When big Brad Smith strode to the crease at Riverside 2 on Saturday, the importance of the occasion would not have been lost on him. Like countless cricket captains have faced at all levels, Smith was tasked with producing a captain’s knock to win his side, City United, the match and, in his mind, keep their season alive.
Awaiting him were a trifecta of threats – stifling heat, a West Tamworth side drooling over the thought of an outright win and a pace bowler, in Brock Ridgewell, who had just claimed his sixth wicket for the match and was cutting through the thick air as though he were escaping a frothing mob, such is the speed and intense physicality of his run-up.
Smith had been put in the position by an aggressive declaration by stand-in Wests skipper Harrison Kelly, after City were dismissed for 163 chasing 206 and then Wests declared on 6-120 – leaving City with 164 to win from 24 overs. When Smith joined opener Tait Jordan at the crease after Dan Whale was dismissed for 21, City were 1-34 – 129 in arrears with 21 overs remaining.
He accepted the challenge with relish, his 77 propelling City to 5-155. City required nine runs to win from 14 balls.
Tasked with the assignment were Scott Brennan ( 32 not out) and Ross Steyn (one not out]. Brennan’s three scalps in City’s second innings took his tally for the match to nine. When he hit a boundary off the last ball of a Shaun Stevenson over – the third last of the match – the pressure was relieved considerably. Fittingly, he hit the winning runs, in the penultimate over of the match.
After fourth-placed North Tamworth lost to Old Boys at No.1 Oval on Saturday, City are now 2.34 points behind Norths on the ladder with two rounds remaining before the semi-finals. Only 11.77 points separate second-placed Wests and fifth-placed City, with last-placed Bective East 4.12 points behind City.
Post-match, Smith was “pumped”. He said that with City’s “season on the line”, going for the outright win was the only option. “The boys did really well. We took wickets in the second innings when we needed to,” he said.
He added: “We’ve given ourselves a shot now [of making the finals]. And that’s what we wanted. That’s what we came here to do today … When they declared we knew we were a shot of getting the runs.”
Wests captain David Mudaliar did not play on Saturday due to a personal commitment but described Kelly’s declaration as “right on”.
It was a “good declaration”, he said, as its showed Wests played “without fear”. “You’d expect sides to do that more often and make sure games are kept exciting all the way to the end,” he added. “And good on City for having a crack at it. It was a good game of cricket, and that’s what you want.”
Wests claimed first innings points.