Justin Pitcher and George O’Brien to the fore as St David’s hold off Cleveland in county classic
St David’s held on to the Eastern Counties Cup by the skin of their teeth today at Sea Breeze Oval, thanks to stupendous performances by their leaders.
First, captain Justin Pitcher scored a maiden century after his side had suffered a massive top-order collapse for the second county match in succession.
Then, when Cleveland were in the ascendancy — not for the first time — vice-captain George O’Brien sealed the deal with six wickets to see the holders to an eight-run win and a place in the final against Bailey’s Bay in two weeks.
That St David’s reached 220 for eight in the 65 overs allowed for the team batting first was down to Pitcher, who came in at No 7 with the holders 38 for five — dropped in that hole by a three-wicket burst from Cleveland colt Keith Whorms.
The captain put on 103 with wicketkeeper Ricardo Brangman, who bounced back from a duck in his colt appearance against Flatts by scoring a vital 41.
When he was finally out, Pitcher carried it on and finished with 103 from 121 balls, which included six fours and four sixes.
Whorms ended with three for 32 and Makai Young took two for 37.
St David’s fans could be forgiven for thinking they were now out of the woods, a sentiment strengthened immeasurably when O’Brien took three wickets in his first over to leave Cleveland five for three and in a heap of mess.
But Cleveland, conjuring the spirit of deceased former president and captain Carlton “Pluke” Smith, kept on fighting back, and in guest player Dion Stovell possessed a batsman of superior ability who could turn the game on his own.
However, Stovell, who made 102 from 100 balls, needed help. And he got it via a swashbuckling innings from Mackih McGowan, who hit a rapid 38, and then Young, who was more circumspect in making a no less valuable 33 before being run out in controversial circumstances.
They were helped in no small measure also by poor St David’s fielding, with at least three catches going to ground.
When Stovell inexplicably holed out with the result on his bat, caught in the deep by O’Brien — one of those who had earlier dropped him — the pressure was heaped on the challengers at 195 for seven. Then came the Young run-out as Cleveland were keeping one eye on the mandatory 7.20pm finish.
With nine needed off the last over and two wickets standing, O'Brien held his nerve by bowling Tybrae Robinson — who with Young had so frustrated St David’s two years ago — and Whorms to set off the celebrations and allow the islanders a moment to let out a deep exhale.
O’Brien, who came in for some tap when he wasn’t taking wickets, finished with six for 61 from 15.3 overs. But it was Pitcher, better known a frontline bowler who can bat a bit, who deservedly took the man-of-the-match honours.
• Additional reporting by Lawrence Trott