Reports from Finals Day
Semi-final: Berkhamsted Thunder 304-4 beat St Margaretsbury 300-7 (by Steve Dowling, Berkhamsted CC)
We arrived at Kings Langley to a pitch biscuit brown and parched by the Saharan weather for our pairs semi-final, and best chance of a league trophy.
The game between Ickleford and Watford Town was still in play, although Watford, surprisingly, were labouring through the afternoon heat to an eventual loss. Watching that game it was clear that the slope, fast outfield and variable bounce would be major barriers to a comfortable game, regardless of the opposition.
Not having played St. Margaretsbury in the past, it was by reputation that we felt somewhat the underdogs, given the strength of the teams to the east of the county. However, BCC Thunder were playing by right, having won their group stage without defeat and buoyed by a convincing win against Bishops Stortford in the Quarter Final match.
Setting up in the shade of the stout oaks by the nets gave our boys an opportunity for some last minute practice whilst waiting for our turn in the middle. Unfortunately, our first choice wicket keeper Vinnie had injured his finger in an earlier game and couldn't be risked on the day. Will S. was asked to fill the position, although his normal fielding position is set to the right behind the Wicket Keeper.
Independent umpires are a novelty for the BCC managers, who are usually to be found in the middle during a match supervising events at close quarters. It was agreed by both sets of team managers that the umpires were to play "normal" cricket rules in the final over of each innings for wides and no balls. This was to add to the drama as events unfolded during the game.
Formalities over, BCC took to the field with George D and Noah H bowling to Archie and Jack. A tight first over conceded few runs although the rest of the pair was won by St. M's, despite a runout, as Archie and Jack rotated the strike; crowning their achievement with a high-rise six from Jack over deep midwicket.
Calamity for Thunder in the first over the next pair as the normally hostile Harry was hit for successive boundaries by Alfie. A wide off the last ball was made into six by returning bad overthrow habits; the over eventually settling at 16. Adam's left arm spin was despatched to four points of the boundary as Alfie and Dan put on forty. At least Harry found his range in his second over to bowl Dan. Forty scored and at the halfway stage, St.M's easily on top.
James and Benjy partnered for St.M's against the pace of Harrison and the spinning guile of George J for the third pair. A wicket each bowled by the Thunder bowlers and a quick runout kept honours even as the St.M's pair returned a slightly-below-average score of 19 given the fast, sloping outfield.
The final pair set Arun G against Flynn and Henry, assisted on the Thunder side by the returning Noah and Harrison. Bowling with fierce determination in the baking afternoon heat, Arun returned his best bowling of the season as he bowled Flynn twice to record 2 for 7 from 12 balls. St.M's were not yet finished with the bat, as Henry plundered 10 from the last over to record a final total of 300 - 7 at the close of the innings.
A high bar indeed, yet Thunder's pride and determination to protect their season-long unbeaten record stiffened our resolve that it could be vaulted.
Enter the pugnacious Will with his heavy bat, ably matched by George J's flowing wand to provide the water of runs needed to germinate the run chase for Thunder. George sensibly rotated the singles whilst Will punched three boundaries for an innings high score of 20. The unlucky St.M's bowling attack were left to admire the regrowth of Thunder's 41 uncropped runs.
However the pairs format can quickly remove any advantage as Arun and Adam toiled against good bowling in the second pair to produce 18. A strange symmetry then occurred as Harry and Harrison recorded the same net score and also lost a wicket on the final ball of the final over in the third pair.
Twenty-four to win from 24 balls from the last pair with Noah and George D in pursuit for Thunder. George D, ever reliable in shot selection, complemented by the force of Noah. Alfie for St. M's and the first over matching the run rate with a belligerent 4 from Noah. Second over to Thunder as Flynn for St.M's conceded 8, this time the boundary line pierced by George. Alfie with the third over and run rate parity again, as clever running from the Thunder boys cut the asking rate for the last over.
Six balls left, entrusted to Flynn for St.M's and George facing. A wide! ... and a suicidal runout; manager's eyes heavenward. Now eight needed again but six balls still left in the bank. All activity in the nets suspended, parents silent and Noah focused. A single, then another. Noah unleashing a huge hit back over the bowler to bring the deficit to two. Cries from the boys "two needed - bat sensibly!" and two more gained. Now the shout from the team of "block out" ignored by Noah. Hearts thumping as the extra ball could cruelly destroy all of the afternoon's toil. George facing - (Please block, please block) - a shot through the covers and two more gained. Joy from the BCC nets, despair for St. Ms. The bar vaulted once again by BCC Thunder, a final place the prize.
"The nearest-run thing you ever saw in your life"
MotM: Will S (20 n.o. & WK)
Semi Final: Ickleford 292-5 beat Watford 279-7 (by Paul Scott, Ickleford CC)
Ickleford won the toss and elected to bat against their opponents Watford Town CC, with some tight initial Watford bowling restricting the first two Ickleford pairs to 22 runs for 5 wickets at the half way stage. However, the next two pairs kicked on scoring 70+ for the lost of no further wickets. This included 38 off the last pair with Eden Scott scoring 29, giving Ickleford a competitive total of 292-5.
In reply Watford made steady progress, albeit always a little behind the run rate. However, some excellent fielding kept Ickleford on course, despite conceding a high number of extras. The loss of two wickets in the penultimate over sealed the victory for Ickleford.
Final: Ickleford 315-3 beat Berkhamsted 267-10 (by Paul Scott, Ickleford CC)
In the final, Ickleford faced Berkhamsted - the latter winning the toss and electing to field. This time the Ickleford pairs all contributed keeping the scoreboard ticking. In particular, Leo Mason in the third pair played some great shots and scored heavily. The fourth pair also carried on from the semi-final adding another 41 leaving Ickleford with an impressive score of 315-3.
Faced with a run rate of over 7 per over Berkhamsted were always struggling to keep pace and the steady fall of wickets further strengthen Ickleford's hold on the game. This time Ickleford's attack bowled much better restricting scoring and extras. The loss of 3 wickets in overs 13, 14 & 15 left Berkhamsted needing 55 off the last over and a further two wickets crowned Ickleford County Champions.
Ickleford CC would like to place on record its thanks to Kings Langley CC, the umpires and HJL for making the seaon and Finals Day such a success.