The most competitive Rutland Division One season for years received the finale it deserved yesterday (September 24).
Market Deeping needed eight runs from the final two overs with one wicket standing at Barnack, but club legend Dave Gillett was still at the crease knowing the losers of the match would be relegated.
Gillett, batting down at number nine as he was nursing a broken finger, had battled gamely for 39 on a tricky track as Deeping recovered from 88-7 in pursuit of Barnack’s 161.
Understandably he felt the need to get the last few runs himself so he swung hard towards the shorter boundary from the first ball of the penultimate over bowled by Amir Majeed.
His connection wasn’t bad, but the ball went as high as it went far and it was snaffled just inside the rope by Amir Munir, a fine catch under extreme pressure, especially as Barnack’s fielding is not a strong part of their game.
Cue wild celebrations from the home camp who had to win their final four matches just to survive. The winning margin was seven runs with Deeping now relegated despite winning seven of their 16 completed matches - they finished just 60 points off top spot, but will now go down alongside Stamford Town.
This match was controversially abandoned the previous Sunday before a ball had been bowled, a decision that would also have led to Deeping’s relegation. The Rutland League ordered a replay after discovering the correct procedure for an abandoned game hadn’t been followed.
Rather farcical events led to a social media spat between Barnack’s star all-rounder Ajaz Akhtar and Deeping followers. It probably also helped deliver a decent crowd to Barnack yesterday.
But if Akhtar was feeling any pressure he didn’t show it turning in a man-of-the-match display, following a gritty innings of 58 with a 4-42 spell with the ball when he didn’t hold back in testing the mental capabilities of Deeping players young and old.
Every wicket was greeted with howls of joy, although Barnack should feel fortunate that surefire star of the future Nick Green was adjudged caught behind off off-spinner Mohammed Shahid for 41 just as he was getting into his stride. His exit prompted a collapse from 61-2.
A superb run out executed by Abudl Shafique saw off top Deeping batsman Dave Sargeant before Gillett, aided by Mehul Adatia and Jackson Andrews, brought the visitors back in the game.
Adatia (5-28) bowled superbly on a helpful track, but a powerful 35 from Umair Mirza, who also kept wicket well, ultimately proved more decisive.
Asim Butt, a man who has played in an under 19 World Cup, reckoned it was the most pressure he’d known on a cricket field.
A. Akhtar b Adatia 58
T. Ahmed c K. Green b N. Green 6
A. Butt c C. Gillett b N. Green 5
M. Yasir b Adatia 21
M. Shahid b Adatia 4
U, Mirza c Smith b Adatia 35
A. Shafiq run out 1
A, Munir b K. Green 3
W. Butt st Sargeant b Adatia 8
M. Yaseen not out 4
A. Majeed not out 0
TOTAL (9 wkts) 161
Bowling: N. Green 12-3-40-2; J. Smith 7-0-22-0; J. Andrews 12-0-39-0; M. Adatia 10-2-28-5; K. Green 4-0-26-1.
N. Green c U, Mirza b Shahid 41
J. Smith b Akhtar 3
C. Gillett lbw Yaseen 14
D. Sargeant run out 19
C. Jones b Akhtar 0
R. Bainborough c Shahid b Akhtar 1
M. Adatia b Shahid 10
J. McDougall c A, Butt b Akhtar 2
D. Gillett c Munir b Akhtar 39
J. Andrews c U. Mirza b Munir 14
K. Green not out 0
Bowling: M. Yaseen 12-0-46-1; A. Akhtar 12-0-42-4; M. Shahid 12-1-41-2; A. Majeed 5.1-0-17-1; A. Munir 2-0-3-1.