Caledonian Highlanders 177-3 (ST Cameron 65*, MRJ Watt 3 for 33) beat Eastern Knights 176-6 (HJ van der Berg 59, RG Brown 2 for 21) by 7 wickets
Western Warriors 175-3 (RD Berrington 103, AC Evans 3 for 33) beat Eastern Knights 174-8 (HG Munsey 65, A Raza 3 for 26) by 7 wickets
Western Warriors secured the Cricket Scotland T20 Blitz title after victory over Eastern Knights at Raeburn Place. A batting masterclass from Scotland all-rounder Richie Berrington proved decisive as the team from the west denied Caledonian Highlanders a chance of the trophy by virtue of a superior run-rate.
Although all three sides could still claim the title as the tournament went into its final double-header, bottom-of-the-table Knights needed to win twice and make up a considerable deficit in run-rate to have any chance of retaining their crown. After choosing to bat first against the Highlanders, Knights captain George Munsey duly made his intentions plain with back-to-back sixes off Safyaan Sharif as he and Hayes van der Berg bludgeoned 38 from the first eighteen balls.
The Watsonian looked in imperious form as he brought up a 28-ball half century, and despite his departure for 51 both van der Berg and Calum MacLeod also cleared the ropes – and the Grange wall – in quick succession to maintain the momentum. A dab for four took van der Berg past fifty, too, and with the Knights reaching 127-1 after 14 a score of 200-plus looked very much on the cards.
The wicket of van der Berg (59) in the 15th was to prove the turning point, however, as a succession of Knights batsmen followed him back to the pavilion. The Heriot’s man holed out to Christian Robertson on the long off boundary before Sharif held on to a sharp return catch to remove MacLeod (25), and with Mark Watt (8) departing, too, adjudged run out despite appearing to be impeded by Scott Cameron as he ran across the batsman’s path to gather the ball, the Knights took to the field for the second innings ruing their failure to properly capitalise on the platform that their top order had laid.
Kyle Coetzer (11) and Craig Wallace (19) got the Highlanders reply off to a good start with 40 coming from the Powerplay. A double-wicket maiden from Watt accounted for both in the fifth, however, and with Chris Venske (5) becoming the slow left-armer’s third victim in the space of seven balls the chasing side suddenly found themselves on the back foot.
A terrific partnership from Sharif and Cameron steadied nerves and then saw them home, however, as the two played superbly to take the game away from the Knights once more. Cameron hit his stride with a series of punishing drives to the boundary, and by the time the Forfarshire all-rounder completed his fifty in the 16th the target was within touching distance. The big-hitting Sharif (57*) rattled along too, clubbing five sixes before he hit his only boundary, but it was left to Cameron (65*) to seal what had turned into a straightforward victory with more than three overs remaining.
With the Warriors now needing to win to claim the title all was riding on the second match of the day. In a mirror-image of the first game, however, a below-par performance from the Knights at the end of their innings was to see the Pro 50 champions end their T20 campaign without a victory.
It could – perhaps should – have been different as home captain George Munsey played another superb innings, going through his repertoire of drives, pulls, sweeps and reverses on his way to a 30-ball 65. His departure at the start of the 12th was to expose the fragility of the Knights batting for a second time in the day, however, and with only six boundaries coming in the eight overs that followed Munsey’s wicket it was going to take a strong performance in the field to turn things around.
Despite suffering an early setback as Mohammad Awais (5) was caught off Ali Evans it was clear that any comeback was unlikely, however, as the Warriors pair of Michael English and Richie Berrington moved inexorably towards their target. With first Berrington, then English, passing fifty in the gathering gloom their experience began to tell as they ran hard between the wickets to maintain the pressure on the Knights fielders, and with regular boundaries further demoralising the home side the result never looked in doubt.
A fourth six from Berrington brought up a 58-ball century in the 18th over as the Warriors closed in on the title, and although both English (51) and Berrington (103) were to fall in the final throes of the innings they had seen their side to a victory sealed with seven balls to spare.
“I’m very happy,” said Berrington. “It was obviously nice to contribute in such a big game for us.
“It’s great for Scottish cricket to see the T20 competition go to the last few balls of the last day to decide the winner and for me to be on the winning side is very pleasing.
“This competition has become a massive part of our summer and it’s really important for guys who want to play at the top level. We want to get the standard of our cricket as high as we can and this system helps us to do that.”
The victory put the icing on a memorable weekend for cricket in the west of the country after WDCU champions Prestwick sealed victory over eastern rivals Heriot’s in the Cricket Scotland Club Championship Final.
“There are obviously great signs [for cricket in the west] with Prestwick’s win, that was a top effort from them, and we’ve backed that up today,” said Berrington.
“It’s been a few years since we won some silverware and I’m very proud that we’ve done so today.”