PORT Talbot were thwarted in their bid to record their first away victory of the season after some resolute batting by the Bridgend middle and lower order, and had to settle instead for a winning draw at Newbridge Fields.
When the home side slumped to 97 for five in the 29th over, after a strong start, the Pirates had high hopes of taking maximum points. However, Bridgend skipper Andrew Davies, James Steptoe and Nick Davies saw to it that last year’s runners-up wouldn’t roll over and showed admirable determination in saving the match for their side.
Earlier, Port Talbot had recorded a commanding 236 for six, thanks to half centuries by Sean Griffiths and Anthony Thomas, and a barnstorming final 10 overs which saw 88 runs scored including 19 from the final over.
On a glorious afternoon, Dan Cherry won the toss and opted to bat first with Lewis Jones back in the ranks after missing last Saturday’s victory over Sully with a foot injury. Glamorgan’s Alex Jones also lined up against his former club, while the home side were missing both their county stars, Will Bragg and Ben Wright.
Bridgend opened with spin, in the form of Nick Davies, against Port Talbot’s prolific opening pair of Griffiths and Ian Thomas.
Thomas opened his shoulders with a big six off the left arm spinner in the fifth over, and creamed a fine drive through extra cover off Andrew Davies. Griffiths continued his excellent start to the season with some trademark drives through the covers and straight down the ground.
Andrew Davies brought on Adam Weaver to replace himself at the leisure centre end, and his decision was almost immediately vindicated when Thomas reached after a wide delivery and hit it straight to Nick Davies at point to fall for 22 with the score 43 for one in the 14th over.
Dan Cherry started with a boundary through the off side, and he and Griffiths continued the positive start with a second wicket stand of 56. Weaver bowled a probing spell that had both batsmen needing to be at their best. Griffiths and Cherry rotated the strike well, taking runs whenever they were on offer, and at 99 for one in the 29th over, Port Talbot had the ideal platform with Griffiths now firmly established and Cherry looking ominously set.
However, on 17 the Port Talbot skipper top edged a sweep and Sam Pearce took the catch comfortably on the deep backward square leg boundary, a key scalp for the home side. Griffiths had become slightly becalmed, having struck a boundary and then a fine straight six off Nick Davies in consecutive deliveries, but sparked back into life with a four off Weaver before reaching his third league 50 of the season from 92 balls in the 32nd over.
Davies bowled out his allocation to finish with one for 33.
The destructive Anthony Thomas then came to the wicket, but Bridgend didn’t help themselves by dropping him twice in the deep before he had reached 20, errors they would live to regret. Griffiths’s fine effort ended when he chipped a tired-looking catch back to Wadlan for 62, including seven fours and a six.
Once again the young man had played with maturity, and his progress this season continues to be hugely encouraging both for himself and the club.
Alex Jones joined Thomas at the wicket as the Pirates looked to press on. Thomas hammered young off spinner Tom Dalton for six over the sightscreen at the leisure centre end, while Jones was quickly into his stride with two fours off four balls from Wadlan before the same bowler lured him out of his ground and Tom Baker completed the stumping. Jones was gone for 15 with the score 169 for four in the 43rd over
Thomas now began to motor and clattered Wadlan for three consecutive sixes in his next over, all of them between the sightscreen and long on. The second six took him to 50 from only 44 balls, and Bridgend were mightily relieved when Dalton bowled him for 57 in the 46th over. Thomas’s innings had included three fours and four trademark big sixes, but his dismissal with four overs remaining gave the home side renewed hope of restricting the visitors to a score of less than 220.
Stuart Phelps went for two to a simple catch by Grant Humphries at backward point to give Wadlan his fourth wicket, but the innings received a grand finale thanks to an entertaining partnership of 36 from only 20 balls between Mark Cox and Ryan Evans.
Andrew Davies returned to bowl the 49th over, but Evans greeted him with a four through extra cover. In the final over bowled by Dalton, the batsmen added a boundary apiece before a last ball six by Evans over the sightscreen saw him finish on 19 not out from only eight balls. Cox played an equally important role with 23 not out from 22 balls.
Wadlan’s figures had received a battering late on from Anthony Thomas, although he still finished with four for 60 from his 12 overs, but Bridgend were now left with the stiff target of 237 on a pitch where bounce was becoming more unpredictable and a slow outfield.
The early stages of the reply were relatively uneventful. Humphries and David Goodway both put Ian Thomas away through the off side for boundaries from short deliveries, while Alex Jones found movement and beat the outside edge a number of times from the other end.
Generally, however, both batsmen were cautious and looked to build a solid start. With Port Talbot becoming increasingly frustrated, it took a moment of confusion between the two batsmen to provide the breakthrough. In the 13th over, Humphries was sent back by Goodway, and Phelps threw down the stumps from cover to run him out for 22 with a direct hit.
Hopes now turned to Bradley Wadlan, coming off the back of a century last week at Newport. The Unicorns man swotted a remarkable six over wide long on off Edwards from a very full delivery, but Bridgend then suffered another blow when Goodway bottom edged a catch behind to Dean Cox off Lewis Jones for 28, leaving them at 71 for two.
Some 23 runs had been added, including another six by Wadlan – this time straight down the ground off Griffiths – before Lewis Jones pulled a real rabbit out of the hat when the batsman played early at a cleverly disguised slower ball and lofted an easy catch to Alex Jones at mid on.
Port Talbot were able to celebrate a key wicket with Wadlan walking back for 27, and the game suddenly swung back towards the visitors in a dramatic period of play. Alistair Dalton fell lbw sweeping across the line to Phelps for no score, before Cherry pulled off a stunning catch low to his left at mid wicket to remove Tom Baker for 12 to give Lewis Jones his third wicket.
With more than 20 overslremaining, Bridgend were in danger of capitulating. But skipper Andrew Davies blunted the Port Talbot attack as Lewis Jones bowled through his 12-over allocation, finishing with the splendid figures of three for 23. It was an outstanding effort by a bowler returning from injury in such oppressive heat.
The Bridgend run rate dropped off dramatically as Davies and James Steptoe adopted a safety first approach for a time with only 20 runs being added from the 10 overs following Wadlan’s dismissal.
Eventually both batsmen started to push the ball around, and the Pirates’ charge had been temporarily thwarted. The skipper chipped a couple of boundaries over mid on, and the pair had added 33 in 14 overs before Steptoe top edged a sweep to give Anthony Thomas a simple catch at short fine leg off Ian Thomas’s bowling.
Any hopes the visitors had of a late Bridgend collapse failed to materialise as Andrew and Nick Davies saw to it that there would be no further alarms with an unbroken stand of 32 from 45 deliveries.
Phelps finished with one for 31 from his 12 overs, but the game gradually began to fizzle out as a draw became more inevitable. When stumps were drawn, Bridgend had reached 162 for six from their 50 overs, with the skipper unbeaten on 23 and his partner on 17.
Port Talbot could still be happy with a haul of 19 points and the winning draw took them above Bridgend into joint second in the table with Mumbles. Sully still occupy top spot, just nine points ahead as the title race begins to hot up.
Next Saturday brings Ammanford to The New Mansel with Port Talbot looking to continue their 100 per cent home record this season.