Cheltenham, Gloucester and Forest of Dean League, Division One (west): Penallt & Redbrook (142/9) bear Corse & Staunton 3rd XI (101 all out) by 41 runs.
Chris Margetts inspired Penallt & Redbrook to a thrilling first scalp of 2017 in a game full of incident and intrigue played on the stickiest of West Gloucestershire’s traditional sticky wickets.
The all-rounder scored 65 priceless runs before taking two crucial early wickets as sharp fielding and tight bowling saw the local side rob Corse & Staunton of victory that had looked a virtual formality an hour or two earlier.
Played at Bushley Green, a pretty but postage-stamp sized ground that saw heavy rain in the run up to Saturday, the at-times-breathless encounter certainly proved that old adage that low scores can make for the most exciting cricket.
Put into bat, after losing yet another toss, Margetts and opening partner Guy Adams diligently took the score to fifty for no wicket and when Penallt reached their hundred in the 23rd over, with just two batsman down, a heavy total looked on the cards.
But then came the collapse. Margetts, looking in fine fettle and starting to score freely, was run out due to a comic-book mix-up with Tim Swanson. The next seven batsmen perished for just forty runs. Three went for ducks and only two made double figures, most of them found out playing across the line on a pitch that offered variable bounce and pace, and occasional turn to the slow bowlers.
With spin bowler Richard Waterstone forced to retire hurt, the task facing Penallt at tea looked steep: defending a below-par total on a ten ground with just ten fielders to stem the tide.
The response of skipper Lyndon Jacques was to go on the attack, placing close fielders each side of Corse & Staunton’s batsmen, directly in their eye-line, in hope of drawing an early error. It proved an inspired decision: they snaffled two key catches, while three more key men fell cheaply after seeming reluctant to play off the front foot in case they perished the same way.
Jacques, bowling down the hill, and giving little away, was crucial to the plan’s success. He took three wickets from his eight overs, and for periods seemed virtually unplayable. Of the 14 runs he conceded, all but a handful came off the edge of the bat.
For all that, the game was far from won. By just past the half-way point, Corse & Staunton had reached 80 runs for the loss of five, leaving them needing just over 60 at the rate of under three an over. Their opening batsman Tom Rowell, who had shown serious application in nurdling his way to 30 runs, was starting to look seriously dangerous, and the home team looked set for victory if he survived.
Penallt’s Swanson had other ideas, though. He produced perhaps the ball of the day to trap Rowell LBW on the back foot with an in-swinging yorker, one of two wickets taken for 16 from his six overs. Debutant Andy Lloyd then closed the noose, with two more wickets for just six runs from two and a half overs of solid medium pace, while a run out left the home team on 100 for nine.
The game was finally wrapped up in the 29th over when Adams, running backwards at mid-wicket spilled a regulation catch - only for it to fall into the hands of Luke Whorton, who was standing a few yards away. A comic, but somehow appropriate, end to a memorable afternoon.