There are many different ways of winning a cricket match – and few of them are ever unsatisfactory, writes Alex Massie.
There’s nothing so grand, however, as a last-wicket stand seeing a side home under intense pressure and against all the odds.
So Selkirk’s nerve-frying, one-wicket victory over Watsonians in Edinburgh on Saturday was, in many respects, the Souters’ most satisfying triumph of the season.
The visitors had dismissed their hosts for a mere 102 and, ordinarily, this might not have been thought a challenging total.
When Selkirk subsided to 80 for 9, however, it looked for all the world as though hope and fortune had abandoned John Everitt’s side.
That reckoned without the character and resolution of Selkirk’s last-wicket pairing of Andy McKirgan and Harry Murphy, who, against all the odds, saw the visitors home.
McKirgan, batting at 10, finished on 10 not out, while the teenaged Murphy, batting at 11, scraped his way to a score of 13 not out. In the context of a low-scoring game, even apparently modest scores can become mountains of Himalayan proportions.
When every run counts, every delivery matters. McKirgan was seeing the ball well, but struggling to find the gaps; Murphy crashed a drive through the covers for a vital four. Watsonians dropped a catch that would have won them the game. The mood was tense as Selkirk’s hopes were resuscitated from beyond the grave.
Finally, after a prolonged period of agonising cricket, Murphy found a way to scramble the winning run.
It was a coming-of-age performance from the youngster whose maturity and resolution-under-fire was an example to his elder team-mates.
Earlier, Everitt had won the toss and opted to bowl first – a decision vindicated by three quick wickets.
As ever, Kenny Paterson produced a miserly spell and was offered grand support by Jordan Reid and Greg Fenton.
Watsonians’ middle order rallied, but the Borderers continued to apply pressure and were rewarded for their efforts as Everitt, bowling his best spell of the season, mopped up the tail to finish with figures of 4 for 15.
In reply, it was Selkirk’s turn to suffer a bad start as Greg Fenton was given out LBW for a duck and Stuart Skeldon run out for 1. Everitt, too, had cause to regret the umpire’s decision when he was reckoned to be LBW on 22. Thereafter the middle-order contributed little, leaving Selkirk dependent upon Murphy and McKirgan’s last-wicket heroics.
If that proved decisive, so too did the fact that Watsonians conceded 19 extras to Selkirk’s six. In a tight game of this sort that can be the margin between victory and defeat. It was a reminder, if needed, that every ball can count. Selkirk, already assured of promotion, now visit Holy Cross on Saturday knowing two things.
First that they will need to play better and, second, that victory will confirm their status as Division Three champions.