Kimberley Institute secured their NPL status in style as they recorded a thrilling one wicket victory over visiting Caythorpe to round off the season, with Alex King (33*) hitting the winning runs in an entertaining cameo.
Kimberley went into the game knowing two points were needed to secure their league status and, after Sam Ogrizovic had won the toss and put the visitors in, they had a long wait on their hands for the bonus points.
But before all that there was awonderful display of sportsmanship as Kimberley gave the retiring Darren Bicknell (85) a guard of honour as he walked to the crease for the final time – and as he built his innings it didn’t look like he’d leave it any time soon.
His opening partner Steve Allcoat (24) did give an early chance to the diving Sam Johnson at point as Ben Savage (2-33) probed away, but he couldn’t quite hold on the ball to settle the nerves.
Another chance went begging as Allcoat hit airily through extra-cover, but Savage had his deserved wicket when he held on after Allcoat had top-edged four balls later with the score on 61 in the 15th over.
The well-set Bicknell was joined by fellow pro Mathew Dowman (48) and they combined to add 105 with Bicknell happy to pick off the ones and twos whilst Dowman played the more aggressive role; that was until his attacking instincts got the better of him when he hit King (2-62) straight to Savage at point in the 36th over with the score on 166.
Two balls later it was 166-3 as Josh Mierkalns danced down the pitch to King, missed the ball, and was duly stumped by Ogrizovic and Kimberley had their first point, much to everyone’s relief.
James Hawley (11) joined Bicknell and they moved the score onto 190 in the 43rd over before Chris Glover (2-40) got in on the action by trapping Hawley lbw.
With Caythorpe now four down Kimberley had seven overs to find the fifth wicket and the second bonus point; they only needed two though as that man Glover got in on the act again when Bicknell miscued him high in the air to mid-wicket where Johnson got himself underneath it and made no mistake.
James Oldham (22) had begun to look dangerous in the closing overs as, with Richard Beaumont (16*), he looked to get Caythorpe to near the 250 mark before Savage had him caught by Bharat Popli and with that wicket and a tight final over from King the visitors finished on 238-6 – a score that felt a little under par and well within Kimberley’s grasp.
At 9-2 in the fifth it seemed a long way off as James Hemmings (4-71) had Dominic Brown and Jon Terry caught by Allcoat and Mierkalns respectively in consecutive overs, but that was before Paldip Sidhu (19) and Popli (22) – in his final game for Kimberley – added 36 to take the score to 45-2 before they fell within two overs of each other.
Not for the first time this season up stepped Ogrizovic (54) and Johnson (67) to add exactly 100 for the fifth wicket and bring Kimberley right back into the game.
Ogrizovic was first to reach the half-century mark as he clipped Hemmings for four in his final over and the 100 partnership followed two overs later in the 37th over as Hawley (2-48) was introduced to the attack. Two balls later the partnership was over though as Ogrizovic was out lbw when reverse-sweeping and it was 148-5.
With Johnson advancing to his own 50 and Dominic Wheatley (19) looking in good touch the game was still very much in Kimberley’s hands and the pair added 48 runs in seven overs to take the score to 196-5 before three wickets in three overs threatened to throw Kimberley off course; Johnson was trapped lbw by Dowman (1-22) after his introduction into the attack, James Mann holed out to Hindson and when Wheatley was run-out in the 46th it was 207-8.
Unfazed by all the wickets, King had already struck Hawley for one four and with Savage (7) added 27 priceless runs to leave 14 required from the final two overs; although, as it turned out, only one was needed as Hawley took a King-size pounding.
After King had hit a single and then a huge six, Savage was runout to send Glover out to the crease, but only to be a spectator as King sent the next ball into Kimberley to seal a thrilling victory which was celebrated long into the night, as well as the fantastic achievement of finishing eighth in the NPL with such a young team.