A very fit and youthful looking Saints side arrived at Groot Drak on Thursday 23 February after a 20 year absence from the club. Groot Drak’s motley crew were right to be nervous.
Honouring the age-old tradition that any touring side will always bat first at Groot Drak, Saints skipper Jamie Briant was more than happy to get his lads padded up and ready for action.
Being forced to open the bowling up the slope, Jannes Mouton (0/32 from 5) struggled for rhythm, but had the batsmen struggling when he did find a good area. Down the hill, Craig McNaught had a far easier job and bowled a very tidy line and length, conceding just 5 runs in his 4 over spell, with two maidens to boot.
The Saints opening batters were steady and gave no chances away, achieving an unbroken 50 run stand after 11 overs.
A change of bowling brought the breakthrough, with young Kaydon Cloete on debut for Groot Drak, who, while a touch expensive, bowled well for his 1/25 from 4 overs.
Veteran seam bowler, Colin Myburgh’s first over went for 12 runs, but found his mojo quickly and conceded only 5 more runs in his 4 over spell.
After drinks, spin twins Alan Sherratt and Adam ‘Eddie’ Cloete got stuck in and caused some headaches for the middle order. A quicker ball from Alan had the dangerous Ward Manning trapped LBW for 17 runs. While going at more than 8 an over, Alan somehow managed to bowl his quota of overs and posted returns of 1/58 from 7. Eddie was super economical at the other end and unlucky not to pick up any wickets, as his spell of 7 went for 37 runs.
Wickets were hard to come by, so when Claude Chantler (1/9 from 2) clean bowled Ben Hanson with a long-hop, just after going to his 50, the Drakies were feeling a bit more positive.
Also making his debut for Groot Drak was Nic Slabber who was cruelly asked to bowl at the end of the innings and gifted 19 runs in his two overs.
After their 35 over allotment, Saints had 204 runs on the board. There was consensus among the players that this was just about par for the conditions.
Changing things up at half time, Lejean Pieterse treated the players to an incredible lunch braai that saw the Brits head back several times to refill their plates with the delicious food on offer. A quick salute to the flag along with the customary brandy imbibement and both teams were ready for the second half of the game.
The run chase started slowly for the home team. Claude faced just two deliveries and was bowled out cheaply, with Nic Slabber taking his time and grinding out 19 runs from 44 balls.
In at three, Gert Uys was never going to die wondering ‘what if?’ and, by his standards, scored a very reserved 18 from 18 balls, before offering up a simple caught and bowled chance. Gert’s wicket precipitated a further collapse with Wessel Lourens and Alan Sherratt each only managing two runs, exposing both the skipper and the chairman at 6 and 7 early on.
Craig McNaught (12 from 12) was looking set before he was run out thanks to some terrific fielding at midwicket, while Jono Boulton (8 from 18) fell to a sharp catch behind the stumps.
Groot Drak were in all sorts of trouble at 64 for 7 after 16 overs.
Never one to lie down, Colin Myburgh spearheaded a terrific comeback with the bat, with Kaydon Cloete keeping him company at the crease. Colin smashed arguably his finest innings for many seasons at Groot Drak, but finally succumbed to a classic catch at backward point. Colin departed for 70 runs from just 54 balls and Groot Drak were back in the hunt.
Kaydon picked up the pace nicely, while batting alongside an injured Jannes Mouton. With 5 overs left in the game, Groot Drak needed 53 runs with only 2 wickets in hand. The game was on a knife edge.
Kaydon kept his cool and found the occasional boundary to get the home side close. The 33rd over went for 15 runs, the 34th for 14. Groot Drak had 200 on the board, needing 5 for victory from the last over. Calm as you like, Kaydon Cloete (38* from 42) tied the scores with 2 balls remaining in the game and pushed the next delivery to the fence. Groot Drak had done what seemed impossible just a few overs before and eked out the narrowest of narrow victories.
After a quick history lesson on the pitch, the teams assembled in front of the clubhouse to enjoy a fines meeting for the books. While our new friends from the UK had to depart early, we thoroughly enjoyed their company and the incredible day of friendly cricket that transpired.
Best of luck to the Saints on the rest of their SA tour – we look very much forward to welcoming them back sooner rather than later!
Man of the match & lifesaver: Colin Myburgh
Match report by Craig McNaught