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Amersham snatch Thames title with final day upset
AMERSHAM CC are champions after a match that, for most who played in it, will never be repeated for drama, tension and relief.
In an almost perfect storm of sporting scenarios, the long-time league leaders met the team that had just overtaken them on the final day of the campaign.
It wasn’t even a straight, winner-take-all shootout. Amersham were 13 points behind Finchampstead and just any old win wouldn’t cut it – they needed to win big.
Winning the toss was the first significant hurdle and Amersham fell at it when Luke Jackson lost it.
Finchapmstead, the most domimant batting side in the Thames Valley League, strutted out to the middle knowing 175 runs would win them the league, regardless of what else happened.
Facing the first ball was Kiwi opener Rob O’Donnell, with 780 runs to his name this season and an average of 97.5.
Jackson said: “It was a good batting wicket and a fast outfield, so the chances of keeping them under 175 seemed really slim.
“We were deflated after losing the toss, but then Nathan Lines got their overseas player with the first ball of that match.
“It was a great start considering he’s got 100 just about every time he’s played, and all of a sudden we thought we were back in it again.”
However, Finch rebuilt and at 90-2 the game looked up for Amersham.
Jackson said: “I’d have put our chances then at about 10-1 or 15-1. It didn’t feel very likely at the time and at that point I was focused on getting five points.
“I knew Chesham were chasing and I was focused on keeping second place more than getting first.
“Finch looked like they’d get 175 easily, but then they got stuck a bit and needed 20 off the last over.
“They started six, four and I thought, ‘oh god’, but they didn’t quite do it.”
Finch were eventually limited to 169-9, leaving the door slightly ajar for the hosts, but to barge through it they’d need to chase down the runs for the loss of three wickets or less.
That moved from possible to probable as Amersham moved to 120-0, but three wickets fell in a cluster and the hosts were back walking the tightest of tight ropes.
Jackson said: “Finchampstead were really up for it. They’d been playing ‘Under Pressure’ in the changing room between innings and once we lost a few wickets they were getting quite vocal.
“Every ball and every run was incredibly tense.”
But after Rob Viney’s 54 and an unbeaten 77 from Bruce Freiderichs, Amersham wrapped it up when Adam Viney smashed the ball to the ropes.
Jackson said: “It was so tense right to the last ball, and then there were huge celebrations. It all happened very quickly.
“Andy hit the last ball for four, but even then if he’d have nicked it we’d have lost the league. I’ve never played in a match like it.”
Amersham collected 20 points from the win, with Finchampstead taking seven to leave both sides level on 305 points from their 18 matches.
When the points are level, league regulations stipulate that the team with the most victories must take the honours.
However, Finch and Amersham both have 11 wins this season, meaning the title went down to the team with the most wins batting first.
Jackson said: “We played really badly in four or five games and I was thinking you can’t expect to win the league if you do that.
“We certainly made it hard for ourselves by scoring so few points in the games we didn’t win.
“But we did win 11 of our 18 matches and we beat the second-placed team twice, and beat them well the second time, so maybe we deserved it.”
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