SKIPPER Mike Brown cut a frustrated figure after his Stratford side threw away a golden opportunity to beat Handsworth on Saturday.
The teams fought out an exciting last-ball tie in a rain-affected Birmingham Premier League Division Three clash at Swans Nest Lane.
Stratford were chasing a revised total of 160, in 34 overs, in response to Handsworth’s total of 154-6.
Brown’s men looked well on course for victory at 130-3, however, the visitors launched a superb recovery to put the game back in the balance.
It came down to Stratford needing four to win off the last ball. The ball was struck by Archie Walker into the outfield, where it was dropped by a fielder and Stratford completed the three runs to escape with a tie.
“Ultimately, the game proved quite frustrating,” said Brown.
“We were so lucky to get the tie in the end, but that actually papered over the cracks a bit.
“We got ourselves into a great position, but then we’ve let it slip and thrown it away.
“With time on our side it should have been straight forward for us, but it’s amazing what a couple of wickets can do.
“We were possibly a bit naive at times and it’s a day we have to learn from. I don’t think any of the top six batsmen got out to very good bowling.
“If one of them had battled through with (David) Bailey, then it would have been a straight forward chase for us.”
After a three-hour rain delay, the match began as a 35 overs per side affair, with the Handsworth captain winning the toss and deciding to bat first on a good looking Stratford pitch.
However, he would soon be ruing that decision as Panthers’ opening bowler Brown struck three times in his opening two overs, leaving the away side 4-3.
A partnership of 68 between Kamau Leverock and Carby Dawkins brought the Birmingham side back into the game, with Leverock looking particularly assured.
He was eventually dismissed for 63 by which stage the score had reached 114-6.
Some careful lower order batting took them past 150, before the rain returned at the end of the 34th over, ending the Handsworth innings on 154-6.
That meant after the Duckworth Lewis calculations had been done the Panthers would require 160 for victory in 34 overs, a total they knew was easily achievable.
John Price found the boundary three times early on, however both him and fellow opener Rob West had fallen by the time Stratford reached 33.
Bailey continued his fine form and alongside Adam Bayliss notched a 50 partnership before Bayliss fell looking to up the rate.
Bailey and Chris Whelan took the required runs to under 30 before Bailey departed for a well made 60.
Stratford were now four down, but still had plenty of time to knock of the remaining runs.
A couple of tight overs made the pressure rise and Stratford proceeded to lose the next four wickets for 20 runs, putting the game back into the balance.
The equation came down to nine required for victory off the final over, three singles, a two and dot left four required off the final ball.
Walker then launched the ball high into the air, but straight to the Handsworth fielder at midwicket.
He settled under the ball, but dropped it. Walker and Derrick then ran a second run and as the Handsworth fielder fired in a wild throw, it allowed for a scampered third run and a tie.
This weekend, Stratford welcome early-season pace-setters Stourbridge to Swans Nest Lane and Brown is expecting a tough afternoon.
“They have won three and tied one so we know it’ll be our toughest game of the season so far.
“We know a little bit about them — they have a strong batting line-up and they’ve also recruited some extra bowlers. They will be really up for it, as will we.”
Stratford will be without the services of wicket-keeper Chris Calcott, who is unavailable for selection, while youngster Walker drops down to the 2nd XI.
They will be replaced by Jim Harcourt and Jon Gill, both promoted from the 2nd XI.
Stratford: Rob West, David Bailey, Adam Bayliss, Mike Brown (c), Jim Harcourt, Perry Derrick, John Price, Chris Whelan, Jon Gill, Dexter Purser, Aidy Witts.