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Hartley Country Club

25 Aug 2012 - David Harkin

With a 12pt lead over second place Tunbridge Wells going into Saturday’s game, the Vine knew a victory was the only acceptable result to either take the title on Saturday or stay top going into the last game. Their opponents were Hartley, the side they were promoted with from last season but struggling at the foot of the Premiership. A rain effected start meant some changing room cricket was on the agenda for the first 2 hours of the day, but when the rain stopped, the square dried up and the toss was done the Vine men were ready to attack Hartley from the start in a reduced 30 over game. Captain Harkin lost the toss and was placed into bat on a extremely damp Vine wicket but Miles Richardson (50) and Simon Parkinson (49) put in their performances of the season. With the ball bouncing sharply one delivered and then staying low the next, Richardson and Parkinson didn’t seem to care as they played their shots from the start in difficult conditions. Cover drives, Hooks, Cuts, the Vine seconds were given a real show as the openers set the tone for the rest of the afternoon. 76/0 after 10 overs gave the Vine the platform they really needed. Both eventually fell and the Vine middle order took up the charge but could not find the momentum that our openers so naturally founded. Despite that some late blows from Toby Sheppard (32) and veteran Ed Goodworth (12*) meant the Vine marched passed 150 and finished on an extremely competitive 167 after their 30 overs. Some more rain at the tea interval meant the outfield was juiced up again for the second half to come.

Richardson and Goodworth were given the new ball and bowled with accuracy and pace, making the early breakthroughs needed for the Vine who began their charge for 20pts. Soon Hickford and Chapman fell and Harkin immediately turned to his two spin twins to tighten and seal the game up – Fabian Cowdrey and Maurice Holmes. Both bowled with the experience the Vine needed at a crucial stage of the game and ultimately the season. Bowling tightly soon the pressure shifted onto Hartley’s shoulders, battling with relegation, to act before it was too late. This would then open the door for the Vine to drive through the heart of Hartleys middle order. Cramp, Malcolm, Underwood and Mitchell all fell with Cowdrey/Holmes supported well in the field by Boardman and Harkin and the game was becoming out of Hartley’s reach. As the Vine entered the last 5 overs the only question of the day was weather or not the Vine could bowl Hartley out. With 7 balls left, the Vine would require 3 wickets to pick up 20pts instead of 14pts. Holmes gave the Vine a chance going into the last over removing Flint, well caught by Boardman again finishing off with figures of 3-49. It was left to Cowdrey to find some magic and magic he founded immediately removing Johnson bowled first ball of the last over. The Vine could feel victory in their grasp, a late fielding change inspired in a conversation between Harkin and former captain Goodworth, resulted in Greg Adams placed perfectly to catch Singh with 3 balls to go in the deep and see the Vine Second Team race to Adams in the outfield and celebrate a marvellous victory and what proved to be a championship title decider. Cowdrey finished off with a match winning 4-31 of his 9 overs. As the results came in from the other grounds in Kent, the Vine realised that they had increased their margin at the top by 21 points with 1 game to go and be crowned champions with a game to spare.

A year before Hartley nipped the Vine to the title of Division 1 and this year the Vine win the Premier League title beating Hartley at home. The second eleven squad has come so far since relegation from the Premiership in 2010, to return after 1 year of trying and then be crowned champions in their first season demonstrates the strides the Vine has taken in the last two years. With the first eleven at the top of the Kent Premiership and the seconds winning the title shows the strength, depth but importantly the balance the Vine has. For Captain, personal delighted is in how far our younger players are coming on with the likes of Miles Richardson, Mike Thompson, Julius Cowdrey all developing into quality cricketers learning from the senior players of Simon Parkinson, Ed Goodworth, Maurice Holmes and John Gethins. The Vine hopes that the thirds avoid relegation this weekend it would top of a great year for the Vine. The seconds go away to Bromley this weekend as CHAMPIONS and will look to finish of the season with a victory and celebrations at the Club House this Saturday night. A happy Harkin will look forward to leading his men out this season for one final time.

David Harkin – 28/08/2012