By Dan Carpenter
Melksham 1s secured their Division 4 status during the final weekend of the season despite falling to yet another defeat away to Royal Wootton Bassett 2s; with a battling performance against the league runners-up as well as other results falling in their favour meaning the team can breathe a sigh of relief at the end of a difficult season.
The visitors began the day in brilliant fashion when, having lost the toss and put into bat first, openers Tom Wallis and Matt Hunt got off to a ferocious start; reaching a total of 30 runs inside 5 overs by regularly despatching the Bassett bowlers to the boundary. The sublime-looking openers kept the momentum going in the next few others but were then halted in their tracks by a short but heavy shower of rain which forced play to stop for an hour. After play then resumed the run-rate never quite reached match of the early overs, and soon after Hunt was dismissed for 24 to leave his side 58-1 off 12.
Russell Collins came to the crease hoping to join Wallis in capitalising on the solid start, but he soon followed Hunt back to the pavilion having made just 9. Captain Joe Veacock was next in. He opted to take a considerably more cautious approach than his predecessors, whilst Wallis continued to keep the scoreboard ticking over. By the 25 over Melksham had reached 114 for 2, but when Veacock tried to accelerate the run-rate he ended up being bowled for 15. Wallis remained at the middle for a few overs more; but in the end he was removed for 75 in the 33rd over, triggering a mad scramble for runs in the last 12 overs as the travelling side tried to claw their way towards a defendable total. Wickets fell regularly during this final period of the innings; but in the end, Melksham did finish with a respectable total of 193-9: Daniel Carpenter and Matt Lee making the most notable contributions with 18 runs each.
Due to the earlier rain delay a few overs were lost from the second innings, and as a result Wootton Bassett were set a revised target of 160 off just 37 overs. The lower target did not appear to faze Melksham, however. After successfully building up some early pressure with some exceptional bowling, openers Lee and Gary Ings struck with an LBW each to leave the hosts 17-2 off 8 overs. The former bowled his allotted overs straight through, in the end finishing his spell having conceded just 13 runs off 9 overs including 4 maidens. Towards the end he also claimed his second wicket which, along with a wicket from first-change bowler Liam Merrett, put Melksham in brilliant position with their opponents struggling on 39-4 after 14 overs.
Unfortunately for Melksham, Wootton Bassett’s 4th wicket pairing of Harry Griffin and Navjot Chahal stood firm after this difficult period for their side. They quickly rebuilt the innings and began to swing the balance of the tie back in host’s favour. It was not until the 29th and 30th overs that Melksham would strike again, with Daniel Carpenter claiming two catches in consecutive overs off the bowling of Joe Veacock and Chris Long; including the crucial scalp of Griffin, who finished on 43. A brilliant finish to the game now looked to be on the cards, with Bassett needing 49 overs from the final 7 overs; whereas Melksham required 4 wickets.
Chahal remained at the crease though, which would prove to fatal for Melksham’s hopes of ending the season in winning fashion. He held his nerve during the closing stages, whilst simultaneously not afraid of going big to put the pressure on the away side. In the end he and skipper Jaspal Chahal saw their side over the line with just 2 balls to spare; leaving Melksham despairing at having just missed out on what would have been a well-deserved win after a fantastic team effort from the lads.
In the end, other results in the league meant Melksham’s final day defeat did not condemn them to relegation to Division 5. After last season’s fine effort to get the team promoted, it would have been a great shame to see those efforts rendered obsolete by going straight back down again. Fortunately that is not the case and the team lives to fight another day in division 4; and whilst certainly the season just gone does leave a few questions to be asked, there is also good reason to believe next year that we can pull together and enjoy a far more successful campaign.