On a day when it felt like you were playing smack-bang in the middle of hell, the West Coast Rollers pulled off one of their great escape acts to edge Western Province Cricket Club at the Wally Wilson Oval.
The Rollers went into the match with not too much cricket under their belts but still a fair amount of confidence, having beaten the hosts for seven consecutive seasons.
But that record looked in jeopardy for much of the day, especially midway through the fourth over with the score at 7/2. Trevor Pape was the destroyer-in-chief, grabbing one of the greatest caught and bowled efforts you’ll ever see to dismiss Jordan Corfe (4), before knocking over Tom Stapylton-Smith for a duck.
Neville Cooper held fort at the other end, batting for his averages using all his experience while Charl Bester was making merry at the other end, smashing two huge sixes in his 34 off as many deliveries. But his dismissal, followed shortly by Jarryd van Wyk (3), left the visitors in some trouble at 64/4 at drinks, well below par on a low pitch and lighting-quick outfield.
Peter Muller picked up where Charl left off, taking the aggressive approach to launch a pair of massive sixes before falling a few metres short of a third, caught on the long-on boundary for 24 off 19 deliveries.
Mark Blore (4) departed soon after to leave the score at 114/6, but the Cooper brothers managed to steady the ship before the heat finally got to Neville, who was bowled by Nic Slabbert (4/35) for a heroic 46 off 78 deliveries after batting for 30 overs in 40 degrees.
Ryan and Hannes Moore put on 32 in just over three overs, but the big moment of the match (as it would eventually transpire), came off the final delivery. Michael van Dewenter missed a straight one, but so did keeper Curtis Fourie. Ruan de Jongh, by some was the fastest guy in the team, pushed Mike (who is less fast …) for a third. WPCC panicked, and two overthrows allowed the pair to complete an all-run six!
The Rollers were in great spirits and relatively happy with the 178 target we had set, but that joy soon dissipated as Junaid Hartley and Ian van Riel took a liking to the bowlers, putting on a 68 for the first wicket off just 13 overs.
As has happened so often this season, Mike (2/21 off 7) proved the difference with his bowling, utilising the slow wicket to great effect and getting the big wicket of Junaid for 40, before Hannes (6-0-27-1) had Ian caught at short mid-wicket for 30.
Tom returned for a second spell and got Curtis for 13, but WPCC still only needed just more than six an over with Nic Zaaiman looking in ominous form. However, a combination of some tight bowling and incredible fielding meant the hosts somehow went into the final over needing 18 runs.
Ryan (6-1-25-0) decided to load the offside and bring the entire legside up, and then promptly bowled a leg-stump half-volley which Nic clattered for 6. And it would have been 10 off 2 balls but for a fantastic one-handed stop at short cover by Ruan, which got Nic off strike and settled the nerves, allowing Ryan to see out the over as the Rollers won by eight runs.
A close encounter, but the Rollers snuck over the line to make it eight in a row against WPCC. Rumour has it that Neil Watson is planning a return to action to help his former charges end this barren run…
Thanks again to Curtis, Trevor, Clyde and the rest of the WPCC guys for a brilliant day of cricket played in perfect spirit. Looking forward to next season, if you can turn the sun down a little bit.