Louth entertained league leaders Caistor knowing, with a game in hand, victory would take the title race into the last week of the season.
Louth won the toss and opted to bowl first in humid overcast conditions, this decision seemed to pay off as the first 4 overs were bowled without a run being scored. Reggie Koen (10-3-32-0) bowling excellently without luck, whilst Phil Nicholson (8-2-35-2) bowling with pace and bounce grabbed two early wickets.
A partnership then built until Stewart West came on, only bowling off a few yards as he was nursing a sore hamstring. He managed to remove the number four batsman. Then regular wickets tumbled, as West continued to find swing in the air and spinner Phil Burrell (11-1-36-1) also chipped in with a wicket.
However, the dangerous Costello was remaining firm and riding his luck at times to strike some powerful blows and reach his century.
At this point his wonderful innings saw him make 100 off his team’s 130 runs. He was eventually run out brilliantly by Tom Ryder and ‘keeper Mark Duell. West was undoubtedly the pick of the bowlers picking up 5 for 36 off 13 overs. Caistor closed on 157 for 9 off their 45 overs.
After tea, Louth were confident of reaching the target, but the home sides disastrous batting woes continued as they were quickly reduced to 31 for 5 as Henry Tye (4), Steve Wright (8), Bertie Milligan-Manby (2), Stewart West (4) and Mark Duell (0) were all back in the pavilion.
Reggie Koen was still at the crease though and rebuilt with Tom Ryder, before Ryder was LBW for 2, Koen soon followed for 32 to leave Louth 60 for 7 and seemingly dead and buried.
The growing crowd, who had hoped to see a Louth victory in this crucial encounter, were well and truly quietened and even though Kully Bains hit a brisk 12, it seemed nothing but a token gesture when Jase Fisher was dismissed without scoring.
Louth were totally down and out at 86 for 9, still 72 runs adrift of their victory target and with only skipper Phil Burrell left to bat. He strode out defiantly in the growing gloom of the September evening to join number 9 batsman Phil Nicholson.
The word ‘great’ is often used as a sporting term, and largely misused, but what happened next elevated the two Phil’s beyond that term and will surely live in the memory of all that had the pleasure to witness it.
The pair defended stoically, yet clinically pounced on anything wayward. With the Caistor field very much set to take wickets, there were boundaries available and both batsmen made the most of it. Gradually and almost imperceptibly they moved Louth quickly beyond 100.
The crowd started to cheer boundaries, the Caistor team quietened. Costello who had had the game of his life, misfielded a ball which went for four, prompting the passionate home crowd that had stayed the course to get louder and louder.
Shouts of encouragement echoed from the balcony and around the ground as first 110 was passed, then 120 and then 130.
Then with the score on 135 Nicholson top edged an attempted sweep shot only for the ball to land in between three fielders, maybe it was to be Louth’s day after all.
With still seven needed off the last two overs, Burrell was in no mood for messing around, hitting some crashing extra cover drives and with two balls gone in the second last over, he bludgeoned two consecutive boundaries to bring up the most unlikely of victories.
The atmosphere at the ground was electric as spectators and Louth players alike ecstatically charged the field. Nicholson finished 41 not out and Burrell 44 not out.
The victory confirmed promotion and left the team needing 14 points from their final game away at Grimsby Town next week to be crowned champions.
A special mention must go to the Caistor team who had all but won the game and played with great spirit and sportsmanship and congratulated the two players who had just completed something very special.
Thanks to match ball sponsors Makhteshim Agan UK Ltd.