Fantasy finish finds silent exhilaration

Chris Hartley and Peter Forrest of the Heat celebrate after the Big Bash League match between the Adelaide Strikers and the Brisbane Heat.Ever wondered what it’s like to smash a boundary off the last ball to win a game of cricket?
Nanjing Night Net

It is one of those rare but not entirely elusive childhood dreams for a cricketer, a fantasy heightened for anyone who saw Michael Bevan’s last-ball heroics against the West Indies in Sydney in 1996.

So if you caught the Brisbane Heat v Adelaide Strikers Big Bash League cliff-hanger last week – a seesawing match with a last-ball victory for the Heat – you will know that I don’t have to wonder any more.

But for those who may never have the opportunity, I thought I might describe the thoughts and feelings of a batsman facing up to a do-or-die cricketing scenario.

Chasing 185 for victory, the Heat got off to a much-needed flying start thanks largely to some ferocious power-hitting from Luke Pomersbach.

Normally a total of 9-an-over would cast some gloom over the side batting second, but with the outrageously short boundaries and a pitch resembling Adelaide’s Princes Highway, the mood was tense but excited in the dugout.

Batting low in the order allows you to sit back and watch the show, and with Pomers belting balls out of the park, it was a great spectacle.

It also means you have some time to think about how you may be involved in the game and what role you will play.

I considered that I might have to go in for a couple of balls at the end and swing to the hills, and allowing enough time for the butterflies to come and go, I realised that may just happen with the game on the line.

But in true “professional sportsman” style, you can only control the present so I quickly forgot about what might happen and went back to watching our innings.

And besides, T20 can literally change in minutes, with a double-wicket maiden or a booming 20-run over flipping the game upside-down instantly.

So I went back to enjoying the ride as Pomers, then Joe Burns, then Ben Cutting and Chris Lynn took us closer to our target.

When trump Dan Christian was dismissed with our total on 150, we needed 36 to win with 29 balls remaining.

We only needed one big over – 15 or 16 off – to put ourselves in a comfortable position, but with no set batsman in and going, things were always going to go down to the wire.

When Cutting was out after 18 overs, Nathan Hauritz leaned over and offered “don’t worry Harts, you’ve been here before”, in reference to an ING Cup match in 2005.

On that occasion I’d managed two sixes in the final over to give the Queensland Bulls victory over Western Australia.

Some solace huh?

Sure, experience was on my side but my mind quickly told me, again in ultra-professional manner, that was in the past.

My time finally came when Lynn departed and with one over left, Peter Forrest and I had the task of scoring 15 runs off Adelaide’s Gary Putland.

As I approached the wicket, sucking in deep breaths for composure, a streaker flew by.

It was a light-hearted moment that for an instant took my attention away from the nerves, the noise of the crowd and the tension of the game.

The final over began and a couple of scrambled singles preceded a brilliant lofted cover drive from Foz that sailed deep into the stands.

That six gave us a chance, brought the equation down to 7 off 3, and put some serious pressure back on Putland.

Amid the action I had a small moment of clarity – Foz had whacked one, he is a big hitter, so if he hits the fourth ball down the ground, no matter how well, I’ll come back for the second, getting run out if need be, to ensure he stays on strike.

This would mean 6 off 2 and essentially give him two chances to win the game.

Even better was that Foz hit down the ground and I got back for the second easily, leaving 5 off 2.

I then had a moment of non-clarity – same scenario as above really but I didn’t think about what happens with a single.

Foz bottom-edged one to the keeper and I took off for the single to get on strike as if I’d thought, “you’re right Foz, I’ll take it from here!”

Camping on my bat at the non-striker’s end may have been a wise option.

So 4 off 1, crowd is going nuts, I’m on strike and Putland is steaming in.

My plan was based on knowing he would probably go full and try a yorker.

If he got too straight the 50-metre legside boundary was the go, a simple clip off the pads should reach it.

If he went wide, I had noticed they had brought mid-off up next to cover, meaning a solid whack in that region may beat them to the rope.

I repeated my mental mantra “still head, hit straight and hard, still head, hit straight and hard”.

Putland went the wide yorker but missed his length and bowled a full toss.

I made a solid connection up and over cover into the vacant outfield, and fleetingly thought that it would make the fence.

As Foz and I haired back and forth for three to make sure we at least tied the game, Callum Ferguson dived to stop the boundary.

As the third umpire checked the replays before confirming the ball had indeed touched the rope, a deathly quiet consumed the ground.

Apart from Foz going off and a couple of Strikers mumbling expletives, it was dead silent.

It was a crazily eerie feeling – pure exhilaration within a cauldron of silence – not what you imagined when you played out that fantasy as a kid!

Our celebration was more fervent in the dressing rooms but I did take a moment to reflect on what had just happened.

Imagine facing two balls but having such a significant bearing on the final result for all 22 players out there?

It was just another example of why cricket is indeed a funny game.

Chris Hartley is Queensland’s wicket keeper.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.