A Howell century and dramatic Balliol collapse amidst thunder and lightning handed New a tense 36-run victory in this cuppers clash, and possibly saw the start of a long-lasting rivalry.
Following New’s league victory, the stage was set for a grudge match. Even the weather played its part: brooding grey skies, justifying Balliol’s decision to bowl. Clark capitalised, seaming his third ball back onto the off-stump to dismiss New captain Asher for a duck. Douglas followed this with a maiden. New faced immediate worry: two overs, no runs, one wicket. Corby was batting haphazardly and calmed no nerves, scoring runs off Clark’s third over by slicing over the slips and then nearly lofting to a fielder. Howell by contrast was unflustered, steering Douglas for a single down to third man, though a damp outfield hindered boundaries. Corby overcame this with a square cut, but a peal of thunder presaged both his being bowled by Clark and the first rain break.
Upon the resumption Tomlin attempted a single and was run out by keeper Trudgian. A chink appeared in Howell’s armour when he misjudged a chip and was lucky to avoid a fielder. This though was false hope for Balliol: Howell and Gangakumaran then accumulated, fazed only by two beamers from McLeod that earned him a warning. Penfold’s darting medium-pacers were introduced; the latter batsman pulled him for 6. Gangakumaran played cleverly; in Penfold’s next over he turned a full ball over the infield for 4 then, faced with an identical delivery, opted to cut it square instead for a single, unsettling Balliol’s field. Meanwhile, Howell fell into a rhythm, hitting fours in consecutive overs. Another rain break halted this and Alla and Poole’s spin slowed New, until Howell blasted another 6. Only in Alla’s 6th over, shortly after Howell reached his 50, did Balliol regain the initiative, Gangakumaran caught for 46, the score balanced at 122-4 off 33 overs.
New then exploded: the final 7 overs yielded 85 runs, mostly Howell’s: having batted through and survived two drops he was now seeing the ball gloriously. Clark’s return was greeted with three sixes, including one pulled over mid-wicket and out of the ground. He ended the over on 94; with one more ball the odds would surely have been on him reaching his century with another maximum. As it was, he had to wait for Clark’s next over to bring up a well-orchestrated and spectacular ton, and see New to a formidable 207-4.
Balliol never really took control of their chase. Bilyard started fluently with a boundary but was promptly caught off Keyworth, while Head fenced clumsily before being bowled by Bishop: 17-2. Williams and Poole carried the score along with several boundaries. Their only worry was a run out: the umpire gave it but Asher sportingly confessed to having broken the stumps with his hands. New were in danger, conceding runs with Keyworth bowled out, until these fell: Balliol 94-4 off 26 overs. They gradually slipped further behind the required rate; with pressure mounting both teams began to make mistakes. Soutphommasane (32) and Trudgian (21), scoring slowly, spooned catches off the same Tomlin over, Alla was dropped by Dungate, New gave away several overthrows, and Asher couldn’t quite cling on to an edge from Alla, who was then snaffled at point.
With 3 overs and 3 wickets remaining Balliol needed 10 an over. Sutton though had other ideas: his pace in his 5th over increased noticeably. McLeod was bowled, Clark run out controversially, and Penfold misjudged a frantic swipe to be bowled: Balliol 171 all out. They finished well short, but a fluctuating game had ratcheted up the tension and the end, when it came, was dramatically sudden.