 10 overs Chris Heath reacted by re-introducing opener Ben Bromley, and 3 overs later himself in an attempt to lower the run rate. With 7 wickets still needed all thoughts turned to preserving the draw with more defensive fields set to try and load the pressure onto the home side, and the tactic seemed to work with the score stalling on 136, 35 now needed from 6 overs.
The next over, saw the much needed breakthrough and the wicket that Bromley richley deserved as the in-formidable Hutchins finally departed for a crucial and probably underestimated 28, as he looped the ball to Sam Armes in the slips.
This suddenly seemed to spark Pyestock into life, as wickets suddenly began to tumble, as Trevor Edwards and Postle both fell to give both Bromley and Heath an additional wicket, Jon Ford claiming a well judged catch at deep square leg, before Heath claimed his fourth wicket (the first time he has done so since 2014) to leave Vagabonds 153 for 7, still needing 18 runs from 17 balls, and incredibly, out of nowhere, the chances of victory had been revived.
What the visitors hadn’t counted on however, was the ability of Al Whitman, who looked a class apart and forced Pyestock into trying to prevent the number 7 farming the strike, and trying to bowl as much as possible at new man Rob Hyndman, and the plan seemed to be working as Vagabonds were left requiring 13 runs from the final over.
Chris Heath looked to keep Whitman quiet, but was up against it after the first ball disappeared to the square leg fence, and a missed run out chance on a scrambled two, reduced the equation to 7 needed from 4 balls.
The best ball of the over passed Whitman by, but this was followed by the best shot of the over, and arguably the day as a deft flick brought another boundary to the third man boundary, and it was down to 3 needed from 2.
A pushed single from ball 5 left Hyndman needing 2 runs from the final ball of the game and with not one eye anything other than glued to the action, a full ball from Heath was squirmed into the off-side via an inside edge and a single gained. An incredible match had finished all square at 170 runs apiece. It was an unbelievable but perfect outcome in the most enjoyable of matches, with both sides giving nothing less than 100% in their attempts to gain a result.
Our sincerest thanks once again to Vagabonds, who once again provided the most enjoyable afternoon of Sunday cricket and have cemented their place as one of the favourite fixtures currently in Pyestock’s calendar.