Ah those hard choices – the first of which on Saturday was for the Devil’s captain who won the toss and with a team of eight, including a debutant, had to choose to bat or bowl first. He elected to put the visitors, who had one more player, into bat.
A brief delay followed the toss waiting for the final Gloucestershire players to arrive. The game began on a day where the clouds were skidding past overhead quite fast on the breeze and the sun only flickered in brief spells, so perhaps with conditions to suit the bowlers. However, the three first choice bowlers in the side were played well by the Growlers opening pair who put on 79 for the first wicket, with no alarms.
It was not until Brenda was thrown the ball that a wicket fell – clean bowled from her fourth delivery, and then one brings two. In her next over, fifth ball, the same result. That was a high point for the home side as this brought the visiting skipper to the crease, who was joined by a new batsman only as the second opener retired on 52, so that by the time the Devil’s skipper bowled his third over and picked up another clean bowled wicket the score had moved on to 184.
The Devils were under pressure – relieved only a little by the retirement of the opposition captain as the Growlers pushed hard to take runs at every opportunity with their wickets in hand. It made for a frantic few final overs and three run outs for the home side before a declaration with the score on 226; with the visitors deciding not to put their retired batsmen back into the middle.
Tea followed, excellently organised by the home captain, in the absence of the regular catering team and the Devils had one of those choices – chase 227 from 26 overs to win, or bat out 26 overs for a draw – a losing draw, of course, in a Regional League match.
With Aemonn and Dave opening it looked as if the challenge of chasing down the total had been taken on. Growlers started well with a tight first over yielding just one run and disaster struck on the third ball of the second bowled by Marc, and perhaps one choice disappeared for the Devils. Dave let a ball go outside leg only for the blustery wind to bend it back in and caress the stumps or their base and the home team were three for one.
David and Aemonn dug in, with David hitting the ball well but was bowled when Dan, the Growler’s high-scoring opener, came on to bowl. There was then a brief flurry from the Devils as Everton hit a very brisk 17, all but one single in boundaries only to then offer a catch to who else but Dan. Brenda joined Aemonn and the choice of batting out seemed back in favour as runs were accumulated with few risks being taken and the next wicket did not fall until the start of the twenty-second over when she trapped leg before by, yes, Dan; Aemonn having retired on reaching 50.
So four down and twenty-nine balls to negotiate with three wickets in hand. However Joseph on debut misjudged his swing second ball and clipped the stumps bringing Hasmukh to join Roy with the momentum having swung to the visitors who now needed two more wickets from twenty-seven balls.
Roy was trapped LBW by Elise in the next over and so Aemonn had to return to the middle and now there were nineteen balls to bat out; single taken. Panic was now setting in for Gloucestershire as their minibus driver appeared and the departure time of six 0’clock had just passed so there was a rush on to bowl three overs, or less if possible, as fast as they could. Aemonn faced two, and Hasmukh four of the next over. Aemonn faced four in the next over and gave Hasmukh the last two.
So the choice was set, would it be yours – to have the hard hitting Aemonn on 59 from 53 balls to face the last over, or the soft hands of Hasmukh who had only faced seven. Regular followers of Metro cricket will recall the heroic defence shown by Hasmukh in snatching a draw from the jaws of a defeat at the cradle of cricket last season and so might have wanted to make use of this experience, especially with Dan bowling the last over.
They may have been right, who knows, as the Growlers were celebrating after just one ball as a swing and a miss to a straight ball brought him a fourth wicket to add to his 52 and a catch. So ended a close fought and very friendly game.
Two away games for Metro follow at Nottingham and then to Sussex for the BBS cup, while the next game at Highgate sees the Devils take on the Berkshire Stags.
Report by Paul Toplis