Harrison-Allen Bowl final - Haverfordwest v Lawrenny this Saturday, August 31st, 12pm start:

You go and save the best for last......

The decision to move the Harrison-Allen Bowl final to the last day of the Pembroke County Cricket Club season wasn’t universally popular, but it will at least mean our showcase game will be the last act of the summer. There is something fitting about that.

Were rain to wash it out for a week or two then we could have the fascinating conundrum of cricket meets Ironman, but mercifully, the weather is set fair for the afternoon at least. Although Cresselly groundsman Richard Arthur will be sweating over the current rain forecast in the morning.

The Division One title almost ended in anti-climax when Neyland secured the silverware with two weeks in hand, so both Lawrenny and Haverfordwest have had ample time to switch focus to this. There will be no excuse for players being ill prepared, just as long as Brad McDermott-Jenkins isn’t planning on scaling mountains the morning of the match again anyway.

And for varying reasons, both teams will be eyeing a huge opportunity……

A contrasting history:

It’s fair to say Haverfordwest are no strangers to Bowl finals.

They’ve played in 18, a record that began with defeat to Burton United in 1951 - winning nine and losing nine.

Their last two appearances have yielded victory, beating hosts Cresselly in 2014 and 2016, the latter a thrilling affair that went down to the final ball of the day.

On the contrary Lawrenny have played in just three, the first a loss to Kilgetty in 1997.

The notched their only win 18 years ago against Cresselly in 2001 - but were then beaten by the same side last season.

The desire to avoid back to back defeats will be strong.

Routes to the final:

Round 1: Hundleton (63-6) lost to Haverfordwest (65-1) by 9 wickets; Lawrenny – bye.

Round 2: Neyland (143-7) lost to Haverfordwest (161-4) by 18 runs; Lawrenny (walkover) beat Johnston.

Quarter finals: Herbrandston (72 all out) lost to Haverfordwest  (73-4) by 6 wickets; Carew (94-9) lost to Lawrenny (141-9) by 47 runs.

Semi finals: Haverfordwest (210-5) beat Whitland (105 all out) by 105 runs; Lawrenny (157-5) beat Saundersfoot (154-7) by 5 wickets.

The form guide:

Looks can be deceiving.

And one glance at the Division One table would suggest Lawrenny are overriding favourites for this final.

They have finished three places, and 136 points, above The Town and beaten them both home and away.

The first meeting was a 10 wicket trouncing, the second a tenser affair as a big six by Ryan Morton secured a three wicket win at The Racecourse. They also come into this having won two on bounce, and perhaps significantly, on Saturday hammered Cresselly at the same venue they'll play the Bowl final.

Haverfordwest's league form has been indifferent but they too come in off the back of a good result, a big winning draw at Carew.

But how much bearing any of the above has on Saturday is debatable. My hunch is it will have very little.

The 22 over format is vastly different to the 45 over one, and The Town have won at Neyland in round two and simply demolished Whitland in the semi final. Were it not for a calamitous finish to their DR Morris game with Neyland as well, then it would have been them who would have joined Lawrenny in the Duggie Morris final.

Joe Kidney's side have had to show their mettle to get here too, first by winning at Carew and then coming through the nail biter with Saundersfoot.

They were ultimately well beaten in that Duggie final, but at least have the experience of a two innings match under their belts this season.

It is the positives from their limited over games, and not the league campaigns, that Messrs Kidney and Potter are more likely to take into this meeting.

Perfect time to shine:

You don't reach a Harrison-Allen Bowl final unless you have big game players, so to say both sides possess match winners is probably stating the obvious.

For Haverfordwest and skipper Potter in particular, they pysche is different to their wins in 2014 and 2016. They were achieved with vastly experienced line ups and while a handful of those campaigners do remain, it's a squad with a much younger outlook now.

And there will be a big desire to salvage what has been a mixed season for the club. While fifth in the table is perhaps no disgrace, The Town lost nine league games and the manner of that DR Morris semi final defeat would have haunted them.

