Most Islanders seemed to be at either Jersey Live or the rugby club on Saturday afternoon but those that headed to Grainville for this year's Malborough Inter Insular were treated to a fantastic day's cricket, a day that ended at ten past five when Ben Stevens struck the winning boundary in the forty fourth over, for a nine wicket Jersey win. Losing the toss may not have been the best start for Jersey captain, Pete Gough in his final match as captain before he jets off to New Zealand, but it didn't matter.
Guernsey skipper Stuart Le Prevost ignored the stats that suggested batting second was the better option and boldly inserted his side, but it's been ten years since a side batted first and scored in excess of two hundred in this fixture on this ground, a statistic that his side failed to reverse.
Rob Mcbey representing the Island for the first time took the new ball and, after a wide with his first ball, settled into a good rhythm and he and fellow opener Anthony Hawkins-Kay were soon asking openers GH Smit and Ross Kneller some awkward questions. Kneller's response was to deposit Mcbey over the boundary ropes in the third over for six but, great shot that it was, it was a high risk strategy, a strategy he would pay the price for 12 balls later when he went for a repeat and edged to Farley behind the stumps giving Mcbey the first of his three wickets.
Kneller's replacement went to the same pairing after a partnership of 27 with the powerful hitting GH Smit, who seemed content to curb is natural instincts and bide his time. Although Jersey had made good use of the new ball and would have been happy with their position the sight of Lee Savident striding out to the crease will have quickly removed any complacency and after a few sighters he started to set about the seam attack. Gough would have been aware however, that in the last two inter insulars Savident had fallen to Ben Stevens' left arm orthodox bowling and was quick to bring debutant left arm orthodox bowler Nat Watkins into the attack.
Watkins didn't disappoint and had Savident caught at first slip by Anthony Kay who took a good catch running behind the wicket keeper. A huge wicket and at 53 for 3 Jersey seemed to be in the ascendency, although with Smit at the crease and skipper Stuart le Prevost replacing Savident, Guernsey were still dangerous.
Gough replaced Bodenstein with Stevens at the pavilion end and seven balls later Stevens had claimed the Guernsey captain's wicket for the third time in this fixture, clean bowling him for sixteen. 81 for four off twenty two overs was soon ninety four for five as Stevens then claimed the scalp of the dangerous Smit for forty.
With the backbone of the batting line up back in the hutch it would have been easy for Guernsey to capitulate, but a fifty partnership between James Gale and Ben Ferbrache had the away crowd, who had risked life and limb to get to the game by, firstly enduring a lumpy crossing on a rib and then scaling the Greve de Lecq cliffs, believing that a total in excess of two hundred was a possibility.
Their dreams were shattered though as Corne Bodenstein and Stevens took care of that duo and with Kay, Watkins and Mcbey taking the final wickets between them helped by Andy Dewhurst and James Faudemer who took a couple of good catches, Guernsey slumped to an all out total of one hundred an seventy four.
That appeared a below par score, nevertheless runs on the board counts for a lot and many a game has been won with far inferior totals. The reality was however that the game was Jersey's to lose and Craig Hogan would have been quick to point out to his team during the break that, although they had done well, they had only completed half the job and to win this match they would have to show some real mettle.
He needn't have worried as, although there were a few anxious moments early on, openers Ed Farley and Nat Watkins made steady progress and although they were at most stages behind Guernsey in terms of runs they managed to keep their wickets intact.
Lee Savident had both playing and missing but much as he huffed and puffed he could not blow their castles down, he did end up with admirable figures of 10 overs 3 maidens nought for 17 runs however. Farley who had hit 90 runs off 40 balls in an ICC T20 match last year against Guernsey, like Smit reigned in his natural instincts, realising that Jersey just had to bat out the 50 overs to win the match.
The pair brought up the fifty in the seventeenth over before Farley succumbed to Max Ellis for twenty off forty eight balls with the score on fifty two. Guernsey were briefly back in the match but that was as good as it got for them as new batsman Ben Stevens and Watkins settled down to steer the side home. They inched and then sprinted their way over the line, the majority of the final runs brought up in boundaries including three sixes from Stevens' bat.
The Durham University duo end up with 73 runs apiece, the unruffable Watkins who faced 129 balls, would have won plenty of fans amongst the home crowd, and deserves any plaudits going as he batted throughout the innings on what appeared a bowler friendly wicket, but it was Stevens whose 87 ball innings and three wickets were, quite rightly, deemed worthy of the Man of the Match award.