Koomen kills off Town chances

2011 Harrison-Allen Bowl winners Neyland

It was an innings of immaculate timing, in more ways than one.

Andrew Miller raises bowl  aloftWhen Neyland fell to 50-2 in their run chase against Haverfordwest in the 2011 Bowl final, the momentum was firmly with The Town.

The powerful Paul Murray had gone, the middle order lacked big hitters, and a winning target of 162 suddenly looked a long way away.

Enter Nick Koomen.

The then 21-year-old proceeded to play a magical knock which combined power hitting with precision, and his 81 runs from 43 balls would prove to be the defining contribution of the day.

Miller’s underdogs cause a surprise

And to many it was a surprise result. A year earlier Haverfordwest had gone into a final clash with Carew with many pundits firmly on the fence. This time around though, their experienced line up arrived in Cresselly as justifiable favourites.

The Neyland skipper that day, Andrew Miller, doesn’t argue otherwise.

“They had more depth and experience than us,” he told PembrokeshireSport.

“I look back at our team photo from that day and it reminds me how young our side was. We had the players who could do it, especially in a one-off game, but we knew things were going to have to go well.”

Delighted captain after a decade of trying

Man of the Match and CaptainBut for Miller there was a different type of pressure. He’d been at the helm for a decade and while progress had been made, that hadn’t yielded silverware. As for the coveted Bowl, it had been 28 years since any Neyland club captain had got hands on it.

“We’d really wanted to win one for a long time,” he admitted.

“There were times we’d been close but not quite there. So although we knew we were underdogs it was a big chance for us too.”

The early stages went to script. Miller opted to field and the skipper himself took the new ball, only to be taken to the fence three times in the first over by Simon Holliday.

Town start well via ‘The Doc’ but fade late on

The Miller boysIndeed, ‘The Doc’ looked determined after underwhelming on the same stage 12 months earlier, and he would go on to make 79 while No 3 Adam James hit a typically explosive 28.

But crucially, The Town faltered in the latter overs as Neyland’s veteran spinner Gary Lloyd took 4-33, and their final total of 168-6 was less than earlier projected.

“Simon and Adam were taking the game away from us but getting them both really slowed things up. We managed to restrict them to something that felt reasonable – had they got another 20 runs we might have been looking at a long day.”

Neyland battle hard to leave a dozen deficit

Scorers - Jayne Cole and John  LaugharneA hard hitting 48 from opener Murray helped Neyland respond with 156-8 – a deficit of just 12. Not on top of the contest, but far from out of it.

“That season we’d lacked big hitters,” recalled Miller.

“We had talented players but whenever we’d got deep into the innings we hadn’t been able to attack like other clubs could.

“But that day we did well in the final overs. Gregg (Miller) and Nick had a nice little stand and Sean Hannon chipped in at the end. Instead of being 25 or 30 runs down we were only 12 behind and thinking positively.”

Steady Haverfordwest response as Holliday leads the way but Koomen strikes . . .

Denis Chiffi and Arthur BradyThe Town’s second innings run rate didn’t match that of their first and with the score on 145-4 in the 21st over, and Holliday unbeaten on 66, the mood of the contest then shifted dramatically.

Koomen would later steal the show with the bat. But only after an equally vital contribution with the ball.

Dai Davies, Holliday, and then Dan Field perished to the all-rounder in successive deliveries and bizarrely, all in the same manner as they skied to Patrick Hannon at extra cover.

. . .As Neyland’s battle plan pays off

It was surreal to watch but for Miller, the hat trick didn’t come about by accident.

“We were keen for this final and had talked about plans and practiced them.

“Our death bowling strategy was one of the things we really worked on. When people are hitting towards the clubhouse in Cresselly they tend to want to go straight or over cow corner - so we wanted yorker length deliveries outside off.

“Nick hit exactly the right spot three times in a row and their batsmen tried to force shots. It went to plan.”

Murray launches the final chase . . .

The winning teamIt meant The Town ended up stumbling to 149-8 and Neyland’s target of 162 looked considerably easier after Murray had finished another early assault.

He cracked Clive Tucker for two sixes in the second over on his way to 39 off 18 balls, before he and Scott John fell in quick succession. Party over? Far from it.

“That knock was crucial,” said Miller.

“We still weren’t favourites at the start of the innings and had come up short chasing totals like that before. But Paul gave us belief and it was crucial for moral.

“While he was batting their body language began to drop and I remember seeing Clive Tucker looking down at the floor. You felt the atmosphere changing.”

. . . before Koomen kills off Town’s hopes

It was then that Koomen emphatically picked up where Murray had left off.

“He just kept punishing them. He’s never been a massive guy but it was his timing that did it, he was just catching it perfectly and lifting the ball over fielders. The noise was coming from everywhere while he batted and it was amazing to watch.”

Koomen’s knock would include eight fours and four sixes, and the man of the match was there with Sean Hannon at the end to seal a six wicket win.

So for the skipper did it spark relief or elation?

“Both,” he said, without hesitation.

“But it was also such an enjoyable experience. We’d been wanting to get there for a long time and to be honest I just wanted the last few moments to go on and on.”

Skipper’s final thoughts

Miller, or Neyland of course, haven’t been short of big trophy-winning moments since. But it’s the day that kick started a fruitful decade that lingers in his mind the most.

“I’ve been lucky to be part of some amazing times with the club but I think that was the best day I’ve had in cricket.

“Our second innings especially. Once it was clear we were going to win I was just able to soak up what was happening. It was a pleasure to be part of it.”

Indeed, for Miller this day was a glorious culmination of 10 years of hard work as captain.

However, for the Neyland team as a whole, it was only the beginning……

Haverfordwest pre-match