BUTE fell an agonising three runs short of victory despite a heroic chase for runs by the lower end of the batting order against St Ninians in Prestwick on Saturday.
Chasing the home side’s total of 184 all out, Bute’s last four batsmen put on 44 runs between them, only for the final pairing of Gordy Macintyre and Sam Parkins to fall just short in a tense finish for both sides.
Bute captain Mark Crichton won the toss, and chose to bowl first on what looked a pretty good hard and dry wicket.
The captain and Taff Barnsley made an accurate start, but unfortunately their efforts were not backed up by some of the fielding, with five catches not taken in the first six overs.
Not until the 12th over did a St Ninians wicket finally fall, a juggling effort by Richard Harding at first slip eventually sticking in the hand.
Throughout their innings the Prestwick batsmen were able to keep up a good scoring rate, and ground fielding was hard work for Bute on a hot day and on a big outfield.
The St Ninians top order put together useful partnerships, and by the 40th over were 167 for five, but good spells of bowling from Richard Harding and Francois Lintermans got the hosts all out for 184 in the 46th over.
Francois finished with figures of three for 13 off six overs, while a tidy ten-over spell from Alan Peacock gave him a return of two for 33 – while two run-outs helped to underline what was generally a solid performance by the team, after a poor start.
Richard Harding and Mark Crichton made a rapid start to the Bute innings through their combination of big hitting and quick running, and by the tenth over the pair had raced to 54 when Richard, attempting another big shot to the boundary, was well caught and had to depart having scored 32.
A little wobble followed, with two more wickets following quickly, but things stabilised a little with Barnsley at the the crease – until St Ninians adopted the tactic of keeping Taff at the striker’s end until the last ball of the over, then allowing the single to keep Mark, who had been playing another well-controlled innings, off strike.
That restricted the Bute scoring rate to around three runs per over, though progress was still very acceptable to the island side at that point; however, both Taff and Mark lost their wickets around the halfway mark, Mark going for another top score in the game of 45.
At 119 for six, the balance of the game was swinging in favour of St Ninians, but Jonathan Mann showed good form to score quickly, helping Bute to 138 before falling for 18.
That left Bute with a target of 47 more runs from the last 13 overs with only four men left to bat – and with two relative newcomers to the game, Craig Murray and Sam Parkins, at the crease, seasoned observers might not have given much for the visitors’ chances.
But what Murray and Parkins lacked in experience they made up in speed between the wickets and sheer determination to help the team win, adding 20 runs between them before Murray was out for eight, by which time the opposition were getting seriously worried and increasingly desperate in their behaviour.
Ian ‘Spartacus’ Downie joined Sam at the crease, and the pair fought and scrambled for every run they could before Ian advanced down the wicket and was caught by the wicket keeper off the last ball of the penultimate over, leaving Bute six short of victory.
That left the visitors’ hopes pinned on Gordy Macintyre and Sam, and with tension high on both sides, a two off the second delivery saw Bute inch closer to their target.
Unfortunately, a succession of dot balls left the islanders needing four off the last delivery, and they could only scamper a single to give the Prestwick side victory.
High praise must go to Sam, who, in only his third time of batting in a cricket match, took Bute to the brink of an unlikely victory and got 17 runs in the process.
* Bute are back on home soil this Saturday, August 6, when Vale of Leven are the visitors to Rothesay.