As season finales go, a fine one-handed catch off the bowling of the Martlets’ chairman himself – the scene framed in late summer sunshine – is surely as good as it gets.
Rain had threatened this 40-over game at the historic and charming Sheffield Park ground but when the weather decided to play ball, both teams followed suit.
Batting first, the Martlets provided something of a masterclass in innings construction. Rotating around James Cruickshank (44) for the first 20 overs, the run-rate rarely climbed above four an over. With wickets in hand, however, and a middle-order engine room that would be the envy of a supertanker, runs always looked likely to flow. When they came, they came in a torrent.
Mark Trubshaw, swinging the bat like a caveman fighting off wild beasts, made 52 from 27 balls and was given every opportunity to get back on strike by the scampering Paul Walker (19 not out). A final total of 212 for eight was well above par on such a sluggish outfield.
The Armadillos’ best hope of chasing that total seemed to lie with Jason Oates, the usually brutal Zimbabwean. When he was caught by Walker at cover of the bowling of the redoubtable Derek Horsham, in his final spell of a long season, the Martlets could already scent victory.
The Armadillos top scorers were W. Pritchard (56) and Joe “Two Names One Shot” Akers-Douglas, a Martlet (21), but the required rate only ever moved in one direction. Two wickets for Rob Bell, a candidate, and two in two balls from Cruickshank, a lapsed Martlet, knocked the remaining stuffing out of the chase.
The final act of the season, appropriately, fell to Stuart Ritchie, the club chairman. Brought on to bowl in the 37th over, it took our glorious leader just two balls to prove that he should have been bowling all season. An artfully flighted delivery was thumped hard towards Walker who leapt like a kitten and celebrated like a puppy.
Did the season end at that moment? Or did it continue with the beers drunk alongside the opposition as the sun set? It was hard to tell.
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