South Wilts Under 15s emerged victorious from a terrifically tense Regional Playoff Final by the slender margin of 3 runs.
The long Sunday morning trip to Dumbleton, near Evesham, to play the Gloucestershire champions was similar to the one the Under 13s had taken just a week earlier to Old Bristolians and the game followed a similar low-scoring pattern.
An availability ravaged Under 13 team had been greeted by a saturated wicket and had struggled to just 78 off their 20 overs. However, the hosts found the going just as tough as they passed the target 7 wickets down in the final over.
The wicket at Dumbleton, a picturesque ground on the Gloucestershire/Worcestershire border was damp rather than wet, with some overnight rain having gone under the covers. A difficult decision to bat or bowl first, with skipper Chris Chaddock being advised to bat first and make them chase with the pressure on. The decision though was taken out of his hands as Dumbleton won the toss and asked South Wilts to bat first.
With some accurate bowling and good fielding, the South Wilts batsmen struggled to gain any momentum reaching just 18-1 off 6 overs. Ed Wade kept the scoreboard ticking over but 31-2 at the 10 overs halfway mark suggested it would be a struggle to make three figures, which would be a reasonable target.
When Wade departed for 34 in the 15th over the score was 51-5 which then slumped to 59-8.However, due to a superb 9th wicket partnership between Josh Croom (12no) and Ed Nash (10no), South Wilts closed on 87-8 off their 20 overs (Myles Holland 3-14, Fraser Loveday 2-13).
A downcast group of players were told that they were by no means out of this game. It would be just as tough for the hosts and if we could get a couple of early wickets the pressure could tell and indeed it did. South Wilts opening bowlers Jayden Atkinson and Josh Croom struck in devastating fashion.
Croom removed the highly-rated Ed Bragg and then Atkinson struck twice more as Dumbleton lurched to 12-3 after 3 overs. The Holland boys settled the home nerves with a solid 4th wicket stand that looked to be taking the game away from the visitors. They resisted Atkinson (4 overs 2-9) and Croom (4 overs 1-20) to take the score to 59-3 off 14 overs.
With Dan Holland in control, there looked increasingly less chance for South Wilts but with the first ball of the 15th over, Ben Higton (4 overs 1-14) forced him to chop on to his stumps for 31. South Wilts saw an opening and they barged straight through it.
Skipper Chaddock came on with 23 required off 4 overs and panic set in to the batsmen. Chaddock’s (2-7) double strike left Dumbleton 68-6 with just 3 overs left.
Eddie Stagg then picked up another as only 2 runs came from the 18th over. 17 runs off 2 overs and after Myles Holland was dropped for a second time, it came down to 14 off the last over.
Holland and Timperley picked up two twos and a leg bye to leave 9 needed off 3 balls. A mishap on the boundary turned a single into a four and five were needed off 2 balls. A single to Timperley and the last ball came with Dumbleton needing 3 to tie and win on fewer wickets lost! Eddie Stagg (2-20) kept his nerve and bowled a perfect yorker to dismiss Holland for 25 as South Wilts won just 3 runs.
A delighted team now head to Millfield School on 31st July for the Regional Finals where they will play Welsh champions Lisvane for a place in the final against Hampshire’s Hook or Devon’s Exmouth.
Coaches Rob Wade and Martin Ball were highly delighted with their charges, “To come through a game like that shows immense character”, explained Wade. “They knew they were playing a strong side who were looking for a Regionals double with their 13s having already qualified,but they’re good players too and now maybe they’ll believe it. We showed tremendous depth to get to 87, numbers 9 and 10 being two of only three batsmen to make it to double figures and then the bowling was just awesome. We let them off with a couple of errors in the field but it was a great effort to win – hard for Dumbleton, who were great hosts and fought hard to the last ball, but fantastic for us.”