THERE was a dramatic finish at The Green on Saturday as Willoughby edged out visitors Byfield in the South Northants Premier Division.
As finishes to games go, this was certainly one of the more nerve-racking, but when teams need a bit of experience to guide them home, Willoughby had the benefit of a couple of old-heads at the crease to see it through.
Another beautiful summer’s day at The Green greeted the arrival of mid-table Byfield and the halfway point of the season.
Having won the toss, Willoughby selected to bowl first and it looked a good decision as the visitors were restricted to 147-9 from their allotted 45 overs.
Lee Johnson and Jake Quinney opened the bowling attack with both bowling good lines and lengths, Johnson finishing 2-16 off a 12-over spell with five maidens.
Previously-retired James Barnwell made his return to The Green bowling a spell of six overs picking up 2-24.
Nikesh Mistry picked up 1-26 off seven, whilst Ashley Rayner got into the tail with 4-32.
Ross Atkins with 31 and Andrew Watts’ 23 the top scores for the visitors.
So on paper a target that was certainly reachable, if some sensible batting could be applied.
However, the hosts were soon on the back-foot as Hassan Nawaz missing a straight one being bowled before Ian Andrews was rather questionably given out LBW shortly after.
Rayner and young Tom Stevenson came in to steady the ship and picked up the run rate, the former looking in good touch clipping away several boundaries until he found a fielder and departed proceedings.
Captain Ben Hollis joined Stevenson in the middle, the latter seeing the balls well and picking off the bad ones and together with Hollis the pair steadied the innings with plenty of overs in hand.
Their useful stand was only undone when Stevenson was unlucky to play onto his stumps having made a well-crafted 30, which brought Ryan Perry to the crease.
However, his stay was a short one as he lasted three balls before being bowled by a peach of a ball which clipped the top of off-stump sending the bails flying.
Hollis was then joined by 15-year-old Quinney and together the pair were watchful initially, before pushing the score along with some confident running, before Hollis upped the tempo, scoring 24 off one over including three maximums.
But the skipper went for one big hit too many and was finally caught in the deep after making a fine 47.
At this point, Willoughby needed 23 runs off 19 overs but with only four wickets left.
Disaster was to strike further as Quinney was then bowled from a dipping full toss having made a well worked and valuable 15, before worse was to follow when Matt Goss came and went without scoring.
Mistry arrived and looked tidy going into double figures and in the process edging Willoughby closer to the target, but he too was bowled which brought together the experienced heads of Johnson and Barnwell for the final wicket with eight runs still required.
The pair – with a combined age as Johnson put it of nearly a century – were watchful and rode their luck with a couple of edges, but having worked around a series of singles and the occasional two, the pair brought the scores level, to cheers of relief that at least a tie was in the bag and defeat had been avoided.
Those cheers were rang out further three balls later with the pair scampering a leg bye with four overs remaining to see Willoughby to their first home win of the season.