Broadstairs travelled to OD CUACO this week for the penultimate game, knowing a win would pretty much cement their promotion hopes but a loss would surely mean another year in Division 2.
Matt Hardy lost the toss and we were asked to field; it was not a bad toss to lose, the wicket being slightly sticky after some midweek rain and the presence of some green grass might give us some assistance.
The usual opening bowlers of Brad and Chris Flint opened-up, the first four overs produced three maidens as both bowlers were finding both swing and seam and managing to beat the bat on numerous occasions. Brad made the breakthrough in the fifth over when he bowled Parr with an inswinger.
Flinty was bowling superbly at the other end but without much luck until he bowled Webster in his fifth over. After 10 overs OD were 38-2. Their dangerous overseas player was still at the crease though. George replaced Brad and struck in his second over, removing Batten caught behind by Bailey and when Flint (10-1-23-2) struck the pads of Pienaar and the umpire raised his finger we had them 58-4. Webster then hit one straight to Hogben to give George his second wicket.
At 81-5 we were into the middle order, the game was crying out for some left arm spin, but with Chris injured and unable to play, we turned to the pace of Elliot Fox and spin of Jay. At this point the game drifted slightly, maybe we thought we were going to pick up wickets, maybe it was just good batting from Cuaco, but Sanders and Ainger dug in and gave us nothing in terms of chances. Nathan replaced his brother and bowled well; one thing we've missed this year is his skiddy deliveries rushing the batters. Two big shouts failed to get the umpire to raise his finger. With 20 overs to go the game was poised at 111-5, but an injury to Bailey who had to go off the field, meant Hardy took the gloves and our passionate supporter James Bond donned the whites for the closing overs.
George came back to finish his overs and cleaned Ainger up with a full delivery and with 7 overs to go OD were 167-6. We were thinking 200 or under would be chaseable, the wicket had flattened out, the outfield was quick although not a huge boundary, the outfield was so dry and bumpy that it wasn't easy for ground fielding.
France and Sanders used this to their advantage, managing to accumulate 81 runs from the final 7 overs! 4 maximums mixed in with plenty of singles and two's and the odd boundary meant we faced a tough task of chasing this down.
36 extras, 26 of those being wides was a negative, Brad being the main culprit. Sanders finished unbeaten on 70 and France on 37.
Despite the cricket gods being against us most of the week and during the game we were determined to have a good go at this, we had nothing to lose.
Jay and Nathan opened up but it was Jay who fell in the third over, caught at second slip. Alex joined Nathan and the pair went about building a solid partnership, finding boundaries and working the singles. After 10 overs we were 46-1. The introduction of spin slowed the run rate slightly but it was imperative that we didn't lose a wicket. At drinks after 17 we were nicely set at 67-1 and then at halfway 98. 150 required from 25 overs with 9 wickets in hand.
Now, games in the past would have seen us collapse, to 50-4 or 5 and then struggle to muster any sort of reply but we've turned that corner. Nathan brought up his sixth half century of the season, another fine season from the opening bat but was bowled by the off spin of Ainger not long after for a well-made 57 and a stand of 94 with Alex had ended.
When Alex (37) fell two overs later caught at long off followed by Elliot (11) caught at slip we were 126-4 from 32. 122 required from 18 overs. A similar situation to the reverse fixture and it was Hardy and George who nearly got us over the line then and they were at the crease now. Both looked comfortable, playing the sweep against the spinners and trying not to let the run rate get too high. But with 12 overs remaining George (18) was bowled, Bailey(13) went out to bat, injured but wanting to play his part, hitting a maximum but falling to a catch in the deep and when Hardy (33) was bowled by a quick delivery from Batten which saw the ball nearly go for six off middle stump it was more or less game over. After the umpire had found a new middle stump to replace the broken one, Flint (4) and Ellison (2) were both cleaned up by Batten and we had fallen 44 runs short.
Although there’s still one round of matches remaining, it's highly unlikely that Whitstable will lose to Tenterden. However we will be praying to the rain gods that there's a localised shower and it stays clear of Broadstairs while we beat Sidcup, who are themselves needing a win to try and stave of relegation.
Please come and show your support for the final league game next week, the bar will be open as always. It is fantastic to see the ground each week and the supporters dotted around the ground, we do really appreciate it and it does make a big difference and who knows, maybe Tenterden can surprise those oystermen.