Cheltenham, Gloucester and Forest of Dean League, Division One (West) – Penallt and Redbrook (197-7) beat Bream (176-9) by 21 runs.
They say catches win matches, but with Penallt and Redbrook’s opening fixture of the season, it would be more accurate to say that the game was won by a single, superb example of the genre.
Graham Hyde was the player responsible, defying age, gravity and seemingly the laws of physics to dive to low his right from first slip and remove Bream’s dangerous opener Jamie Blake in the tenth over.
The wicket, taken an inch off the ground, from the bowling of Geoff Eaves, met with visible astonishment from the batsman, who had scored a century the previous week and had already made short work of moving the home side’s score past fifty.
It turned a game which threatened to run away from Penallt and Redbrook, whose 197 felt like a solid total to defend on a sticky May wicket, into a fairly straightforward victory - give or take a few nervous moments in the dying overs.
Saturday’s encounter at Bathurst Park in Lydney, punctuated by occasional chuffs and toots from the nearby Dean Forest Railway, was the first outing of the Summer for the Monmouthshire village, following the disappointing cancellation of their scheduled opener at Ruardean over the Bank Hoilday weekend.
Yet while some players had certainly “Wintered well” (with one, who shall remain nameless, no longer able to squeeze into his official team shirt) the openers showed no early-season nerves after they were asked to bat first, having lost the toss.
Hyde, the captain, and Chris Margetts, put on more than a hundred runs before the first wicket fell in the 27th over, with the partnership only broken when Margetts slipped and fell while going to a quick single, leaving him run out on 34.
Despite the undignified nature of the incident, which was uncharitably compared to a scene from Laurel and Hardy by onlookers in the pavilion, the pair had given a superb platform to Penallt & Redbrook, who are sponsored by Paul Jarrold Tyres.
Hyde eventually fell for 89, while some swashbuckling stroke play from Liam Hurcombe, who hit 40 in just over 20 deliveries, including two towering sixes, moved the score to 191 for four by the end of the 39th over. An eventful final six balls produced six runs, and three wickets, as the batsmen attempted in vain to reach 200 for an extra batting point.
Bream responded positively, moving to fifty in the opening ten overs, before Lyndon Jacques removed skipper Dan Millin for 16. Geoff Eaves, who was the pick of the Penallt and Redbrook attack, then benefited from Hyde’s wonder-catch, before bowling the home side’s number three, Gareth Wightman-Smith for thirteen.
Eaves eventually finished with two wickets for just 18 runs in his eight overs, reflecting his terrific control, and a couple of wickets to Margetts (who finished with three for 36) helped restrict Bream to 70 the opening twenty overs. Given that they had by then lost four key wickets, that was probably twenty runs off the pace.
A beguiling spell of slow bowling from Pete Weldon, who took two for 36, then turned the screw, and with home side’s total 140 for eight with half a dozen overs remaining, Penallt and Redbrook’s minds appeared to turn to post-match refreshment.
Few things are so dangerous as complacency, though, and some big hitting from Bream’s number seven, Rupert Mitchell, reduced the target to a far-more-gettable 35-odd runs from the final 20 balls. Nerves were running high until he was bowled by Richard Waterstone for 42 in the penultimate over, sealing a valuable victory at the start of what promises to be a memorable season.
Next week, they travel to Aston Ingham, hoping to repeat the trick. 1.30pm start.