An admirably sustained effort with the ball set up an historic seven-wicket victory for the Western Warriors in the Men’s Regional Pro Series final in Scotland on Thursday, as the Eastern Knights were bowled out for a disappointing 149 on a greenish Titwood wicket.
It looked at first as if it might go very differently: put in to bat, the Warriors were on 10 for no wicket after two deliveries, Ollie Hairs smacking Mohammad Ghaffar’s first ball over long on for six and his second through mid-off for four.
But the fifth ball of the over was a magnificent yorker which crashed into the base of Hairs’s off and middle stumps, and when Ghaffar induced Josh Wood to edge to Michael English at first slip in his next over the Warriors were 15 for two.
That became 24 for three when Dylan Budge was caught behind by Mathew Cross off Gavin Main, and with Richie Berrington rotating his four-main seam attack of Ghaffar, Main, Brandon McMullen and Riyaad Henry, backed up later by the spin of Hamza Tahir and Ross Lyons, the Knights never really recovered from these early setbacks.
Jamie Crawley and Mark Watt added 35 for the fourth wicket and Watt and Michael Shean 36 – of which Shean contributed 28 – for the fifth, but Henry removed both the latter in successive overs. Although the lower order battled away the Knights had subsided to 146 for nine by the time rain caused a 40-minute interruption.
Ghaffar returned after the break and finished it off to end with figures of three for 38, while Tahir had two for 16 from seven tidy overs.
The Knights had a perfect start to the defence, danger-man Cross chasing a wide-ish, lifting opening delivery from Ali Evans and slashing it to Watt at point. Mohammad Awais, joined now by English, went almost immediately onto the attack, and the pair put on 104 in 16 and a half overs to put their side into the box seat.
English was the first to go, punching Chris Sole uppishly to Crawley at cover and departing for 39, but it was Awais who was particularly tough on anything loose, hitting 12 fours and a six as he faced only 60 deliveries for his 68 before he swung once too often at Chris Sole – who had come in for the most punishment – and skied the ball to Crawley at backward point.
Only 15 were now needed, and Berrington quickly finished it off, the winning runs a boundary off Sole which saw him finish with a 22-ball 31.
The Warriors’ win ends a four-year winning streak by the Knights, who had taken the title every time it had been contested since it replaced the North Sea Pro Series in 2016. The competition returned in early June after an absence in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.