By Dan Carpenter
Melksham CC saw their winning start to the season come to an end in the most bitter fashion, enduring a 1-wicket defeat on the road to Beckington 2s in a game which at one point they appeared to have all but won.
The visitors won the toss and opted to bat first in a match which got off to a frenetic start. Opener Matt Hunt wasted in no time in racking up some early runs, but the early dismissals of Tom Wallis (4), Daniel Carpenter (0) and then Hunt himself (24) meant that Melksham found themselves on the back foot early, despite racing to 33 runs in the first 7 overs. The 4th wicket pairing of Ross Holbrook and Russ Collins did stabilize the innings for a time, but when Collins was later trapped LBW for 14 with the score on 63-4, the advantage was still firmly with Beckington.
Joe Veacock subsequently joined Holbrook at the crease, and the captain gradually wrestled the initiative back for his side. The duo kept the scoreboard ticking over without any major spells of aggression. By the 30th over Melksham appeared to have a solid foundation going into the final third of the innings, with the score board reading a reasonably healthy 135-4. Calamity would strike however when the dismissal of both batsmen in quick succession (Holbrook for 48, Veacock for 38) triggered a batting collapse. Only Mark Mullis (12) and Chris Singh (14) made contributions of any note as the innings came to a juddering halt, finishing on an ultimately disappointing 172 all out off 40.2 overs.
Despite this ignominious end to their batting performance, Melksham had the belief that their total was defendable. This belief was thoroughly justified in the opening stages when Matt Lee and Liam Merrett produced a typical display of tight opening bowling. With the pair bowling their maximum allotted overs straight through, by the 18th over Beckington were struggling on 55-4; Lee and Merrett having claimed 2 wickets each.
The home side certainly were not prepared to give in yet though, with first change bowler Chris Singh on the receiving end of some impressive hitting as Beckington began to strike back. At the half-way point of the innings the tie appeared to be swinging back in the host’s favour, but Singh eventually recovered from his difficult start to claim 2 quick wickets; indebted to catches from Daniel Carpenter and Tom Wallis. Beckington were once again in trouble on 96-6, and now Freddie Honeybone played his part with 3 quick wickets of his own to further compound their worries. With their opponents now floundering on 108-9 off 28 overs, Melksham could be forgiven for thinking that a third win of the season was in the bag.
Although from this point Beckington still needed 64 runs to pull off an unlikely victory, the one factor still in their favour was time: 17 overs still remained. The batting side’s 10th wicket pairing used this to their advantage, happily defending the good balls whilst punishing the bad ones to full effect. Eventually the pressure began to fall upon their opposition and slowly but surely began to take its toll. Bowling became more wayward and errors began to be made in the field. Seemingly out of nowhere what had previously appeared to have a secure triumph for Melksham was now tragically slipping from their grasp. By the 38th over Beckington were on the brink, and soon after crossed the line to complete what was, for them, a brilliant comeback. The Melksham players left the field feeling heartbroken and dejected after what was a superb and at times unpredictable game of cricket. They will be hoping to bounce straight back with the visit of Biddestone 3s next weekend.
It was a sadly familiar tale for the 2s, who once again saw a solid display with the ball undermined by their struggles with the bat; slumping to a 57-run defeat at home to Marlborough 3s. Andy Footner (3-6 off 9) and Tom Watling (3-18 off 9) starred with the ball in the early stages to reduce Marlborough to 68-8 off 32 overs. The visitors were able to stage a recovery late in the innings though, finishing on 148-8. This total proved to be more than enough as the 2s were restricted to yet another below-par total of 90; with Ian Doyle the only batsman to trouble the scorers with a dogged 49 not out. The 2s will be looking to come back from yet another defeat with a trip to Potterne 4s next week.