Every cricket match writes its own script and after tea on Saturday afternoon, Ilkeston Rutland fans thought they might be watching a feel-good, Boy’s Own adventure story.
Their hero, David Smit, was exploding in such spectacular style that the players on the neighbouring pitch had stopped to watch.
After reaching his century from 88 balls, he had stepped on the gas and his next 83 runs had taken just 45 deliveries and put Rutland on the cusp of the seemingly impossible.
With the last over commencing, they required 14 runs to overhaul the 307 set by defending champions Lullington Park.
Smit launched the first ball from spinner Paul Dawson for a huge six, his eighth, and then took two from the next delivery to bring his side to within one hit of the win.
But instead of a happy-ending, the script threw up the cruellest of twists. Smit, aiming to end the match with another maximum, was bowled for 191.
As he walked off, mortified, the last pair continued to believe in the dream.
So it was that when last man Danny Bobeszko steered the penultimate ball into a wide open space they set out for a two that would leave them needing four from the last ball.
The dressing-room had other ideas and shouted a collective ‘No’ which caused Bobeszko to stall and a stomach-churning run out to ensue. Lullington Park had won a classic by four runs.
It had all seemed a lot easier for them at tea having plundered 307 for 7 from their 50 overs after being invited to bat on a belter of a pitch with a lightning fast outfield.
Their openers Andrew Goodwin and Richard Green set the tone for the day with a 182-run stand for the first wicket. Green went on to make 134, his first Premier League ton, with 18 fours and two sixes.
It was a tremendous knock and on most days it would have been the stand-out performance but on Saturday it was simply the warm-up act for Smit.
His 191 featured 21 fours as well as the eight sixes and saw him pass 10,000 Premier League runs – one of only three players to accomplish this.
He was helped by a fine innings from Alex Park, who recorded his first half century for the club in registering 52.
They deserved to be a match-winners but in the final act Smit was gunned down by spinner Paul Dawson, the silent assassin, whose 8 for 53 ultimately proved decisive.
Rutland’s 2nd XI crumpled to defeat against Marehay 2nd XI on the Rec.
The visitors made 211 from their 46 overs with youngster Dan Palmer (68) recording his first league 50.
It would have been more had 13-year-old George Brandrick not weighed in with stand-out figures of 3 for 24.
On another excellent batting track, the target should have been well within Rutland’s compass.
They looked on track at 97 for 2 with Chris Palfreyman and Ross Slater at the crease but Palfreyman fell to a low catch at square leg, sparking a dramatic collapse.
The last seven batsmen mustered only 17 runs between them and even the losing draw proved impossible with the last wicket falling in the final over.
Rutland’s 3rd XI had a mixed weekend. On Saturday they were skittled for 73 by Pilsley and lost so quickly that they were almost back at the Rec in time for a second tea.
Order was restored on Sunday when they beat Sawley’s 4th XI by five wickets.
Alex Watson bowled 12 overs and took 3 for 19 but Sawley still managed a daunting looking 190 for 7 from their overs.
But Rutland’s batsmen all came good. Joe Bird (36) ensured a speedy start and Darren Cundy (52) kept up the momentum.
It was left to Jeff Dunbar to bring home the 22 points with an unbeaten 39 that saw Rutland victorious with 14 overs to spare.
There was more success for the juniors.
Aaron Sheppard took a hat-trick as the U13s beat a Spondon side on Sunday morning and Abi Hall did the same trick for the U11s.
And the U17s made it four nail-biting wins out of four when they held off Elvaston on Monday night.
Danny Shelton hit his first 50 of the summer as Ilkeston made 123 for 8 from their 20 overs with useful contributions from Jakob Hill (19) and Joe Bird (13).
Aidan Smith set the home side back with a splendid opening burst but nerves began to jangle as Elvaston’s Matthew Heafield began to pepper the boundaries.
Rutland, however, proved up to the challenge, claiming vital wickets, conceding very few extras and restricting Elvaston for an 11-run win.