For the second time this season Warwickshire County Council Staff 2nds versus Kenilworth Wardens 4ths went down to the last ball, with a low-scoring thriller ending in a tie thanks to a tremendous act of sportsmanship from Wardens’ Steve Axcell.
The match got under way after a minute’s silence for Wardens chairman James Madley and despite the heat, the Wardens bowling unit kept things tight, allied with some good ground fielding and catching.
Combined with a pitch which was a touch slow and low and a few rash shots from the batsmen it meant the Council could only post 158 for eight from their 45 overs, Tom Jordan top-scoring with a patient 37.
All the Wardens bowlers returned tidy figures but Axcell, bowling ten overs straight to return one for 21 and 12-year-old Ben Blakemore, who took three for 31 on his senior debut to go with a catch, were the pick.
In reply, Wardens lost John Casey early for one, well caught by Brian Darby off Steve Howe and he was quickly followed by Les Reid for ten, trapped in front by Joe Talamini for the first of three wickets in an impressive spell for the big left-arm seamer.
Talamini sacrificed speed for control which coupled with big movement through the air meant he troubled all the batsmen who faced him.
He soon added Nick Lewis (28) who sportingly walked after feathering an edge through to Jordan and cleaned up Lee O’Connell for four to return three for 28 off his ten overs.
John Beezley replaced Talamini and was soon bamboozling the Wardens middle order. Big turning off-breaks accounted for Swift (0) and Hanley (1) while the dart induced an edge from O’Connell (0) through to Jordan.
With Jon Amor keeping things tight from the other end, Wardens looked to have a mountain to climb but young Ben Blakemore had other ideas.
Batting with his father James, the youngster showed no fear, displaying admirable patience and technique in playing Beezley better than many twice his age. So much so that the skipper eschewed bowling his full allocation, turning to Howe in order to find a breakthrough.
With the run rate rising the target was starting to look beyond the Wardens.
However that changed when James Blakemore was run out for 31 courtesy of a direct hit by Khan.
Number ten Axcell teed off from ball one, smoting a four past Blakemore junior’s head.
The pick off the Wardens bowling attack were also the pick of the batting and started hauling in the Council’s total with a smattering of boundaries and scampered ones and twos until Howe deceived Blakemore with a slower ball, bowling him for a splendid 26.
It was now down to Axcell and last-man Billy Ward to see if they could get Wardens home.
With ten needed off the last over, a combination of quick singles and a bludgeoned four from Axcell left Ward on strike with two needed off the last ball.
A solid connection to deep mid-wicket secured the single to tie the game and left Axcell heading back to the non-strikers end to seal the win.
In a frantic finish, with an unsighted umpire, Axcell then lived up to the spirit of the game by declaring himself short of his ground as the stumps were broken, ensuring the match ended in a tie.