Eighty One boundaries, 527 runs, and 11 very tired bowlers.
Its fair to say that bat ruled supreme over ball in Pyestocks annual visit to Bagshot CC this weekend, however all of this served up a scintillating and absorbing encounter in which the visitors conceded their highest ever score, before coming within just 35 runs of chasing down what would have been an incredible victory.
Despite warnings from home captain Geoff Young, and the pristine looking wicket, Chris Heath took the brave decision to bowl first on a warm day amongst the death-throws of a perfect summer, and opening batsmen Matt Funnell and Adit Gandhi set about trying to back up the early hype, and both looked confortable against the bowling of Neil Butler and Heath himself.
With the score ticking along comfortably but not spectacularly, the lack of assistance to the bowlers started to cause concern, along with the fast outfield, that meant boundaries were being found regularly.
Heath gradually adjusted his length against Gandhi, who was looking to play on the front foot, and almost immediately found the young opener under more pressure, with Jack Bromley not holding a sharp chance at gully, while a skied opportunity and a half chance that fell agonisingly over Tom Threlfall head behind the stumps ensured that any luck Pyestock required was to elude them in the early stages.
At the other end, the more aggressive Funnell was almost exclusively tackling the leg side, and therefore it was no surprise, that just 2 balls after surviving a large run-out shout following an incredible direct hit by Jack Bromley from the wide long-on boundary, Sam Armes was picked out at mid-wicket for the days first dismissal.
Rick Medlock joined the increasingly fluent Gandhi and continued to add to the high run rate, but in a crazy 3 over spell, the young opener lost both Medlock, who was bowled by Heath, before the skipper, now removed from the attack had the simple task of running out Ryan Funnell from mid off, following an ill-advised call for a single.
At 93 for 3, Pyestock would have been satisfied with their efforts, but it was becoming more obvious that Gandhi was the wicket that was required, and he moved past 50 in the 20th over, just before drinks with a boundary from the bowling of Ben Armes.
Often, drinks breaks change the course of the innings and at 114 for 3, Pyestock were hoping for a swing in their favour, however instead Bagshot put their foot on the accelerator in a fashion that Pyestock had little answer for. The lack of a slow bowler proving pivotal as both Armes brothers were lambs to the slaughter is a passage of play that put the home side in pole position. Even a full length catch from John Ford at gully failed to slow the run rate as Gandhi and his fifth partner of the afternoon Stuart Derry attacked ruthlessly with boundaries flowing at an incredible rate.
The 200 was brought up in just the 30th over as Pyestock began to contemplate a chase of 300+ such was the scoring rate of the duo. Sam Armes, who had not bowled badly, was spared further toil after a 5 over spell costing 55, which saw Gandhi go to his century with a towering six over long on, as Pyestock’s fielder, most of whom were now glued to the boundary stood and watched.
The re-introduction of Neil Butler and the slower Pete Harris, both proved positive changes as Pyestock finally gathered an element of control over the innings, and in the 37th over, it was Harris who finally dismissed the tiring Gandhi. A towering catch by Sam Armes on the long-on boundary finally seeing the opener depart for 134 from just 103 balls ending the 115 run partnership that had truly seemed to have batted Pyestock out of the game.
Pyestock continued to fight back well and with Butler bowling Dan Bowles (5) and taking a sharp return catch to dismiss Mark Dawson (4), either side of Harris bowling Matt Alexander for 4, a great deal of respectability was added to the scorecard. Despite this the final scoring of the innings took Bagshot past the 279 runs Worcester Park pummeled against Pyestock in 2015. the hosts eventually finished their 40 overs 281 for 8 with Derry claiming his half century in the closing stages.
Backed into a corner given the limited over format, Pyestock had no choice but to attack after tea and with the visitors looking to get off to a good start, the opening over could not have gone worse, with Dan Bowles getting the fifth ball of the innings to nip back and take Jon Ford’s off stump.
0 for 1 and Chris McGovern joined Jack Bromley at the crease and attacked the bad balls freely with license to attack and keep their side in the game. In the fifth over McGovern slapped his 2,000th run for the club, but then immediately fended to gully and was caught by Medlock to hand Bowles his second wicket and it looked as if the response was to be feeble, however Bromley continued to impress and with Paul Bright now at the crease the pair sensibly provided a 50 partnership to move Pyestock to 74 for 2 in the 13th over, incredibly ahead of the hosts position at the same point.
Disaster struck with the last ball of Bowles spell as Bromley, the main aggressor, could only find the hands of Dawson to depart for 39, before he himself was introduced and swiftly used his experience to deceive both Sam Armes, Tom Threlfall and Bright, and reduce Pyestock to 93 for 5 and 110 for 6. The slow bowling options available to Bagshot proving the difference and the game seemed over.
Neil Butler and Chris Heath combined and made the most of some friendly off-spin from Keith Wheeler who found his last 2 overs in a 7 over spell pounded for 25 runs and as Butler found his groove rolled back the years to attack both he and Dawson, and Pyestock hung on to the faintest glimmer of hope. Runs flowed freely for the umpteenth period of the game as the deficit was reduced to less than 100, before Dawson trapped Heath LBW, leaving Pyestock 11 overs to find 98 runs.
Colin Butler could only add 4 before becoming Geoff Young’s first victim as wicket-keeper Ryan Funnell claimed his third catch of the afternoon, and when brother Neil fell just 4 balls later for an incredibly destructive 72 from just 44 balls, it was up to the last pair of Pete Harris and Ben Armes to provide the early evening entertainment, and they did just that with an incredible 54 run partnership which at times had the home side concerned as the ball started disappearing to all parts of the ground, and even the neighbouring pub as the freedom of the situation suited the pair.
40 runs were required from the final 3 overs and not many witnesses would have been willing to bet against the away side pulling off the most remarkable of comebacks, with Armes flying on 36 not out, with Harris on 14 himself at the other end, but as the 38th over took place, the experience of home skipper Young shone through with a tidy over costing just 3 and the game was up, Armes was caught on the boundary in the next over and Pyestock were all out for 246 in 38.3 overs, falling shy by just 35 runs. Mark Dawson was the pick of the Bagshot bowlers with 5 for 66 recorded in his 12.3 overs.
It was an incredible game of cricket that you just could not take your eyes off. Bagshot deserved their victory with Adit Gandhi, Stuart Derry and Dawson all well worthy of their achievements, as was Neil Butler for Pyestock, who recorded their second highest ever score batting second. Sadly it was not to be the desired result for Chris’ Heath’s team who gave it everything in battle, but surely we will be back at Bagshot in 2019 to cross swords once again, if its half the game that this thriller was, it will be a hell of a game.