HEARTBREAK FOR GARGOYLES IN RETURN THRILLER
Alstonefield and Brailsford cricket clubs produced another riveting and high quality contest on Sunday, at the picturesque Brailsford ground. The crowd was treated to just short of 400 runs and a thrilling finale where both teams could win or lose, right up to the penultimate over. In the end, it was the streetwise Brailsford who won by one wicket. Another defeat for the Gargoyles, but another excellent team effort and some strong individual performances ahead of the match against Ashbourne this coming Sunday.
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The Gargoyles batted first and with some style. Andy Bray and Dave Singleton simply picked up where they left off last week, playing aggressive, authentic cricket shots. The run rate was consistently above 5 per over and the stand had reached 99, when Singleton, who had scored most of his seemingly effortless 45 in singles, attempted one too many and was run out by a direct hit. Bray went on to complete another superb unbeaten 50, as he cements his position as the club’s ‘Mr Reliable’. So, at the half way stage, the Gargoyles were nicely positioned at 102 for 1, with the stylish aggression of Harry Jones and Chris Wilkins in the middle. Both were looking good before both mistimed drives in their teens, and were caught. Captain Simon Smith was clearly determined not to let the innings falter and he produced his best innings of the season with some trademark straight hitting and quick running between the wickets. He was out for 29, bowled by the excellent Van Niekerk. The other bowler to catch the eye was young Healey, whose leg spin had all the Gargoyles batsmen groping and who returned 4 for 27 off his 7 overs. With some final flourishes, the Gargoyles reached 196 for 7 off their 35 overs.
Brailsford started their innings with real intent, with Van Niekerk in particular punishing the wayward opening attack. They had reached 46 off the first 4 overs. Smith was quick to make his bowling change, bringing on Andy Bray, who immediately stemmed the flow of runs with his deceptive loop. This gave Tony Guest at the other end a fillip, and he too started to threaten the stumps. Both were rewarded with wickets, thanks to a rare but astonishing catch from Singleton and a brilliant diving effort from Chris Wilkins, to remove Van Niekerk for 42. The strength of the Brailsford batting line up was immediately evident when Dan Bould joined his father Kevin in the middle and together they gave a masterclass in playing straight and timing. Without risk, they put on over 70 for the third wicket, before Wilkins produced the perfect slower yorker to bowl the senior Bould for 31. More firepower emerged from the pavilion in the imposing shape of James Dakin, who had destroyed the Gargoyles attack a week ago. He again looked in pulsating form, until Will Siddons, in his most accomplished bowling performance for the club, knocked back his off stump for 23. Maybe there was a glimmer of hope? Captain Smith threw Ian McKay the ball and off his abbreviated short run, things started to happen. Getting the ball to cut back off a length, he took two wickets in two balls in his first over, both bowled. When in his next over he did the same to end a superb 46 by Dan Bould, there were still 27 runs needed off 5 overs, with only 2 wickets remaining. There was tangible tension now and the result was, for the first time, hanging in the balance. It’s at times like these, that cricket needs a cool head and on this occasion, that head belonged to Mr. Dakin senior. With calm assurance he manipulated the ball into gaps and punished anything on his legs. Even when Kunar was brilliantly run out by Harry Jones, leaving the Gargoyles just needing one wicket, he never lost control and hit the winning runs in the penultimate over.
It is hard to avoid the clichés, but there was no disgrace in losing this wonderfully competitive game of cricket. Nonetheless, a return to winning ways will be welcome.
ALSTONEFIELD CC 196 FOR 7 LOST TO BRAILSFORD CC 197 FOR 9 BY 1 WICKET