Nassington Knights made a piece of local cricket history on Wednesday night when they lifted the Jaidka Cup for the first time following victory over favourites Market Deeping.
The Knights’ triumph in the area’s most prestigious Twenty/20 competition had everything, including huge hitting, stylish strokeplay, cracking catches, a dispute over the firmness of pink balls, a brilliant match-winning display from a 15 year-old slow bowler, batting collapses, fantastic fightbacks and some rather unnecessary sledging that threatened to develop into something even more sinister.
Even the traditional post-match team handshake crackled with testosterone-fuelled tension. But such an unsavoury end shouldn’t be allowed to ruin Nassington’s night.
They slayed the Deeping Dragons thanks to a terrific team spirit as well as the sheer class of left-arm spin bowler Harrison Craig who returned the remarkable figures of 5-8 in four overs as Deeping, who have been known to fold in Jaidka Finals before, crashed from 74-0 in seven overs to 112 all out and a 24-run defeat.
Craig, slight of build and not much taller than a set of stumps, is a mighty talent. He claimed the vital wicket of South African Emile Kriek, for the his first sub-50 Twenty/20 score of the summer, with his first ball to a well-judged boundary catch by James Pope and then persuaded key Deeping men James Morgan and Dave Gillett into rash shots that were snaffled by grateful fielders, Alex Bandaranaike’s catch to dismiss Morgan was quite brilliant and his catch to claim Dave Sargeant soon afterwards was even better.
Captain Gillett wore a thunderous look when he was dismissed, and not just because his team’s chances of a win disappeared with him.
In fact Gillett wasn’t happy before he batted as Ali Sharp’s brutal assault at the start of the Deeping innings contained four massive maximums and several lost balls, and unintentionally caused his own side a problem.
The use of a last-resort ball - softer and harder to hit - affected Deeping more than it should have done though because the change was made at a time when they could have won the match in singles.
Sharp’s entertaining thuggery demanded more intelligent support rather then regular attempts to imitate his hitting. His 49 occupied just 24 balls, but his departure to Kasim Ikhlaq led to the fall of nine wickets for just 38 runs and that was far more decisive than a soft pink ball. Pope’s 3-18 was also handy for the winners who deserve great credit for hanging in through a tough middle period of the match to claim a 10th win in 11 Twenty/20 matches this summer.
They did it without Kiwi pro Ryan Duffy who has been an outstanding addition to a team still with many players who graduated together from Nassington’s youth set-up.
Nassington also suffered a dramatic late batting collapse as they lost last five wickets for just five runs in the final two overs of their innings, three of them in four balls to Lee Peacock who finger-tipped away a chance of a hat-trick when just failing to grab a return catch offered up by young Craig.
Dan Robinson anchored the Nassington innings with 66 from 62 balls before he was out to the first ball of the final over.
Skipper Robinson started brightly and then played solidly, but the best batting came from Conor Craig, the 17 year-old brother of the man-of-the-match.
Craig, who also grabbed a superb catch, was outstanding in the semi-final and carried on in the same vein here striking three of his first five balls for four and racing to 30 from just 14 balls before holing out in the deep off Jackson Andrews. Craig senior’s departure sparked the Nassington collapse, but their failures turned out to be rather less important.
Deeping can take consolation from the bowling of their own 15 year-old Josh Smith who took 2-18 at the death and in a superb couple of catches from Gillett in the slips early on and George in the deep towards the end.
But Nassington deserved their success. They also beat Peterborough Town and Ramsey - two league champions from 2014 - on their way to the final to lay claim to being the best Twenty/20 side in the area.