Potter's Town prove doubters wrong

Delighted Haverfordwest celebrate victoryCresselly pre-match


 

Harrison-Allen Bowl Final:



Haverfordwest (196 for 7 & 201 for 6) beat Cresselly (158 for 8 & 111 all out) by 128 run



Umpires: Richard Merriman and Dai Morris
Scorers: Jayne Cole and David Richards
Man of the Match: Dai Davies (Haverfordwest)
Adjudicators: Colin John and Mark Lee

Hugh Harrison-Allen and Danny Potter celebrateSimply put, it was the perfect response.

Danny Potter’s Haverfordwest side went into the 2014 Harrison-Allen Bowl final against hosts Cresselly as a team under pressure.

At the same stage in 2010 and 2011, they’d lost their way having been in the ascendancy at tea. There had been no league title since 2008, and five weeks before this occasion they had thrown away a winning position against Neyland to lose the most dramatic of DR Morris finals.

The notion was growing that The Town, for so long a formidable prospect in Pembrokeshire cricket, now lacked the fortitude to produce when it mattered. And the pre-match jibes reflected that.


Skipper Potter under pressure before the start



Man of the match Dai Davies with adjudicators Colin John and Mark Lee (Whitland)It was something that skipper Potter, who was still awaiting his first silverware at the helm, found impossible to ignore.

“In the build-up it all went through my head,” he admitted.

“For a start we hadn’t won the Bowl for 10 years. I was trying to instil to the boys that no matter what had happened before, this was just another game of cricket and on our day we were good enough.

“That Duggie final (The Town lost via a final ball six) still goes down as my worst moment on a cricket field but in a way that helped. It put a determination in us as we were desperate not to let something like that happen again.

“As a team we learnt a lot from that day and we used the experience of it.”

And they used the words of the doubters too.

“I can still remember all the comments, one in particular,” admitted Potter.

“They all motivated us. One thing we’ve always been good at as a team was sticking together when the chips were down.”
 

Richard Merriman and Dai MorrisEarly fortunes fluctuated...



Early fortunes fluctuated. Potter won the toss and in glorious sunshine, inevitably chose to bat. Simon Holliday was trapped LBW by Mike Shaw without scoring, and his partner Adam James fell to the same bowler in the fourth over.

By that point however, James had characteristically bludgeoned his way to 28 and the scoreboard read 41-2.

“Adam just did what he does and that’s why we’ve always persevered with him as an opener in cup competitions. He can get you off to that flier and put 30 or 40 runs on early doors, which means the batsman behind him have time.

“And that’s exactly what happened that day.”
 

. . . But The Town take control via ‘Dapper’ and ‘Potts’



The Bowl and trophiesThe platform was set and it wasn’t wasted. Dai Davies and Jonathan Strawbridge (16) put on a further 48, before Potter himself replaced the latter.

He and Davies accelerated the rate and even after the latter fell for 60, and a quick flurry of wickets followed, Potter continued his own assault as he and Ajay Revu piled on 29 in the final 12 balls.

The final total of 196-7, to which Potter contributed 77 (62 in boundaries) before being bowled by Tom Murphy at the death, was a very imposing one.

“The total was hugely above our expectations.

“But we knew from there that no matter what, we’d be in the game for the rest of the day. There was now a lot of pressure on them not to give up a big lead at tea.”

Cresselly start well but lose their way



Cresselly’s reply started steadily as Matthew Morgan and captain Phil Williams took things to 28-0. But having done his bit with the bat, James would then do some early damage for The Town with the ball.

But only after a wayward first two overs that prompted his captain to take a gamble. One as it turned out, that paid off handsomely.

“I took him off and the intention was to keep him off. With Adam it was never about him bowling poorly as I always knew he had a two or three wicket burst in him – but I didn’t want to waste too many of his overs.
“But then I decided to have a punt at him changing ends.”

And sure enough in the fifth over it was James who removed Morgan, before trapping the dangerous Simon Cole LBW for a three-ball duck.

“When you’re a captain it’s nice when things like that work.

