Cheltenham, Gloucester & Forest of Dean Division 2 (West). Penallt & Redbrook (216/4) beat Huntley (214/9) by six wickets.
Cool heads finally prevailed to give the cricketers of Penallt & Redbrook a second successive victory at a sweltering Pelham Hall on Saturday.
The local village chased down 214 with three overs to spare following a sometimes nervy run chase that saw them repeatedly fail to put away a battling Huntley side who never quite knew when to give up.
Like many a cricket match, the encounter was defined by the weather: weeks of sunshine have turned Penallt’s hilltop ground from waterlogged swamp into something akin to freshly-laid tarmac. The rock hard pitch and outfield makes batting a joy and bowling utterly thankless.
Temperatures in the high twenties made spending the early afternoon fielding even less pleasant a prospect. So news that Huntley had won the toss and intended to bat first was greeted with despair in the pavilion.
The visitors duly got off to a flyer, reaching 70 runs in the first dozen overs for the loss of just one wicket. But the tide started to turn when change bowlers Geoff Eaves and Graham Hyde removed their danger-men John Green and Kriss Abbott for 58 and 26 respectively.
Eaves, who is in his eighth decade, remains an inspiration to us all, rolling back the years to bowl with sublime control. His eight overs went for just 19 runs, which was an incredible feat in unhelpful conditions. Hyde was also imperious taking two for 21 from the other end.
Their contribution turned around an innings that Huntley were threatening to run away with. A score of 250 plus once looked on the cards, but the middle overs saw the run-rate slow to a trickle, turning the momentum of the game on its head. Then it was Pete Weldon’s turn to shine, trundling in uphill from the pavilion end to rip through the lower order, removing four batsmen for just 22 runs, in four overs of extravagant spin.
At tea, the target of 214 felt a touch light, despite the fact that Penallt’s batting line up had just spent three hours frazzling in the sunshine.,
That seemed doubly likely when the home side’s opening pair of Hyde and Matt Spoor began putting Huntley’s openers to the sword. The fifth over went for 20 runs, and by the end of the seventh, they were 50 without loss.
Then came the first wobble: Hyde pulled a short ball straight to square leg, who took a sharp chance to remove him for 37. With Guy Adams joining Spoor at the crease, progress slowed somewhat, and by drinks at the end of the fifteenth over, the score had nudged along to 86, a whisker behind the required run rate.
Thankfully, for the home side at least, a loose over from Sam Layton was then dispatched for 24. But just when Penallt looked like cantering away with things, Adams contrived to play around one of Green’s leg breaks, getting himself stumped for 35. Spoor fell victim to the spinner soon afterwards, for 37, leaving a defecit of 80 runs, with seven wickets in hand. When Cameron Lee was then bowled for one, an unsightly collapse seemed briefly on the cards.
The scorebook records that order was promptly restored by Liam Hurcombe, who heroically cantered to an effervescent, match-winning fifity.
However the reality of proceedings was a touch different, with Penallt’s number four escaping a number of near misses. He would have been caught for a duck, had the delivery that got him not been a no-ball, and was subsequently dropped twice during a sometimes heart-stopping spell when the game seemed to hang in the balance.
At the other end, wicketkeeper Phil Harris shored things up considerably, however, spending ten overs at the crease and giving nothing away for his eleven runs. And with Hurcombe, who finished not out on 68, starting to score freely, the finish line was soon in sight. Victory was eventually wrapped up in the 37th over.
Next Saturday, the visitors to Pelham Hall are Ruardean Hill as Penallt, who are sponsored by Paul Jarrold tyres, go for a hat-trick of wins. 1.30pm start.