A final over to end them all
Sussex Martlets 189-7 (30); N Peters 54
Brighton College 191-6 (29.3); H Moorat 66
It was all going so well. The Martlets had batted first, racked up a highly competitive 189 in 30 overs, and were well on course to defend it. So well on course, in fact, that with only one over of the Brighton College chase remaining, the schoolboys were still 24 runs short.
And then, all of a sudden, the world stopped turning on its axis, the birds stopped singing in the trees, the gates of hell opened up over the briny Brighton sea. . . and Paul Walker returned to bowl.
Summoned by his captain (who accepts full and unconditional responsibility for what followed), Walker’s first delivery was dispatched for six over square leg — a waist-high no-ball and a free hit compounding the problem. Mercifully the free hit was scrambled only for a single. But there the mercy ended.
The next three balls cost another 17 runs, with two more sixes, a four and another no-ball called on height. Remember Ben Stokes to Carlos Brathwaite in the final over of the World T20 final? Brathwaite was made to look like a churchmouse by comparison as Brighton College’s No 8 swung for the hills — or at least the inviting leg-side boundary.
And so in the blink of an eye the hosts snatched victory from a game in which they would probably admit they had been second best for most of the afternoon.
After choosing to play a 30-over game to avoid the anticipated late-afternoon showers, the Martlets set an impressive total on a sticky green wicket at the Jubilee Ground. Nick Peters, opening the batting, made an aggressive 54. Jordan Shaw struck several huge sixes on his way to 33. And every batsman in the middle order — including new Martlets Sahil Kher and Tom Malcolm — chipped in double figures at a run-a-ball or better, with the skipper finishing the innings with a straight six to take the total to 189.
With lunch having been snatched in one of several short rain-breaks, the College chase got off to a slow start thanks to the slippery guile of Derek Horsham (6-2-21-0) and the miserly discipline of Jordan Shaw (5-0-15-1), who delivered one lifter that almost cracked the sternum of Joe Akers-Douglas behind the stumps.
Paul Lack (4-0-29-0) was unfortunate not to cling on to a tough caught-and-bowled chance, before Nugent Brown (4-0-24-1) and Peters (5-0-37-2) made sure that the college were kept behind the required rate.
The mainstay of the College innings was Harry Moorat (66), who was given out leg-before to Walker only to be called back when the Martlets realised the ball had been inside edged. But when Moorat was caught in the deep of the bowling of Ben Jackson (3-0-19-2), the game looked to be up, with the College still almost 40 runs short with three overs remaining.
Shaw had returned with another tight over, in which he took the wicket that he had deserved earlier. At this point, the skipper was convinced that 24 off the final over offered the opportunity for Walker to sneak a couple of cheap wickets amid the game’s death throes.
Shaw was called out of the attack, Walker (2.3-0-46-0) was called back in, ready willing and able — and the rest will live long in the memories of all who witnessed it.
On reflection, perhaps we’ll come to realise that we play cricket for moments like this. But we prefer to be on the other team when they happen.
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