With promotion secured, we travelled to Horley amid talk of reversed batting and bowling orders. That was, however, unlikely to happen considering Horley were an unknown quantity after the home game fell victim to the weather and recently they had beaten league leaders Cairns Fudge. That we arrived at the ground at all was something of an achievement because the postcode on the OCA website took us to a village a few miles away. It was worth the trip though, with the ground attractively situated and the covers just being removed as we arrived.
In cloudy, blustery conditions Colin won yet another toss and elected to field with Ryan and Grant opening the bowling. Pretty standard so far, but the first over was far from standard as Horley opener Hart glanced and cut his way to 18 – yes 18 – off Ryan’s first six deliveries. We kept our composure though, and soon we had reined them in as the bowlers found their range on a harder pitch than we had faced for a number of weeks. Grant bowled tightly with little early reward, but laid the foundations for Ryan to force the other opener to edge to Ben. Horley number 3 Smith immediately looked in good touch, driving impressively through the covers and playing a classy flick over midwicket. We were all relieved when Ryan got one to jag back down the slope and hit the top of his middle stump.

Grant got a deserved wicket when the becalmed Hart edged behind, and the Horley middle order proved to be effective without it ever looking as though we were out of the game. There was one comedy moment as they tried to run an overthrow despite the ball being collected by short midwicket, and one of the season’s easier run outs was completed. On another day we, and Barry in particular, might have got wickets much earlier through catches going to hand or inside edges going onto stumps, but it wasn’t to be.
Colin took advantage of our strength in depth by trying a number of bowling options, with Mabbs picking up one wicket and a rare Saturday turn of the arm for Ian. As the innings drew to a close the batsmen hit out and it took the return of Ryan to snare some more wickets, including a superb caught and bowled, and he finished with 5-53, a fine effort after the tap received in the first over. Our target for victory would be a substantial 218, although with the pitch offering good carry and the fast outfield, it wasn’t out of the question.

Teas were absolutely splendid with an extensive selection including, pizza, fruit kebabs, flapjacks and scones with jam, cream and strawberries – definitely worthy of the prestigious award of four teapots.

The batting order boasted a new opening partnership as Ben was partnered with Nordic instead of chief blocker NiB in an effort to get the innings off to a fast start. NiB didn’t have much time to enjoy life in the middle order as Ben spooned the second ball of the innings to point, and he started scratchily as his first 6 runs came off edges through the third slip area. Nordic batted in trademark fashion, with straight balls defended and any width on the off side brutally exploited. He eventually chipped a catch to cover which was taken at the ninth attempt and departed for 17.

Barry hit a glorious off drive to the boundary off his first ball and was going well on 15 until he clipped a low chance to midwicket which was well taken by Hart off the bowling of Beck, who offered some justified retaliatory chirping as Barry departed. The skipper then came to the crease and played watchfully against the accurate bowling of Beck and Pearce. That all changed after drinks when he bashed 18 off an over from Pearce, and the momentum that was lacking before drinks had returned. Hart then brought himself on to bowl and proved a canny customer who was difficult to get away.

After being instructed to bat through and informed that it was Beck’s last over, NiB took the moronic decision to come down the pitch and was beaten by the flight and turn, and was stumped for 55. Not great, and things took a turn for the worse a couple of overs later as Colin was completely deceived by Hart and was stumped by a country mile for 34, with the target still around 80 runs away. After Ian came and went for a brisk 11, this left Ryan and our man for a crisis, Dave Summerset, with quite a job on their hands.

They started in sensible fashion by taking a look at the bowling and running aggressively, albeit with one mid-pitch committee meeting which almost proved terminal. Ryan then started to open up as the quicker bowlers returned from the pavilion end, and he unfurled some classy drives. Summerset then got in the act with a couple of boundaries of his own, including the Saturday debut of his flick through square leg for four. They got us to within touching distance of the target until Dave flicked a delivery over midwicket which was caught low down on the boundary in excellent fashion, and we wondered if we would fall at the last hurdle. Ryan had other ideas though, as he lofted a big six into the nearby field to ease concerns about run rate. Two were needed from the last over, and after blocking the first two deliveries Mabbs cut a four to take us to victory by three wickets, with Ryan finishing on a run-a-ball 55 not out.

Overall a fine effort to chase down a big target, but we were forced to work hard by a Horley side who played hard but fair, including all batsmen walking, and were very generous in their post-match comments. We wish them all the best for next season.

Man of the match – unanimously Ryan for five wickets and a fantastic 55* to win the game
Champagne moment – Ryan again, for his six or his catch
Pig’s ear – was almost Ian for a stroppy walk to the park bench to sulk after his dismissal, but this was outvoted by the spot that Grant was sporting on his nose, which could have illuminated an aircraft hangar, or been seen from space