On a gorgeous evening at the Victoria ground Cheltenham welcomed a strong title chasing Poulton side for the return league fixture.
Our visitors batted first and lost their captain in the second over, chopping on to Eloise for 9. Poulton were not put off their stride though and the incoming batter hit her second ball for 6 and the second wicket partnership of 61 was only broken through a fantastic catch by Grace at cover in the 9th over from a returning Eloise. Millie B picked up a wicket (clean bowled) in the next over as Cheltenham tried to get back into a match that was in danger of being taken away from them. Annie bowled a variable line but her straight balls were causing the batters some difficulty and she was rewarded by rearranging the timbers of the no2 for 33, an important wicket for Cheltenham and Annies first for the club (I think there will be many more to follow). Poulton were now 91 for 4 in the 14th over and managed to push on and get to 126 as Grace picked up a well deserved wicket, bowling the no6 for 16 with the final delivery of the innings. Beth had rotated her bowlers well but Poulton reached a very respectable 126 for 5 from their 20 overs.
With the memory of two rather fragile batting displays fresh in their minds, Cheltenham went out to see what they could achieve - determined not to be rolled over again.
Beth and Grace began the reply in a cautious fashion, facing some high class bowling. Unfortunately the partnership was broken in the 5th over as Beth was bowled by the Poulton captain for 11 (2 fours). Grace and Millie dug in and saw off the opening bowlers who were only to be replaced by more accurate bowling. Three maidens in a row in a T20 is not ideal but the pair kept their nerve and their wickets intact for a 10 over long partnership of 29. Finally the shackles were broken as Millie was caught and bowled for 9 (having just narrowly survived a very close c&b chance which went to the TV replay*). Eloise was next in, and next out, caught behind from a skied top edge for 2. Helen played well until misjudging a flighted delivery which dropped viciously to bowl her for 1 in part of an eventful final over which then saw Lily selflessly run out without scoring to get Grace back on strike for the final ball (which was a no ball, and then a no ball dispatched for 4 and then a dot) as Cheltenham finished on 70 for 5 from 20 overs (with Grace on a solid 25 not out including 4 fours).
Not the most action packed of innings (thinking back to yesterdays antics in the mens world cup, where they just managed to emulate the success of the women two years previously) - but in the context of the last two matches and up against another very good team, Cheltenham showed great character and backbone to stand up strong. Well done everyone - again you have done Cheltenham CC proud.
*not an actual TV replay obvs but with the amount of "did it carry / did it not" debate in the umpires mind it took the same amount of time...