Gloucestershire pulled off an amazing last-ball victory in the Royal London One-Day Cup match at Bristol, beating Derbyshire by six wickets.
Set a Duckworth-Lewis adjusted 204 to win in 35 overs in response the visitors 274/5 from 48 overs, the winning runs came from the last ball of the match when Benny Howell, who earlier in the day signed a new two year contract, smashed a Chesney Hughes delivery to the long- off boundary for four.
What those bald facts don’t reveal is that Gloucestershire needed 68 from the last four overs after the third rain interruption of the day. They looked to have failed when, off the last scheduled ball, Jack Taylor, who thrashed a remarkable 41 not out from just 14 deliveries including four sixes, needing to hit a six for victory, was caught at mid-wicket off Hughes to the delight of the celebrating visiting fielders.
However, Derbyshire had illegally posted six fielders on the leg side and a no-ball was given. This added three to the total meaning Howell needed to score three off the final ball.
Later Derbyshire captain Wes Durston explained the bizarre situation to the county’s website.
“As skipper I have to front up and take responsibility for what happened. We had only three men on the off side for what we thought was the final delivery, and the rules meant it was a no-ball.
“It was an oversight on my part and a terrible way to lose a game we controlled almost throughout. Fair play to the Gloucestershire batsmen who hit out at the end, but even they didn’t know what was happening when the no-ball was signaled. Rules are rules and we have to take it on the chin.”
It was a hard pill for the visitors to swallow. They gave a high quality all-round performance, bowling tightly and fielding with great enthusiasm. They were given an excellent platform by Hamish Rutherford and Wayne Madsen, who both hit centuries, putting on 182 for the third wicket.
Gloucestershire, however, were largely disappointing. Although some of the bowling kept the Derbyshire centurions in check, the fielding and bowling in the latter stages of the Derbyshire innings, was poor. In the end they were indebted to Taylor and Howell (33 not out) who performed a rescue act, one that will be remembered by all who were present for a very long time.
Earlier in the day, after winning the toss and deciding to field, Gloucestershire had made a promising start, reducing Derbyshire 58/2.
The visiting batsmen enjoyed good fortune with catches not quite going to hand, some risky shots and sloppy home fielding. When Wayne Madsen was on 8 at 76/2 in the 23rd over he was badly missed by Howell at mid- on in Kieran Noema-Barnett’s first over. The New Zealand all-rounder suffered more misfortune in his next over when Payne dropped an even easier chance as Rutherford slashed to backward point when on 46.
At the 30 over mark, Derbyshire had progressed to 105 from some generally tight home bowling. Rutherford and Madsen settled in after their escapes and pushed along the scoring rate. After a brief delay, reducing the game to 48 overs, Rutherford reached his century, scored from 127 balls with nine fours and a six.
To ironic cheers from the home supporters a catch was finally pouched when Rutherford pushed Fuller’s first ball from his ‘death spell’ to mid-off for 110. After a flurry of wickets, the innings closed on 274/5 with Madsen unbeaten on 106. It was a target that owed much to dropped catches.
In response, after Chris Dent and Michael Klinger departed following busy starts, Derbyshire’s spirits were understandably high. The opening salvo from Cotton and Mark Footitt gave way to Shiv Thakor and Alex Hughes who imposed the same sort of tight control that the home medium-pacers had done. Gloucestershire moved in unspectacular fashion to 103 in the 25th over, 30 behind the Duckworth-Lewis target when the frustration led to Geraint Jones running himself out for 27.
After the last break for rain, at 136/3 from 31 overs, play resumed with Gloucestershire needing a Duckworth-Lewis revised target of 204 with just four overs left. The task looked way beyond the hosts, particularly when Roderick slipped and was run out for 54. However home hopes were raised when Jack Taylor hit his first two balls from Critchley for sixes and then scored another maximum to register 22 from the over. A disciplined over from Footitt meant that Gloucestershire needed an improbably 20 from the last over, only for the drama to unfold.
Derbyshire will need to bounce back quickly as they entertain Northamptonshire on Friday, whereas for Gloucestershire it will be necessary to show a more consistent performance if they are to prosper against Leicestershire at Grace Road on the same day.