It was nerve shredding.  It was tense.  It went all the way down to the last over but Calmore Sports are through to the last 16 of the Voneus National Village Knockout after beating Cookham Dean by just two wickets in an epic encounter in Berkshire on Sunday.

Should it have been this tense after the home side were bowled out for 120 and Calmore had move to 48-0 in reply in ten overs?  That just isn’t the Calmore way as they put everyone on the edge of their seats as the wickets tumbled and the run-rate climbed, only for the release valve of the evergreen Mike West nicking the ball down to third man for four to seal the nail-biting victory with three balls remaining.

Skipper Mark Lavelle won the toss and put Cookham into bat on the damp wicket following the evening and overnight rains which had curtailed the hosts’ league game the day before.

The ball was immediately thrown to Steve Wright who produced yet another eight over spell of metronomic accuracy, although Cookham did get off to a solid start as captain Ben Millar (11) and former Berkshire batsman Tom Fray (14) kept out the opening bowlers to put on 33.

However, 33-0 soon became 39-5 as Wright – on his way to remarkable figures of 8-6-10-3 – and West (2-22) ripped out the top order, much to the delight of the large travelling support.

They slipped further into the mire before keeper Shahzad Asghar and number nine Simret Mangat turned the tide with a rearguard stand of 29 as Mangat clubbed two sixes in his 19-ball 17 while Asghar top scored with 35.  Ben Perry cleaned up the tail with another impressive showing, taking 3-15 as the home side were bowled out for 120 in the 40th over.

And Calmore moved comfortably to 48-0 in reply as Will Brewster and Ben Johns set about the moderate target with ease and all in the visiting camp sat back to enjoy what they thought would be an easy victory.  Not so ……

Brewster was dismissed for 26 and then Matty Taylor for 2.  Ben Johns was run out for 24 – his highest score in the tournament to date – and then Shawn Johnson made just four before he was bowled.  48-0 became 65-4 and the nerve started to set in.

A partnership of 11 was ended when Max Bailey was adjudged leg before – 76-5.  Then James Manning hit a return catch to Simret Mangat and it was 82-6.  And when Mark Lavelle was bowled for 11 – Calmore had lost seven wickets for 45 and were staring down the barrel at a remarkable defeat.

Step forward the ice cool Ben Perry and the flame-haired Mike West.  They might have only added 19 but it was a crucial, vital 19 as Perry batted out 41 balls for his 10.  It mattered not – he was still there and edging his side closer to the target which was down to just nine when he fell at 112-8.

It came down to the last over with six needed.  One of the first to West.  Then a delightful pull for three from Wright brought the target down to two.  The third ball of the over and West saw his shot fly down to the third man for four to set off wild celebrations in the green and white camp as little Calmore Sports booked their place in the last 16 and home tie with Wiltshire winners Goatacre on Sunday 4 July.

The joy was unconstrained.  “Thank you to everyone who travelled, we hope we did you proud,” beamed skipper Mark Lavelle.  “You won’t find much better than our club.”

“The supporters made a huge difference today, getting behind us when we needed them and we really did need them when the wickets started to fall.”

Club President Steve Brandes was full of praise for everyone.  “Well done everyone today, from Dave and Clare for umpiring and scoring down to the travelling fans and of course, the players, who managed to pluck victory from the jaws of victory.  The last 16 beckons!”

The last word goes to the captain.  “Today is special, enjoy it but let’s take this little club to Lord’s, shall we?”

Astwood Bank
(Worcestershire) v South Wingfield (Derbyshire)
Clipstone and Bilsthorpe
(East Midlands) v Neyland (Dyfed)
Houghton Main
(West & South Yorkshire) v Meigle (Scotland)
(Cheshire & Clwyd) v Folkton and Flixton (North Yorkshire North)
(Hampshire) v Goatacre (Wiltshire)
(Gloucestershire) v Ynystawe (Glamorgan)
Crowhurst Park
(East Sussex) v Foxton (Cambridgeshire and Norfolk)
West Chiltington and Thakeham
(West Sussex) v Stoke Green (Buckinghamshire)