Match report: Penallt vs Newent

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Cheltenham, Gloucester & Forest of Dean Division 2 (West). Penallt & Redbrook (178/6) lost to Newent 2nd XI (179/3) by seven wickets.

The heavy skies, biting wind, and multiple layers of knitted lamb’s-wool on display at Pelham Hall over the weekend could only mean one thing: the start of the village cricket season.

Newly-promoted Penallt & Redbrook, who went unbeaten in 13 games last summer, fell narrowly short against Newent’s 2nd XI on Saturday in a tense encounter which perhaps underlines the challenge they face to re-establish themselves in Division One West of the Cheltenham, Gloucester and Forest of Dean League.

As ever, at this stage of the season, winning the toss can be crucial. Newent skipper Steve Edgell called correctly and with an eye on conditions made a canny decision to ask the home side to bat first.

Though a couple of partners fell cheaply, to a combination of pace and swing, Penallt’s opener Chris Margetts survived the opening barrage to post an accomplished 43 before holing out at mid-wicket, and a score 82/2 half-way through their allotted 40 overs gave the local side grounds for optimism.

The innings soon turned, however, on a piece of brilliant fielding. With Tim Swanson looking well set and starting to open his shoulders, Newent’s opening bowler Tom Devries took a stunning one-handed catch, diving backwards at long on, to dismiss him for 37 at a crucial moment.

Despite the odd lusty blow from wicket-keeper Phil Harris, who hit a couple of hefty sixes, Penallt’s final score of 178 for 6 was always likely to be a shade below par unless Newent’s wickets fell early. And despite tidy spells from Lyndon Jaques, who removed opener Joshua Hayes for seven, and Geoff Eaves, whose allotted eight overs went for a mere handful of runs, the away team were able to preserve key players.

Penallt, looking smart in new kit courtesy of generous sponsor Paul Jarrold Tyres, fielded tidily throughout, with debutant Keith Blair taking a towering catch at extra cover to remove Newent’s other opener Steve Edgell for 65. However, they also found themselves at the wrong end of some close LBW calls, and a couple of very sharp missed catches that might have ratcheted up the pressure.

In the end, Newent eased to victory with 15 balls and seven wickets left, and both sides adjourned to the Inn at Penallt to mull over what might have been.