St David’s hold off Cleveland in thrilling county classic
Sea Breeze Oval (Cleveland won the toss) St David’s beat Cleveland by eight runs on Saturday
St David’s advanced to the Eastern Counties final after beating challengers Cleveland in one of the most dramatic county matches in recent years after controversy erupted near the end with Cleveland needing 20 runs in the final 15 minutes before the 7.20 cut-off.
Cleveland were well placed to pull off the upset with Dion Stovell and Makai Young pacing them well in their run chase with a stand of 100 in 113 minutes for the seventh wicket. The stand carried them from 95 to 195 when Stovell was caught on the mid-wicket boundary by George O’Brien.
O’Brien dropped Stovell in the same position two overs earlier off Brian Hall, before Stovell, on 94 at the time, brought up his third Eastern Counties century next ball with another six, one of eight in his knock of 102 which came off 100 balls and included seven sixes and five fours.
Stovell’s departure still left Cleveland with some work to do, and crucial time was lost as Cleveland fans came on to the field to celebrate his century.
After Stovell’s departure Young was left to take the responsibility but he was soon involved in a heated exchange after being struck in the face by an attempted run out when wicketkeeper Ricardo Brangman’s throw at the stumps hit him in the head.
Young, with blood streaming down his face, vented his anger and had to be restrained by team-mates, including captain Steven Bremar who came onto the field to calm him down. Bremar then took off his t-shirt, tore it and tied it around Young’s head to step the bleeding.
Several minutes were lost while calm was restored, time that cost Cleveland another crucial over in the end which could have helped them achieve victory before the game ended at the designed time.
Young, who had been calm and composed during the crucial partnership with Stovell, was run out two overs later on 204, still 17 runs short of victory. He scored 33 off 76 balls before being run out by O’Brien’s throw to Brangman. Young disputed that call, arguing with square leg umpire Emmerson Carrington that the wicketkeeper dropped the ball.
Set 221 to win in 51 overs, Cleveland had the worst possible start in the one over before the tea break, with O’Brien claiming an astonishing three wickets in that over.
The veteran bowler had Jabari Darrell caught first ball at second slip by Shannon Rayner low to his left, then next ball trapped Q’Shai Darrell lbw after he didn’t offer a stroke. On the fifth ball of the over O’Brien bowled Bryce Daniels who attempted a drive.
Stovel, who was at the crease by that time, lost two more partners in the twelfth over when Zeri Tomlinson, just 14 and making his debut, ran himself out after driving to captain Justin Pitcher at mid-off and taking off for a single before Stovell sent him back.
The youngster’s departure was a blow as he looked quite confident after getting off the mark with an on-drive for four. He and Stovell put on 43 for the fourth wicket before Tomlinson departed for twelve and wicketkeeper Bremar was out first ball as O’Brien picked up his fourth wicket to make it 48 for five.
Mackih McGowan used his power to smash three sixes and four fours for 38 off just 20 balls as he dominated a sixth wicket stand of 47 with Stovell before being bowled by Hall.
Stovell was later dropped in the 60s by Dean Simons on the square leg boundary off Hall before then smashing a couple of sixes in the same over to move to 75 and bring up the 150. Stovell then suffered a hamstring injury after hitting Pitcher for a six in his first over.
Pitcher, injured himself while batting after being struck on the foot during his century earlier in the day, finally brought himself into the attack but gave up 17 runs in his lone over as he was hit for two sixes and a four by Stovell.
“I thought I had calculated the scoreboard and I had bowlers that I wanted to target, but at the same time you can’t have one guy hitting boundaries,” Stovell said.
“I felt Makai played a good part and batted well but at some point he probably should have taken a chance because it is always going to be hard for one batsmen to try to score the big boundaries coming to the end.
“I thought Cleveland played good, they have a lot of maturing to do as cricketers and in some aspects they lost their heads when it came to time and actually trying to win a game.
“This is a hard loss for me because scoring a losing hundred is not something that you want.”
Stovell also scored centuries against Bailey’s Bay in 2012 (121) and 2014 (102). He has now scored 953 runs in 18 innings.
After Young’s departure for Cleveland, veteran Dennis Musson kept their hopes alive with a six off the penultimate over to leave Cleveland needing nine more off O’Brien’s last over for the victory.
However, O’Brien struck twice, bowling Tybrae Robinson and Keith Whorms in the first and third three balls of the over to seal the win..
Earlier Whorms claimed three for 32 from seven overs as second change as St David’s slumped from 27 without loss after 15 overs to to 38 for five by the 23rd.
Whorms, a medium pacer, got the breakthrough in the 16th over when Sammy Robinson hit an easy catch to Young at cover. He then removed Shannon Raynor and bowled opener Chris Douglas (26) in his next two overs to make it 34 for three which quickly became 34 for four and 38 for five as Cleveland seized the upper hand.
Captain Pitcher led the fightback for St David’s with a knock of 103 from six fours and four sixes off 121 balls which earned him the man of the match award. He and Ricardo Brangman (41) took the score from 38 to 141 while Dean Simons scored a valuable 26 at No 8 as St David’s passed 200 in their allotted 65 overs.
Pitcher was caught on the long-off boundary by Mackih McGowan on the last ball of the innings. The century beat his previous top score of 70 scored against Cleveland on his debut in 2007.
“That was a hard game, to be honest,” admitted Pitcher as he soaked his foot in ice. “We were in a spot in the early order, I got tired of hearing that I had to lead from the front so I really dug deep and found the extra for the team to pull them through.
“The ball hit me on my foot and then I started to cramp up a little bit. I needed to show that I am a batsman as well. We always knew there was going to be a partnership for them, it was just a matter of not dropping our heads.
“It’s always good to get yourself back up into the game and that’s what we did late in the innings.”