Big-hitting Peter Free hauled Vauxhall Mallards back from the brink of defeat and earned them a thrilling victory over Swardeston in the Bob Carter Cup final at Manor Park, Horsford.
They won by four wickets with two balls to spare to avenge defeat in the climax to last season’s competition and take the coveted trophy back to Brundall for the eighth time in the last 12 years.
Jaden Hatwell hit 82 not out as Swardeston posted 131 for six in a showpiece postponed three times and reduced on Saturday to 20 overs a side because of forecast heavy rain.
Mallards were still 77 runs short of their target with only six overs of their reply left, but then man-of-the-match Free cracked a 30-ball 59 not out, included six sixes and four fours.
“He was the right man in the right place at the right time,” praised Mallards skipper Paul Bradshaw, who helped Free plunder 44 runs in just three overs.
“Nobody in the county hits the ball quite like he does, not so consistently. He came out fighting and I just helped us along the way. You can never count us out.
“It was a shame the overs had to be reduced with rain expected, but rather that than a bowl-out, tossing a coin or sharing the cup.”
Free reflected: “We were in a little bit of a predicament, but when Paul joined me in the middle we decided we were going to get on with it.
“The fact that it was raining helped me a little, inasmuch that Swardeston’s bowlers couldn’t quite get a grip on the ball and just kept putting it in the slot.
“I decided that maximums were the way to go if we were going to get close to the target, so Lady Luck was smiling on me.”
He added: “It was, though, a triumph for teamwork. We got a little bit stuck in the middle of our innings, but it came good in the end.”
Swardeston captain Mark Thomas won the toss and elected to bat, only to see his side quickly reduced to 11 for 4, with Bradshaw and Martin Addison picking up two wickets apiece in the first four overs.
Hatwell steadied the innings, adding 26 runs with Thomas, and then taking the total to a more respectable footing with George Walker as they contributed 89 runs for the sixth wicket.
Hatwell hit five sixes and three fours, while Walker provided good support with a valuable 24.
Mallards got their reply off to a good start, but, when Hatwell had Carl Amos stumped by Will Rist for 17, the balance started to swing back Swardeston’s way.
Tight bowling from Hatwell, Richard Sims and Thomas in particular saw the target grow.
With nothing to lose and conditions worsening due to a heavy rain shower, Free took his chance and, with Bradshaw’s support, wrested the trophy from Swardeston’s hands in the most thrilling of finales.
Article courtesy of the Eastern Daily Press.