The celebrations at Bovingdon lasted deep into the night after they clinched the Division 7B title on Saturday with a dramatic home win over Old Owens II on the final day of the season.
Bovingdon knew that they needed to overturn an 18-point deficit from their rivals on the day in order to win the league, which meant restricting Old Owens to 12 points or less – a tall order as they hadn’t taken less than 17 points in their 16 completed fixtures in the season to date.
Bovingdon captain James Hazelton won the toss and asked the visitors to bat. Superb opening spells from Nick Baxter and Jack Blackburn restricted scoring opportunities for the visitors with the new ball, both picking up one wicket through edges to the gloves of Hazelton behind the stumps. This left them as the top two wicket takers in the league this season with 37 and 35 wickets respectively.
The pressure was maintained by the first change bowling partnership of Tom Cowley and Tony Shand, who both picked up one wicket apiece and kept things tight.
Old Owens looked in real trouble at 43-4 in the 20th over; the partnership for the fifth wicket was 46 before both players were eventually removed by Luke Stickland’s off spin.
Wonderfully calm fielding from Graham Fayers secured a run out and Michael Buttleman bowled the returning opener with a yorker before Stickland (4-15) took the final wicket to bowl Old Owens out for 123.
The quality of this Bovingdon fielding performance was epitomised by the ground fielding of Paul Sniders and two catches apiece from Paul Fidler and Ian Arnold, and is put into perspective by the fact that Old Owens’ lowest score of the season previously was 191 in the reverse fixture.
However, the Bovingdon run chase got off to the worst possible start as Blackburn was removed with the first ball of the innings for the second week in a row.
Runs were very hard to come by for Buttleman and Ian Arnold as a result of fine opening spells by an Old Owens bowling attack who hadn’t failed to take 10 wickets in the second innings of a match all season.
The pair got their side halfway to the required total for victory before Buttleman was removed for 27; a score which kept him at the top of the league run scoring charts with 577 – 32 clear of his opening partner Blackburn.
Arnold was joined by Baxter and the pair saw Bovingdon up to within 25 runs of victory. However, the Old Owens bowling attack showed why they had such an incredible record with a superb fightback which saw 100-2 quickly become 111-6 as they removed Baxter (17), Sniders (1), Fayers (5) and Arnold (47) who had batted beautifully throughout.
Stickland struck a couple of boundaries to get within one shot of victory before Cowley was removed with the score on 121.
Hazelton joined his vice-captain at the crease and the pair showed great patience in waiting for the right ball to secure the victory, and with it the league. A magnificent drive from Stickland sparked elation on the boundary edge and it was fitting that the leaders saw the team home, winning the league by four points.
This is Bovingdon’s fourth promotion campaign in the last six seasons, and the league title is the first in their 131-year history.
Sunday’s friendly fixture at Jordans Taverners ended in a seven-wicket defeat. Bovingdon scored 157-9 in their 40 overs, but the home side knocked off the runs with nine balls to spare for the loss of only three wickets.