Against all the odds, Taunton CC secured both the Bristol & Somerset League title and with it promotion to the WEPL Premier 2 Division, in an incredible climax to the season last Saturday.
First on the agenda for the Gipsy Laners was a trip to Old Bristolians Westbury, where heavy overnight rain had seeped under the covers and left a somewhat damp playing surface. Having lost a potentially crucial toss, Jack Cooper’s men were therefore inevitably inserted, and it was Chris Davenport and George Webber who were given the task of safely negotiating the tricky conditions.
The two openers did so with aplomb, putting on 73 in the first 17 overs before Webber (23) was brilliantly caught at cover by Zoravar Singh off the bowling of Ashleigh Joyner. Hugh Kelly (18) looked equally assured as he helped Davenport (58) move to another excellent half-century and past 700 league runs in the process.
However, both batsmen fell in quick succession, which saw Richard Godfrey join Cooper in the middle, with the score on 125 for three in the 32nd over and the innings very much at a crossroads.
What followed was a clinical assault from Cooper, whose first five scoring shots included one boundary and three sixes, and some superb support play from Godfrey, in a partnership of 80 that completely shifted the momentum of the match in the visitors’ favour.
When Cooper was picked-up by Simon Pratt for 45, Godfrey seized the initiative and unfurled a glorious array of strokes all around the wicket. George Cook also bristled with attacking intent, smashing 30 not out from only 21 balls, as 51 runs were added in the final five overs. Godfrey was left undefeated one short of a very well deserved fifty, but a final total of 254 for four was an imposing one, indeed.
Taunton’s position was further strengthened by their inspirational skipper, Cooper (two for 22), who cleaned up Tom Leaver for a duck with a ball that nipped back a mile in his first over and then removed his counterpart, Russ Baker, for one in his next.
Ben Figueiredo (44) and Matt Tavare (34) then embarked on an entertaining third-wicket partnership of 73, putting the pressure back on Taunton’s bowlers. Figueiredo, in particular, looked a player of real class, and it took a magic delivery from left-arm spinner Ben Orr (three for 38) that found the batsman’s outside edge and was well held behind the stumps by Jon Kerslake.
From that moment on the visitors never looked back, as a remarkable spell from off-spinner, Graham Fitt, saw him snare five wickets for four runs in three overs. Along the way he was assisted by fine catches from Chris Greenwood, Godfrey, Webber and Orr respectively, before the latter completed the rout in the 29th over, as OB’s were dismissed for 106 in the 29th over.
At that point in time, Taunton had done everything that had been asked of them in achieving victory by 148 runs and a winning points haul of 22. Only then did thoughts turn to table-toppers, Midsomer Norton, who by a quirk of the fixture list were playing just a mile away at Bedminster CC.
After a little procrastination and some light post-match refreshment, the Taunton team made the short trip en masse to Bedminster, where they arrived with the home side needing 20 to win with two wickets in hand, having earlier been 50 for five chasing a target of 190.
With nerves totally shredded, three runs were still required when Bedminster’s 15-year-old tailender, George Drissell, swept a delivery from Nick Pang to the boundary. With only eight balls of a pulsating season left in the bank, the game was over.
Midsomer Norton’s race was run.
Taunton were up as champions.
The final margin was just 8 points. Joy and despair on a sporting front in equal measure.
Taunton’s celebrations started in earnest back at Gipsy Lane, but with thoughts already turning towards the exciting challenges that lie ahead in 2015 and beyond.
Cooper Associates Men of the Match: Jack Cooper and Graham Fitt
© Cricket World 2014