After a week of anxious weather-watching leading up to the game, the semi-final produced one of the most exceptional matches in the long-running rivalry with Malvern. Having been inserted on a green wicket, the Rovers made a quick start thanks to Ben Graves (16) and were indebted to Joe Austin (65) and George Johansen (31) to get through some high quality seam bowling with limited damage. Simon Fernandes accelerated the scoring rate with a high class run-a-ball 46, then the lower middle order pair of Tom Bishop (31) and Charlie Fernandes (27) added 56 for the sixth wicket, to close on 240-8. The locals were heard muttering that it looked a bit light. The locals continued to mutter as Oundle opened the bowling with spin from both ends. At first the Malvern batters seemed to enjoy it, but soon found themselves losing wickets to the immaculate Graves (3-22), Will Street (2-46) and Tommy Simeons (1-41) including a stunning catch each from Esler and Simeons. When James Esler (1-12) removed Malvern’s veteran ex-Gloucestershire CCC player, 90 for 5 saw the game well in Oundle’s favour.
However another massive swing then took place as two 2023 school leavers added a superb 120 for the sixth wicket. Malvern seemed en route to cruise to victory when the game turned again. Three wickets fell in a hurry, the run rate dried up and Malvern entered the last over eight wickets down still needing one to win. Joe Austin then chipped in with the ninth wicket. One more and Oundle would have won a tied game on wickets lost. Alas – it was not to be, but all at Malvern’s beautiful ground agreed that they had seen a quite remarkable game of cricket. The Nicholson Player of the Match award quite rightly went to one of Malvern’s 18 year olds.
Oundle Rovers 240-8. Old Malvernians 244-9. Lost by 1 wicket.