Rowledge secured their Southern Premier Cricket League Division One status with a thumping 85-run victory at home to Ventnor on Saturday afternoon.
The importance of the last game of the season to both teams at the Recreation Ground was visible from the start – and the nerves from both set of players could be felt in the pavilion and all around the ground.
In the end both teams were happy when the required bonus points were secured and ensured they retain their Division One status for another season, although Rowledge produced their best batting performance of the season in the last game and finished in the top half of the table in a very competitive league.
The resounding win against Ventnor did not reveal the high quality of the game on both sides – and spectators wondered how both teams had ever been in relegation trouble throughout the year.
Winning the toss and batting, Ben Wish’s Rowledge lost early wickets again.
Contributions to the total from almost all the batters helped the home team recover and the middle order flourished against an impressive Ventnor bowling attack.
At 96 for five the game was finely poised, but overseas player Connor Cook and the Ryman brothers – Will and Olly – produced innings of high quality to take the game away from the visitors.
Cook (75), W Ryman (75) and O Ryman (72 not out) all played quality shots all round the ground and thrilled the large crowd on a lovely sunny afternoon in a game that said a lot for Southern Premier League cricket.
Ventnor looked a beaten side by the end of the innings, and huge hitting from Cook and the Ryman brothers took Rowledge to a big total of 317 and full bonus points.
However, if the home side thought they had secured a win the opening pair from Ventnor quickly brought them down to earth with a scintillating opening partnership of 106 off 13 overs.
Overseas player Dineth Thimodya (50) and Henry Bartlett(63) took the home side’s bowlers apart and put Ventnor well on course for a win.
However, Rowledge’s fielding pulled them out of a hole and O Ryman produced a spectacular run out to dismiss Thimodya and change the game.
Tom Friend (31) carried on the assault, but when Bartlett and Friend fell to David Lloyd and Max Martin respectively the visitors were 153 for three.
The strangle from the home side brought scoreboard pressure, and the Ventnor innings subsided. Martin finished with figures of four for 50 and the wickets were shared among the other bowlers as Rowledge finished the season on a high and finished fifth in the league after another fine display of ground fielding.
Ventnor’s final total of 232 would have won most games, but the total of 317 was just too much to chase and Rowledge proved a tough side to beat.
Survival celebrations went on long into the night and early morning.
With another season of Division One cricket secured, Rowledge continue to punch above their weight.
The youth system – which is producing players of real quality – will again be tested in 2024. With players at university at the start of next season others will have to step up.