DERBYSHIRE County League Division One promotion rivals Alfreton and Matlock competed in the rearranged Marston’s Smooth Trophy final on Sunday with Matlock looking to put two previous disappointments in the final behind them.
The toss was won by Alfreton’s Mace who opted to bowl first on a used wicket. Openers Leatherday and Fletcher came to the crease and looked to build a steady platform so Matlock could score big runs in the first innings.
After surviving the opening onslaught from overseas star Bilawal Bhatti, the Matlock batsmen had progressed to 26 after ten overs. Mace introduced himself and, with his second delivery, managed to force Leatherday to edge behind for 16. Fletcher was next to go, lbw to Mace for 12. With Conway and Cluer now at the crease, Matlock were hoping for a partnership to be built. However, Mace had other ideas and promptly removed Cluer, who failed to trouble the scorers.
At 38-3, Alfreton sensed that this could be their time but Aspinall and Conway had other ideas and added 67 runs for the fourth wicket before Conway was removed by an excellent delivery from spinner McRobert for 32. Hopes of a big total were now with Aspinall. However, he was unable to produce the innings Matlock needed and succumbed to McRobert for 37.
At 107-5, Peter Camm and Mark Burton put on 18 more runs before Camm went for one big shot too many and edged a Clark delivery for 17.
With wickets tumbling regularly, the Matlock tail looked vulnerable. However, Ed Lander (19 not out) and Mark Stokes scored valuable runs and got Matlock a total of 167-9 from their 50 overs.
At the interval, Alfreton appeared to be in the driving seat. However, Matlock knew early wickets would make this a very difficult chase.
Peter Camm opened the bowling with the miserly Ed Lander and it was Camm who got the early breakthrough, dismissing part-time opener Pratt (4) with a brute of a delivery that hit the top of middle stump.
Mace and Bush settled down and added a further 20 runs before Mace was plumb LBW to an Aspinall delivery for nine.
Gwatkin joined the evergreen Bush and the pair added 30 until the former was removed by Chris Fletcher, cleaned bowled for 14. Overseas player Bhatti was next to join Bush and it was Bhatti who looked to increase the tempo with some T20-style hitting.
Matlock were starting to wonder if it would be their day with several play and misses and a number of near-misses in the field. However, with the score on 88, Bush and Bhatti had yet a mix-up with the running, this time leaving Bush stranded, run out for 33.
Simpson joined Bhatti, who chanced his arm early on and, with the pressure of the game building, Simpson was run out by at least two metres for two.
At 109-6, the game was in the balance while Bhatti was still there and in the battle of the best two overseas players in the league, it was South African star Devon Conway who came out on top. In the 37th over, Conway bowled his trademark “doosra” and Bhatti did not pick it while advancing down the wicket. He was quickly stumped by Stokes for 30.
From 109-7 became 139-9 and captain Steve Pell turned to Camm to take the final wicket. Camm duly obliged, removing Slater for a duck to win the cup for Matlock by 28 runs.
The game was fantastic throughout and both teams deserve huge credit for the way it was played and Alfreton were very quick to congratulate Matlock.
Special mentions should go to Alex Mace (4-30) and the Man of the Match Devon Conway, who produced another match winning performance, scoring 32 runs and taking 3-27 with the ball, plus a great catch.
This is the first time in Matlock’s history they have won this competition and the team will be hoping to cap off a wonderful season by securing promotion to the Premier Division at the weekend.