KING’S Road fell 11 agonising runs short of victory after the Hammersmith Hawks swooped down to steal an unlikely last gasp win.
The Orange Caps had the finishing line in sight in their first match of the season but – just like last year – collapsed right at the death.
Despite going into Sunday’s match at Wandsworth Common with a depleted pace attack, King’s Road got off to a dream start.
Speedster James Couldrey took three wickets – all bowled – in a fierce opening burst as the Hawks were reduced to 4 for 35.
Bowling with the wind, James looked reborn from last season as he ripped out the stumps of Bashir, West and Chadwick.
At the other end golden oldie Giles Fagan – filling in for Dan Howard and the crocked paceman Kevin Pittaway – proved a worthy stand-in.
Gilo, who normally keeps wicket, picked up the other opener Priddle caught off a top edge for 10 by James Prichard.
After the fourth wicket fell to James though the Hawks’ fight-back started.
Hawks wickie Eric Woodward gave them backbone they needed, hitting 53 which included four sixes, three off the bowling of Leon Watson.
He was supported by big Ed Manser, who hit 22 – until swing king Adam Majeed came on.
Last year’s Player of the Year bowled him and then took two more wickets – including two in two balls – to get The Road back on track.
Matt – capping a fine all-round display – also grabbed two from the same end, finally getting the key wicket of Woodward and taking a catch off his own bowling to dismiss Matthew Upton for a duck.
Adam, with 3 for 18, and James, 3 for 22, were the pick of the King’s Road attack as the Hawks racked up 154.
It left The Road with a good score to chase on what was clearly a dodgy early season surface.
Straight from the off, The Road looked in Dire Straits after Tom Barnes was caught second ball and Leon Watson bowled by a super-slow bouncer.
Golden oldie Giles Fagan was caught hitting out for 1 and James Prichard then got caught behind off a high ball for 9 to leave The Road wobbling on 51 for 4.
But rookie Mark Isham – playing in his second game for The Road – was on hand to arrest the early wobble.
With new skip Matt Cocken in at the other end to offer support the spinning all-rounder steadied the ship scoring slowly but surely.
The pair were building a promising partnership, looking solid and ready to lead The Road home.
But on 124 for 4 – with just 31 needed for victory – the 75-run stand was broken when Matt got trapped lbw for 25.
What followed was another disasterous collapse as the Hawks pecked away at the King’s Road batting order.
First Jamie Keating was caught off the other Woodward – Arthur – for 2, then Amir Alipour-Mehraban was bowled for an 11-ball duck.
The Road were really tottering now with 7 down – but with only 13 runs to win they were still firm favourites.
Four runs later it all changed. Battling Mark fell three agonising runs short of a first half-century to leave his team really rocking.
Two tail-end wickets left and 19 to win – it was anyone’s game and the stage was set for a dramatic finish.
A couple of hits could do it – and with big-hitting Adam in The Road still had a chance to score the runs needed.
But when James was bowled second ball it went right down to the wire.
As the tension built, Adam made a quick decision at the end of the penultimate over to run a single and leave Raju on strike.
Next over Raj took one on the pads and – after a big appeal – was given out lbw by umpire Pritch.
The Road had thrown it away after victory had looked in the bag. Mark took them to the brink chasing what seemed a modest total but in the end it wasn’t to be.
Arthur Woodward was the pick of the Hawks bowlers getting 3 for 7 and Priddle got 3 for 23 off 7. Eric Woodward was named Man of the Match for his 53 not out.