GLOUCESTERSHIRE saved their best for last, defeating Surrey by five wickets with just three balls to spare in the Over 70s play-off final at Thame to clinch a first-ever senior championship title.
There were great scenes of celebration as Fred Bayliss stroked his first delivery through the covers for the three runs that got his side over the line in a game which for long periods was evenly poised.
Surrey, who won the toss, reached 245-6 from their 40 overs – reduced from 45 because of the heat – with Graham Clarke (3-60), Tony Garton (2-49) and John Turton (1-40, all from eight) taking wickets.
Rick Carmen (0-39) and Howard Johnson (0-51) also played key roles in helping restrict Surrey to a total which proved to be within range for Gloucestershire who, as so often this summer, were given a wonderful start by openers John Evans and Keith Daniels.
The pair shared a stand of 170 which was broken when Evans was dismissed for 101 off 88 (13 fours) while Daniels went on to score 82 before being stumped.
Surrey began to turn the screw as the run rate increased to seven an over off the last ten. But Bill Lawrence produced a vital innings of 26 from 19 as Gloucestershire chipped away at their target ahead of Bayliss hitting the winning runs with skipper Roger Beese at the other end.
Roger said: “We had a bit of work to do at the end but there was no doubt about the situation and that gave our batsmen a lot of clarity.
“Seven an over is quite an ask but once we needed five an over to win then I felt that we should get there.
“It’s been a fantastic season with everyone playing a part. It definitely makes a difference when you have an opening pair as consistent as John and Keith, they’ve been quite superb all season.
“You’re allowed to select two 69-year-olds, and for us to have Dave Collinson and Bill Lawrence coming in at three and four has made that top order very strong.
“The bowling has been very consistent all season, and we also have to mention our fielding … Ian Bentley, before getting injured, Phil Dickenson and Tony Glinos have all been brilliant … very mobile and full of running, and they would typically save 20 runs apiece each game thanks to their chasing.
“On top of all that, team spirit has been very good.”
Roger played much of his early club career at Keynsham, captaining them to the Western League title in 1979 before spending several seasons at the then Gloucester City club..
At the age of 40, though, he stopped playing for some 20 summers before coming out of retirement for Eastington ahead of being asked to play seniors cricket.
Roger added: “If anyone can said to me, at the age of 35 or 40, that I would still be playing when I was 75 … I would never have believed them, but here we are!”
It was a hectic week of finals for Gloucestershire with the Over 60s 3rd XI trumping Hertfordshire by 73 runs in the Vase play-off while Gloucestershire Over 60s 2nds went down by seven wickets away to Yorkshire in the Bowl final.
Opener Simon Mezsaros plundered 129 from 91 (22 fours and a six) for the 60s 3rds with Sean Walters taking 2-34 from eight.
The 2nds, meanwhile, totalled 182-9 thanks mainly to Andy Macleod’s superb 96 before Yorkshire secured the win with almost seven overs to spare.