Cheltenham, Gloucester & Forest of Dean Division 2 (West). Penallt & Redbrook (145/8) beat Bream (144/9) by two wickets.
A spectacular batting collapse turned what had previously been a gentle cruise into the cricketing equivalent a life-raft trip in a hurricane for Penallt and Redbrook on Saturday.
The village side hit choppy water an hour after tea, losing six wickets in seven overs thanks to a bewildering variety of self-inflicted blunders and setting up a white knuckle finish in the process.
It took stand-in skipper Lyndon Jacques to steer them clear of the rocks. Batting at number ten, he whacked three boundaries to get Penallt and Redbrook home with four overs and two wickets to spare.
The captain’s firm hand on the tiller ended an agonising ten over period of spin bowling from the visitors, Bream, which had seen four consecutive maidens, one wicket, and a paltry 20 runs added to the total.
For a time, it had seemed as if Penallt would be suffocated by the pressure, on an increasingly stifling evening at Pelham Hall.
When Jacques took to the crease, they still needed 25 runs for victory from 38 balls. More worryingly, the only remaining batsman, Pete Weldon, was barely able to walk, let alone run, having suffered a badly bruised hip in the field.
To the relief of home supporters, particularly several who’d just chucked their wickets away, Jacques seemed immune to the collective sense of panic and scored a quick fire 21 not out, securing Penallt’s third straight league victory.
Until the late wobble, the afternoon’s journey had been remarkably serene.
After putting Bream into bat, on a pitch that had taken moisture overnight, the home side bowled and fielded with precision, taking every catch and ensuring that not one of the visiting batsmen was able to really cut loose.
Matt Spoor’s first wicket was a case in point. After a fiery spell of quick bowling that made both batsmen visibly uncomfortable, he removed Bream’s dangerous opener Jamie Blake for 29 when Chris Margetts took a sharp, low chance at first slip.
Penallt’s opener, Jacques, then promptly picked up his first wicket when Chris Farr was caught behind for 19 after a straight ball reared up from just short of a length before medium pacer Charlie Weldon had Bream captain Dan Millin caught at mid on for 19, leaving the visitors 58 for three.
Weldon, who is just 15 years old, had opened his spell with consecutive maidens, thanks in part to his father Pete, who injured himself in the process of attempting to roll back the years by diving on a rock hard outfield. Charlie finished with one from 14 from five overs.
The remaining bowlers were equally miserly. Jacques took three for just 15 from his eight overs, while Chris Margetts finished with two for 24 and Geoff Eaves managed one for 22, all of them bowling as tidily as they have all season. Eleven of the forty overs were maidens, restricting Bream to a total of 144 which, in the conditions, felt at least fifty short of par.
After tea, Penallt set about their task methodically, with openers Margetts (29) and Guy Adams (31) dispatching the occasional bad ball to put on sixty for the first wicket, and rarely seeming troubled as they pushed the score along at more than four an over.
By the time Adams departed, thwacking an uppish pull straight to square leg, the score was 76 for two in the 18th over.
Then came the wobble: Liam Hurcombe and Matt Spoor both decided to charge at lofted deliveries from spin bowler Blake, but sadly neglected to actually make contact in the ball. They were bowled for two and nine respectively, before the middle order decided to commit collective hari-kiri. By the 22nd over, the score was 92 for six and the run rate had dried up completely. Four overs later, Penallt were 104 for seven and flirting with disaster.
The recovery, such as it was, was kicked off by wicket-keeper Phil Harris, who spent 15 nervy overs at the crease and finished not out on 12, and Geoff Eaves, who batted for eight overs before being stumped for 12 before Jacques came in to finish things off.
This Saturday, Penallt, who are sponsored by Paul Jarrold tyres, try to make things a little less eventful when they play Aston Ingham at home. 1.30pm start.