It's not often that local cricket matches go right down to the wire.
There are so many variables in the sport - weather, scoring rates, pitch conditions, etc - that the outcomes of most fixtures are relatively clear well before they come to an end.
But on Saturday, North Tamworth captain Brendan Rixon knew he had just minutes left to wrangle victory from the jaws of a defeat against Bective East that would have come in a way no captain wants to see: via penalty runs.
"We had 12 overs to bowl in 25 minutes," Rixon said.
"So we really needed to bowl them out ... once you're that far behind, you can't really catch them up."
As some of their key bowlers were unavailable due to Country Championships duties at No. 1 Oval, Rixon was forced to rotate through a bevy of quicks, all of whom had lengthy run-ups and weren't accustomed to hurrying through their overs.
But, after youngsters Bernard O'Connor (42), Joseph Holt (27), and Harry Lewington (23) saw Norths to 9-159 in the first innings, the Redbacks soon had Bective reeling at 4-36.
"Bernie O'Connor's been coming across a bit, he's a good young kid from Narrabri," Rixon said.
"Maximum effort all the time. He's a competitor."
There was, however, one obstacle to an easy win for North Tamworth in Adam Jones.
The veteran, who returned to the first grade ranks this year, has not lost a step and made the most of some good fortune to hold his side's chase together with a belligerent 68.
His partnership of 60 with Luke Paterson (23) for the fifth wicket put Bective in the drivers' seat.
That is, until Linc Peters entered the fray.
The medium-pacer immediately looked to have found the secret to success on a good Riverside 3 deck with some nibble off the seam.
And in his second over, he used it to maximum effect to snare three wickets.
It immediately destabilised the run chase, right when the time pressure had become acute. Bective fell from 4-96 to 8-110 and, eventually, 145 all out.
Jones was the last man dismissed, caught on the boundary off Peters, who proceeded to bear hug his captain in celebration of his fifth wicket.
North Tamworth had won with four balls remaining before they would have been penalised the runs that would have given Bective the victory.
"That's much-needed," Rixon said.
"I was having a conversation with someone this morning about how close the competition is. All five teams are really close, and on their day, anyone can beat anyone else.
"So every win is really important, and I think that was a good win for us."
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