Cricket: Oliver's lead role is just enough for Moddershall
WaterWorld Premier Division
A LOOK of relief was etched all over Scott Oliver's face at the end of a dramatic day as Moddershall captured the Premier League title – just.
TITLE-BOUND: Moddershall batsman Andy Hawkins plays a hook shot as his side eked out just enough bonus points to clinch the title.
Despite going down to a three-wicket defeat against Little Stoke, Moddershall eked out six crucial bonus points to clinch the title by just two.
Oliver later surveyed what he claimed to be his greatest achievement and experience in cricket.
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"That has to be my best knock I have ever played, given the pressure," he said.
"I never in my wildest dreams thought we would win the title, but we have.
"We have a star player (Imran Tahir) who provides us with the cutting edge. You win matches with a penetrative bowler and that is what Immy is.
"The batting has performed as a unit all season. We have no big guns, but they have played with character."
At 45-7 after being asked to bat first on a rain-affected pitch, Moddershall's title dreams looked to be evaporating.
But Oliver produced what turned out to be a title-winning innings to drag them back into the match.
The skipper found an able ally in wicketkeeper Alistair Whiston and the eighth-wicket pair added 72 priceless runs.
Whiston contributed just 14, but his defiant 67-ball knock enabled his skipper to keep the scoreboard ticking.
After Whiston's departure, Moddershall still needed a further eight to acquire a third batting point and it was Oliver who ensured that was achieved, before falling for 71, with the score on 125, to bring the innings to a close.
Little Stoke bowler Dan Colclough produced best-ever first-team figures of 5-27 to dismiss the first five Moddershall batsman with just 22 on the board.
Four of the wickets fell on 22 as Colclough claimed four in eight deliveries before Oliver rescued his side.
Little Stoke's response came after the use of the heavy roller to deaden the wicket, and after a decision by Moddershall to bowl with the old ball.
Professional Imran Tahir struck with on 21 to claim the first of the four wickets his team needed to ensure the title.
Sam Kelsall, who played at Lord's in midweek for the England under-15s, got Phil Walklate to edge his second delivery into Whiston's gloves and Richard Harvey fell to a good diving catch by Simon Hemmings with the total on 65.
At 4.55pm on the final afternoon of the season, the celebrations commenced with the dismissal of Dan Hancock, bowled by Tahir to claim Moddershall's fifth, and most crucial bonus point from the game.
Tahir took his season's tally to 80 wickets with figures of 5-67, but Richard Adams (25) and John Hancock (21no) steered Little Stoke to victory – a result which didn't matter in the end.
Oliver admitted he was "feeling frazzled" at the end. "Everything I didn't want to happen happened," he said. I lost the toss and we were put in on sticky dog of a wicket, while Leek were batting first. Little Stoke played it really hard. You have to take your hat off to them. They certainly didn't make it easy for us."
A delighted Tahir, who had helped steer Hampshire to the top of the LV County Championship table the day before, added: "I am very pleased.
"It has been hard work playing county cricket and then travelling here, but I love the club and it was something I had to do."