The unavailability of vital players, Simon Holliday and Adam James in particular, has hampered them at times but this is now a big chance to turn a mediocre summer into a successful one.

Should they prevail on Saturday, then in years to come few club members will remember their league record in 2019. They'll all remember the Harrison-Allen Bowl final win though.

As for Lawrenny now is the time to turn potential into trophies.

They've become a close knit and very effective unit, and back to back Harrison-Allen finals, a Duggie final, and a second placed finish is ample proof of that.

But they won't want to let a third opportunity of cup silverware pass them by.

In a way their semi final with Saundersfoot couldn't have turned out better. They were up against it in the run chase and when they seemed to be heading for defeat, it was captain Kidney who saved matters with that dramatic final ball six. It always helps to go into a big occasion having come through a test of mettle beforehand.

Just 12 months ago they experienced this final, twice over in fact after the original clash was rained off - do I don't expect any stage fright.

Key men:

Could be here all day with this one, so I'll narrow it down to one per side.

It speaks volumes that when Simon Holliday strolled into Carew at 5.45pm for The Town's semi final with Whitland, spectators frantically revised predictions. Missing from the warm up, those tipping an even game thinking he wasn't paying suddenly swayed towards Haverfordwest.

Few batsmen, or indeed players, have had a bigger impact than Holliday has done on Pembrokeshire cricket this past decade.

In his last final he was out cheaply first innings and the general consensus he wouldn't fail twice. He duly cracked a ton in the second. If Rob Williams and co could somehow find a way to get him early twice over they will go a long way towards winning the Bowl.

For Lawrenny, they've grown as a side through having a lot of consistent performers.

But while his batting hasn't always fired this summer, McDermott-Jenkins still has the potential to change any game.

His 79 against Cresselly last week, not to mention 6-40 with the ball, was a reminder of how destructive he can be and he is one of those players who can take the game away from you in a matter of minutes.

If he starts to fire, keep an eye on your car.

The captains’ view:

Danny Potter (third final as captain): “It feels different for me this time around.

“Those last two we had very experienced sides with the majority having played in multiple finals who knew what it was like to play in front of big crowds. This time around we could have up to six playing in their first final. I’m really excited for all of them because I remember what my first final was like and it’s something that every cricketer in Pembrokeshire aspires to do some day.

“We still have a core of senior players too so it’s up to us to to help them out as much as possible. But it does help that we have won a couple of times recently and have three previous Man of the Match winners in our side, with players who have played big innings and bowled high pressure spells too. Knowing we have been there and played under that pressure will definitely help.

“We can’t rely on what has happened in the past though. It’s a big final that will be won or lost on the day against a very strong Lawrenny team. They have some incredibly talented cricketers and are led well by Joe so we have to be at our best.

“I was always for the final being the last game as it is a fitting finale to the end of the season. And I just want to add my best wishes to everyone involved in the day - Lawrenny, my team, the umpires and all officials. I’m looking forward to this game, my last as captain.”

Joe Kidney (second final as captain): “It’s great to be back playing in another Harry Allen final.

"I’m so proud of the lads, they have deserved this day by the effort they have put in. Haverfordwest will be a strong outfit so we need to be at our best and hope we get the result the club needs.

"Playing in the final last year has given us a good taste of what’s to come. I feel the boys are so determined this time around that each one of them will contribute to bringing it home."

Predicted squads:

Haverfordwest: Danny Potter, Simon Holliday, Lee Summons, Ben Field, Dai Davies, Mike Jones, Archie Thomas, Jack Scriven, Clive Tucker, Ashley James, Adam James, Nikhil Mathias.

Scorer: Jayne Cole.

Lawrenny: Joe Kidney, Rob Williams, Jamie Lewis, Steve Lewis, Brad McDermott-Jenkins, Ryan Morton, Harry Thomas, Kurtis Marsh, James Buckle, Tom Cole, James Phillips, James Skeels.

Scorer: Malcolm Thomas.

Umpires: Simon Richards and Dave Bonner.