Old Cheltonians 188 (J A Francis 5-55, T S C Cooke 3-39, J C Vitali 2-13); Pilgrims 189-3 (H H O Cheal 111*, C A R Esson 37*).Won by 7 wickets.

Shortly after 5pm, we secured victory in the 38th over with Henry Cheal and Charlie Esson leading the way with a 145-run stand, a club record for the fourth wicket in the competition. It was a thoroughly convincing win that seemed rather less likely earlier when our opponents had their chance to put some modest bowling to the sword, but succumbed to some rash strokes. Equally it must be said that we took all the chances offered and so deserved our success. The beautiful College Ground is a wonderful place to play cricket and was clearly an inspiration to a Pilgrims side who throughout the day played with commitment and vigour, with the outfielding being of a particularly high order.

On winning the toss our opponents chose to bat on a typically easy-paced Cheltenham wicket but with some skilful left-arm swing bowling, captain James Vitali soon played an influential role by removing two of their first three batsmen to leave them at 8 for 2, one well caught at slip by Esson. After 20 overs our opponents had recovered to 87 for 3 and then accelerated to 136 for 4 in the next six overs before throwing away a potentially strong position by batsmen holing out to a series of rank long hops. They descended to 188 all out after only 41.3 overs. James Francis with his off spinners secured figures of 5 for 55 but he will be the first to admit that he bowled better on other occasions for rather less reward. In the final overs Theo Cooke bowled his brisk off-cutters to good effect to remove the tail and Will Smibert was as ever reassuringly competent behind the stumps. However, a tally of 16 wides was disappointing and on another day it could have made the difference between defeat and victory.

We started our reply with positive intent by opening up with Ferg Taylor and Ollie Calcott. A few overs of Taylor’s powerful hitting could have made fast inroads into the modest target but it was not to be as he was somewhat surprised by a long hop which he described as having “got big” on him and which he top edged. Calcott remained and with a gorgeous straight drive showed how good a batsman he is, before he too succumbed to a long hop. Simon Walsh, at No 3, played correctly but was bowled by what appeared to be one of the better deliveries in the day. Thus we arrived at 44 for 3 after 10 overs but it was the last success the Old Cheltonians enjoyed as Cheal and Esson then stole the show. Cheal started off sketchily with a number of edges through the slips but he gradually got into his stride with a series of powerful cuts and pulls. At times he was perhaps too eager to attack when there was no scoreboard pressure on him to do so but he benefited from the calming presence of the vastly experienced Esson and upon exercising a little more caution in his shot selection went on to reach a well-deserved century with 17 fours and two sixes. Esson himself played with great composure for his 37 not out.

This was a young and enthusiastic Pilgrims team ably led by Vitali and they thoroughly deserved their victory. One of the telling factors in the performance was that a significant number of the team had been playing regular cricket which is essential if progress is to be maintained in a competition such as this. It was really encouraging to see the middle order function so well when there have been too many occasions in the past when it has been left to the lower order to save the day. The high standard of fielding was particularly praiseworthy and the hundred per cent catching record probably made the difference between defeat and victory.