After a dismal summer, having a Slam Finals day in late September seemed a tad ambitious. However, the sun shone brightly and was only slightly chilled by the early autumn air.
First up for Oakley were Dibden & Hythe, well supported by locals. Dibden batted first but The Oaks were soon setting the tone for an epic day in the field. A flying catch from Paddy Saines from the bowling of Harry Tucknott, struck an early blow.
Thereafter it was a classic 20/20 with the D&H innings swinging one way then another as both teams tried to gain momentum. Every time D&H made a surge The Oaks pegged them back with fielding and catching of the highest quality. There is so much to remember but a fantastic caught and bowled by DJ and some outstanding keeping by Paddy Saines really stand out.
Credit also to Will Cheyney, who is a big enough character to accept risking taking a bit tap in a bid to tease out batsmen who are going hard at him. His reward was three wickets and the polishing off of the tail to curtail Dibden to 146.
Could The Oaks chase it down? Well, when they lost openers DJ and Will Cheyney early, it look a tough gig. At 16-2 Michael Wood and Josh Carpenter had to rebuild. It was a big moment so early on. An outstanding partnership ensued, with both lads communicating well, blending patience with aggression in a 92 run partnership.
However, 20/20 games always seem to feature twists and turns. Josh (40) and Woody (47) went in the space of a few balls and AB departed for just one. 3 wickets for just 8 runs and Dibden were buzzing. Nick Green and Ian Bennett had to restore order to take the Oaks to the final.
Dibden Keep Fighting as Ian Strikes
They ticked along but Dibden weren’t letting up. Then, in the penultimate over, a pivotal moment. Ian got tangled up and missed out on runs. Dot ball. Pressure on. Next ball, Ian gave himself room and leathered it for six. Bold, brave, call it what you will, but it gave The Oaks breathing space.
Dibden still weren’t done. Ian got cleaned up by Tom Jones (no, not that one) leaving The Oaks needing 4 from 6. Paddy nurdled single to get Nick on strike. Nick hammered it for four and The Oaks were in ecstasy, especially the chair, who invaded the pitch with his confused dog. The Oaks were in the final!
A fantastic game.
The final was always going to be tough. The Oaks knew that they had to be right on it to stop getting blown out of the water by a big hitting side.
What followed was a fielding performance that had the chair fighting back tears of pride. Kerala piled into The Oaks from the off. However, these Oaks lads give it their all and the spirit and determination was a perfect demonstration of players who always fight for each other. Mates off the pitch, backing each other on it.
Catching and Stumping Masterclass
The display of catching even had the Hampshire groundsmen gasping in disbelief. Six outstanding catches and another 2 stumpings from the brilliant Paddy Saines kept The Oaks right in a contest. This is a Kerala team that can easily race past 200.
Kerala were shaken by such a display. It was, as we had been informed, the slower stuff that did the damage, with 4 wickets for Will Cheyney and 3 for Dan Jones. However, credit also to AB and Tall Jeff, and in particular, Harry Tucknott, who went for just 17 off his 4 overs. Still only 15, the lad Tuckers has big future.
United We Fall
Chasing 150, The Oaks were briefly in it. We fought hard against top bowling but Kerala kept the pressure on, taking regular wickets. Again, in classic 20/20 style, just as we thought we were getting ahead, Kerala turned the screw.
DJ (10) Will (11) and Woody (4) went and when key man, Josh Carpenter, holed out for 12, it looked a daunting task. A brave 30 run partnership between Ian and AB offered hope but the situation still favoured Kerala. When both departed, the innings fell away to 97 all out. We could have scored more to make it look closer but in a final, you might as well go out swinging.
Worthy Champions But Oaks Have no Ceiling
So, Kerala were worthy champions. However, leading a team of First, Second and Third XI players to the final is something Ian should be very proud of. In fact, as Oaks players and supporters, we should all be proud. If we go into next season with that type of spirit, a young and developing team has no ceiling.
I better stop now as I might cry. Well done to everyone, including supporters, photographers and our brilliant scorer, Billy Turner. We travel on with heads held high. To be the chairman of such a great bunch is very special.
Up the Oaks!