“Whenever you play Cresselly Simon Cole is the man to get. To have him early gave us a real boost.”
From there The Doves were stifled – and it took a counter attack from Iwan Izzard to keep them in the contest. His boundary laden 44 pushed the total to 158-8, leaving the deficit at 38.

Unplanned lead of 38 at tea



Dai Davies shows off another superb shotIt wasn’t a scenario Potter had planned for.

“I never envisaged having that sort of lead at tea – and as a team we hadn’t even talked about managing that kind of situation.

“It was a great position to be in but growing up, I’d had it drummed into me that the key innings in Harrison-Allen finals was always the third one.

“We had a lead but I didn’t want boys going into their shells. We needed to bat them out of the game and not let them back into it.”

‘The Doc’ and Davies provide Town impetus – and Potter kills Cresselly off



Bat them out the game they did. Despite this time losing James early, Holliday and eventual man of the match Davies produced a stand of 132 to leave their side in an almost unassailable position.

Danny Potter - ferocious hittingAfter both had passed 50, it took a comical mix up to end the partnership when ‘The Doc’ was run out, but Davies pushed on to reach 75 while Potter himself was able to add a quick-fire 24.

It all amassed to 201-6 in 22 overs, setting the hosts a daunting 238 to win.

“I walked into bat with us more than 170 ahead and a few overs to go, so I almost had a free innings,” recalled Potter.

“Dai has always  been a big-game player and the type you want on your side in finals. And as a good as Doc is he gets nervous and worries a lot, so it was nice for him to get runs in the final too. I think that had a big impact on what was to come from him.”

All over, bar the shouting as Holliday grabs five wickets



For onlookers, the contest was all but over. But for Potter and co, there was to be no lapse in focus.

“Again, going back to the Duggie Morris final that year, we set Neyland 181 to win in 20 overs and I think some of the boys were thinking it was already done.

“So yes, we were more than 230 ahead but this time we made sure we didn’t have that mind set. We knew we had to go out there and bowl tight lines, have boundary riders in place and then let them try and come at us.

Scorers: Jayne Cole and David Richards“Cresselly is a ground where you can score quickly and we were aware of that.”

The Doves had little choice but to go for broke, but the charge never materialised as they fell to 56-6 and then 81-8 – with Holliday spinning his way to a five wicket haul.

Indeed, the contest was long gone by the time Clive Tucker had Steffan Jenkins caught by Nigel Delaney in the 17th over, securing Haverfordwest a dominant 128-run victory.

At one point Ben Field had fortuitously fumbled a catch straight into the hands of Strawbridge to remove Scott Arthur. It summed up a day where everything went right for The Town, and Potter was afforded the rare commodity of enjoying the closing stages of a Bowl final.

Great joy – and relief – in Haverfordwest camp



“I was extremely happy with how clinical we were. It was one of those days where everything went for us – you don’t have many days like that on a cricket field.

“It was strange to be able to relax in the last 10 overs. Not many captains get that opportunity in a Harry Ally final let alone their first one.

The County Club men at the top: Tony Scourfield, Steve Blowes and Paul Webb“I remember watching our supporters between balls and seeing their excitement building.”

But it wasn’t until later that night that the scale of what had happened truly hit home.

“Straight afterwards it was a mixture of elation and relief. Everyone who plays cricket in Pembrokeshire dreams of playing and winning on that day – and for any captain it’s the pinnacle.

“After everything that had been said I was just so happy for the boys. That was the point where we knew as a group we could play in big games and win them.

“But it was only when I walked back into the club later that night, holding the bowl and seeing all our supporters packed in there, that it really hit home just how important the day had been.”

And finally . . .



Three Cresselly youngsters making their debut: Iwan Izzard, Harry Thomas and Matthew MorganPotter has recently since stepped down as leader having lifted two more Bowls, plus back to back league crowns in 2015 and 2016.

But for all the above, it was that day in 2014 that paved the way.

“If we hadn’t won that final I would never have lasted as long as I did as captain. I doubted my own decision making after that Duggie Morris final, but from there I knew I had what it took to lead a side on the big occasion.

“It was a huge breakthrough moment for all of us.”

Like I said, it was the perfect response.