Sporting encounters of any type don’t come closer – or more entertaining – than this, with Heriot’s surely entitled to feel they were home and dry when finally removing Watsonian pro Jean Symes for 136, caught and bowled Ali Farooq off the first ball of the concluding over and 11 runs still required to achieve a 287 win target.
What Heriot’s hadn’t bargained on was former Saltire Dewald Nel coming in and immediately lifting Farooq for six.
In that one stroke the momentum changed and there were some who found piquancy in the fact that victory came with the 35th – and final – wide delivery bowled by an erratic Heriot’s attack.
The tension was almost tangible as Watsonians last pair, also comprising Patrick Leggett, chipped away at the total and there had been added drama down the stretch when home skipper Stuart Chalmers hobbled out to bat with the aid of a runner more than 40 overs after suffering a hamstring injury.
With wickets tumbling fast it was a brave effort by Chalmers, which only came after groundstaff had been required to paint lines signifying a crease on an adjacent batting strip so as umpires could determine whether the runner, Fraser Boyd, was in his ground.
In the event Chalmers and Boyd failed to get into sync and a run-out soon ensued.
At that stage it seemed Heriot’s only needed to keep Saltires hired hand Symes off strike, especially with 19 needed off the final two overs.
What they hadn’t bargained on was the never-say-die ‘Sonian spirit, albeit skipper Chalmers knew his side had lived far too dangerously.
Said Chalmers: “Although Steve Knox battled brilliantly in getting a classy 101 for Heriot’s we always felt 286 was gettable.
“We went out to be positive and if I’m happy with the collective performance in getting our campaign off on the right foot there is a lot of work to be done.
“There were too many four-balls (boundaries) conceded at the start but thankfully Jean and Wrighty (Craig Wrighty) brought Heriot’s back to us with their spin.
“Jean’s 136 was all the better for the fact he’d been troubled by a broken pinkie as well as the cold weather up until now.
“His first two Saltires outings at the Grange were played in freezing cold and he didn’t do himself justice. We have just seen what a brilliant player he is.
“After Jean was out it was left to Dewald to show what an experienced cricketer he is in taking the initiative away from Heriot’s with that six.”
Internationalist Chalmers played down his own fortitude, saying: “I was only a few overs into my innings when I heard my hamstring ping. I’ve never done anything like that before and will just have to wait and see how long I’m out for.
“Having the lines painted on to the adjacent pitch was fair enough; I understood the reasons.”
Heriot’s skipper Steve Knox mustn’t have known whether to laugh or cry in the wake of an imperious century featuring only one sharp chance – a diving catch at cover where the fielder did well to get fingetips to the ball – and his ton included 11 x 4s and a couple of sixes.
By comparison, Symes’ knock featured 14 x 4s and one six.
There was a moment at the death, though, where Heriot’s seemed unsure whether to bring ‘keeper Kneebone up to the stumps or stay back to try to cut out the single.
In the event the delivery sailed wide and through for a bye which was cruel on the likes of Cammy Farrell (57) and Sean Weeraratna (43) who had provided staunch support for Knox.
Indeed, only Heriot’s spinner Craig Adams matched Weeraratna’s three wickets in an absorbing encounter.
Elsewhere, Barclays Wealth Grange cruised to a comfortable win at Aberdeenshire surpassing the home total of 113 with 15 overs to spare and opener Sanjay Patel unbeaten on 57.
Earlier the spin of skipper Neil McCallum yielded three wickets for just 21 runs.
Scottish champions Carlton suffered a setback when they failed to hit a six off the final ball which would have tied Stoneywood-Dyce’s total of 248 and sterling knocks from Toby Bailey (47no), Gordon Drummond (47) and Michael Herdman (57) proved in vain.