A match changing and unbeaten partnership of 84 from Jack Bromley and Jay Threlfall deprived the players and spectators of Ottershaw CC and Pyestock CC a grandstand finish, but handing the visitors a relatively comfortable 5 wicket victory in this Sundays opening fixture of 2021.
Beginning his first (hopefully) full season in charge Jon Ford won the toss and elected to field on a sunny day under the Heathrow flight path and the hard and dry wicket perhaps unexpected for the time of year, yielded uneven bounce from the start as Sam Armes and Chris Heath began their assault on the batting of Ben Charlton and Matthew Parks.
Early progress was slow whilst the home side adjusted to conditions, whilst the away side, decked out in their new baggy caps looked composed and assured in the field in the early stages, and in the 6th over, the pressure told as a good slower ball from Heath found the leading edge of Charlton and took a return catch whilst back-peddling.
Ottershaw were unfortunate to lose their 2nd wicket just 7 balls later as a solid looking defense from Parks failed to keep the ball out, the ball trickling towards the off stump, and almost apologetically dislodging a single bail.
This double blow left the hosts 21 for 2, but a more attacking approach from Ama Singh and Rob Halstead suddenly exposed flaws in the Pyestock fielding with dropped catches and a succession of overthrows suddenly making the visitors look ragged and clumsy. Singh also took the offensive with a selection of shots that helped pull his side out of early trouble. Pyestocks hopes were not fading however, as chances continued to be created from change bowlers Jay Threlfall and Dan Heath, who were both unfortunate to finish wicketless, as it was Pete Harris who claimed the much needed wicket of Singh, who mistimed a drive straight to the safe hands of Jack Bromley in the covers.
Similar to early on the day the wicket almost immediately brought the end of the 2nd partner as Halstead was bowled by Ben Bromley, who then also collected Dan Cooke, after a wild shot saw his timbers disturbed and innings ended. This sparked a mini collapse for Ottershaw as Bromley and Kirah Ambroziak claimed the wickets of Jim Matthews (5), young Hayden Matthews (0), and Jon Toop (1) to leave the hosts looking down the barrel of defeat at 112 for 9.
Cody Moise and last man, Ken Stapleton, coming into the match with a hand injury and perhaps not a regular number 11, had other ideas and carefully accumulated runs with sensible and stylish shots defying their places in the batting order.
As the partnership grew, Ford was slowly returning to his more senior bowlers, with Jack Bromley (as yet unused in the innings) and Sam Armes probed the final pair without success and the battle was intensifying when a needless run from what would have been a bye, saw Sam Armes at fine leg run out Moise and end the Ottershaw innings after 36.1 overs.
Pyestock would require 145 runs for victory and without vice captain Paul Bright, looked a little light of opening batsmen. In an arguably surprising move, Chris Heath was promoted to join Ford at the top of the innings and the pair quickly had to learn how to deal with not only the unpredictable bounce, but also the pace of Dan Cooke and the awkward and nagging line and length of Cody Moise.
Progress was initially slow, but with less scoreboard pressure than what would come with a larger score the pair afforded themselves the time to adjust to the conditions and to wait for the loose deliveries which were regularly punished by Heath as the score rose to 31 before Moise broke the defenses of the skipper who departed for 6.
2 balls later, disaster struck as replacement Dan Heath feathered behind, as Moise, now with 2 for 8 from 4.4 overs continued to prove a thorn in Pyestock’s side. Jake Baldwin joined Heath looking to settle the game back down, and a few sublime shots from the young wicketkeeper seemed to get his side back on track as Ottershaw introduced change bowlers Ama Singh and Ben Charlton. The change appeared to work as Heath played down the wrong line to Charlton’s third delivery to depart for 18, before a chaotic 10-ball third over also saw Baldwin caught by Jon Toop as once again the wickets fell in pairs as they had seemingly done all afternoon to leave Pyestock 59 for 4.
Charlie Eve fell for a duck just before drinks, leaving the game perfectly poised with Pyestock requiring 72 runs from 20 overs with just 5 wickets remaining and all around were settling in for a cracker of a finish, however what transpired bordered on almost inexplicable given the events of the day so far as Pyestocks 6th wicket pair of Jack Bromley and Jay Threlfall ripped up the script and took a suddenly tiring home side to the sword.
By the time the 28th over was done, the pair had moved the score onto 131 for 5 and looking in little danger continued their assault on whichever bowlers Ottershaw selected from their ranks. Even the returning Cooke and Moise were not spared as the ball found the boundary at regular intervals as the target screamed into view.
By 29.3 overs it was all over. Threlfall’s 8th boundary drawing him level with his highest score (42*) in a Pyestock shirt, whilst Bromley finished 2 runs higher in a polished performance. It was a shame that neither reached what would have been deserved half-centuries, whilst the game itself was robbed of what looked to be growing into a true nail biter.
Nevertheless it was a positive start for Jon Ford’s side who will look to learn and build on this performance and hopefully embark on a successful and enjoyable season. Our thanks go to Ottershaw CC for their superb hospitality and match and wish them best for the rest of the season. Hopefully we will be afforded the chance to return next season.