Great Horwood 1st XI ended their season on a high as they defied the odds to defeat third-placed Oxenford by two wickets in Oxfordshire Cricket Association Division One.
With their relegation already confirmed, Horwood were keen to end their season with back-to-back victories but skipper Sam Willett was forced to play many second XI players.
However, Horwood were boosted by the return of bowler Matt McStraw as the hosts bowled first against the free-scoring Oxenford batsmen.
The prolific Rhys Davies opened the innings but it was his opening partner, Zain Iqbal, who dominated as he raced to 40 made up of nine boundaries.
McStraw was then paired with Neil Taylor to bowl together and they managed to put a brake on the scoring before Iqbal fell for 57.
With Davies failing to score freely and visiting skipper Das struggling to get the ball away, Horwood managed to get control of the run-rate which dipped from four-an-over.
Davies did eventually break out of the shackles, but just when it seemed as if he would go on to make a century, he was excellently caught by Simon Gale of McStraw’s bowling.
With Taylor picking up 3-42 off another excellent 12-over stint and McStraw taking 2-42, Oxenford were heading for a manageable total.
The home side’s fielding was also impressive, as was the effort displayed by the team despite knowing their fate.
Captain Willett then decided to have a bowl – to the surprise of many – and he produced a tidy four over spell that included a wicket.
After 45 overs, Oxenford had amassed a more-than-competitive total of 209-8, but Horwood were pleased with their efforts in the field and optimistic of giving a good account in chasing that total down.
Within three Aaron Hirtenstein overs, that optimism looked severely misplaced as four batsmen fell to the classy left armer with only one run to show between them.
Horwood appeared to need a minor miracle at this point with their middle and lower order exposed to the dangerous Hirtenstein.
But Matt Folkes joined Willett in the middle and the two began to put together a big partnership with Willett again looking in excellent form as he stroked some early boundaries.
Folkes found himself facing most of Hirtenstein’s bowling as he produced the best innings of his career; taking several hits on the body as the Oxenford paceman desperately tried to dislodge him.
Folkes was not daunted and he saw off six priceless overs in an innings that was fundamental in Horwood’s recovery from the brink of defeat.
When Folkes was eventually out, the score was 45-5 and Horwood’s last realistic match winning partnership was at the crease as McStraw joined his skipper.
For the first time this season, McStraw produced the type of innings he is capable of as he matched Willett run for run to put together a partnership of 124 to take the score to 169 and also reducing the required run rate to just five-an-over.
When McStraw was dismissed for a stylish 66, Willett was joined by nephew Dan, looking to push Horwood closer to victory.
Sam feasted on some loose bowling as he completed another brilliant innings before he was bowled for 83, having taken his league total to a magnificent 784 at an average of over 65.
From a position of seemingly strolling to victory, Horwood also quickly lost their eighth wicket, but the younger Willett was in no mood to capitulate as he scored a priceless 15 runs.
With six needed for victory, it was left to Nick Glister to nonchalantly flick a maximum over mid-wicket to give Horwood another victory against all the odds.
It was another outstanding performance from a Horwood side largely comprising of second team players, who again put in a marvellous team performance that bodes well for 2013.
Horwood bring down the curtain on a season that has been decimated by the weather, with a home friendly against Aspley Guise this weekend.