Simply put, it was a brutal partnership.

At tea in the 2017 Harrison-Allen Bowl final, the scores were tied with both sides having racked up 153 in the first innings.

But after going out to bat again, Neyland had faltered to 12-3 and the pendulum had swung firmly towards Cresselly.

Paul Murray and Nick Koomen however, had other ideas. They didn’t so much as swing the pendulum back, they simply smashed it out of the equation completely.

And their fireworks would go on to define the final.

A final which was Neyland’s fifth in nine seasons. They had won their previous three, and not tasted defeat at that stage since losing to The Doves themselves in 2009. In contrast, Cresselly hadn’t won one since then and had missed out against Haverfordwest in 2014 and 2016.

Perhaps because of the latter, it was Neilson Cole’s side who went in under more pressure. Something Neyland skipper Sean Hannon insists his side weren’t feeling.

“We had an experienced team by then who had been there and done it,” he recalled.

“I’d been assistant to Gregg (Miller) in previous finals so the build up was fairly easy from my point of view as we didn’t have to do anything different heading in. I didn’t feel any extra pressure going in and neither did the team.

“We had played Cresselly in the latter stages of cup competitions quite often in the years beforehand and had won the majority. So we did feel we had a psychological advantage because of previous meetings.”

Pundits who predicted a tight final were proved right during the early afternoon. Cole won the toss and opted to field, and Murray gave warning of what was to come with two big sixes before falling to Mike Shaw for 20.

Ashley Sutton (26) also got started before being run out as The Doves kept things tight, and in the end Neyland were indebted to Nathan Banner for smashing 46 not out in 28 balls to lead them to a reasonable 153-8.

“By 2017 we had been in both high and low scoring finals and we thought our total was about par,” said Hannon.

“Overall we were reasonably happy. We knew the final was over four innings not just one.”

But unlike their previous two finals, Cresselly’s batting line up this time included former Glamorgan player Dan Cherry. On paper, it turned an already strong batting line up into a formidable one.

“The week before the final we did have a team meeting but we didn’t dwell on the Cherry factor too much.

“We knew where he tended to score runs and the plan was simply to bowl in the areas where he didn’t score as prolifically. But we talked about plans for other batsmen as well, not just him.”

Regardless, Cresselly’s reply started in style. Opener Adam Chandler took 30 runs of Jamie Smith’s first two overs, including five fours and a six, and reached 44 before giving a return catch to Henry Durrant.

Cherry would make just 17 and Phil Williams 27, but spells from Banner (4-39) and Koomen (3-34) checked the progress – and it took 30 off 17 deliveries from Dan James to take matters to 153-9 and make the contest dead even at the interval.

“We were pleased with how things were going and especially to get Ryan Lewis cheaply, as we knew what he could do. But then Dan James scored really well late on and after that it felt like the momentum was slightly with them,” said Hannon.

And after James’ opening spell with the ball, there was no ‘slightly’ about it. He dismissed Patrick Bellerby, Gregg Miller and Sutton to leave Neyland 12-3 as the noise levels from the home faithful rose considerably.

That left opener Murray and Koomen at the crease, both of whom were proven performers in a Harrison-Allen Bowl final.

And yet few would have envisaged the ruthless 151 run partnership that followed as the ball sailed to all parts. Koomen’s 50 came in 30 balls (40 of those runs came in boundaries), and he would go on to make 67 before being skittled by Cherry.

Murray was also at his destructive best, cracking 85 from 45 with seven fours and six sixes thrown in for good measure. And by the time he holed out to Cherry off Shaw, the damage was done.

“We knew what to expect from those two.

“Minty on his day is as good as anyone and we all remembered Nick’s knock on 2011. But I think what they ended up doing exceeded everyone’s expectations.

“It was incredible to watch all the sixes sailing over and by the end I don’t think anyone wanted to bowl from the clubhouse end. It was just brutal to be fair, they both went gung ho.”

Other wickets fell late in the run chase but it was Banner again who belted a rapid 29 before he was run out last ball, leaving Neyland on 213-8 and meaning a record run chase was required from Cresselly.

“At half time the chat was that we had been in this situation before,” said Hannon.

“We knew the third innings usually defined the final and we had to work hard in it. Once we’d got that score were quite confident, especially with our bowling attack.

“You can never say never but it was about doing the basics well, bowling in the right areas, and keeping things simple.”

But Chandler and Alex Bayley had other ideas. The latter cracked three sixes of successive Durrant deliveries to Cresselly to 89-0 in the 11th over, when crucially he tried to launch a fourth only to be caught on the boundary by Bellerby for 56.

Chandler (28) soon followed but Cherry came in and began to build, and when Lewis joined him at the crease suddenly The Doves had hope again.

Rhino smashed four sixes in a quick 28 and it took a diving Bellerby catch off Koomen’s bowling to dismiss him. It signalled much relief for Hannon and co.

“It didn’t seem like they were scoring consistently enough early on before Bayley started teeing off.

“But it was Ryan who could potentially have done it, especially after those four sixes. Cherry was playing the measured innings we expected, playing balls on merit and producing proper cricket shots. But Ryan had a good eye and would try and hit every ball and we were glad to get him out.”

Cherry did then accelerate to 50 in 29 balls, but in the penultimate over picked out Gregg Miller in the deep as Koomen struck again – and when the same fielder’s catch also got rid of Shaw it left The Doves needing an unlikely two sixes off two balls to force a tie.

The didn’t get them, and despite a record fourth innings score in a Bowl final of 203-8, fell 10 runs short.

“We were confident going into the last over but when Gregg took the catch to get Mike Shaw that’s when we could really celebrate.”

And celebrate they did – even if not everyone associated with Neyland that day was in the mood to smile.

“It was memorable to lift the Bowl as captain and there was real elation. My daughter Luna was only 10 months old and I have a nice picture of her sat in it crying – her bottom lip went quickly so don’t think she appreciated it.”

Of course for most of the squad members, lifting the Bowl was nothing new, but the captain was particularly pleased for one youngster.

“Jamie (Smith) had just broken into the team and for a 16-year-old, had a tough start in that final. But he overcame the nerves and I was really pleased for him.

“He’d really stepped up in the previous rounds and been a key player for us throughout that Bowl run.”

Whether Neyland, or anyone else, gets a shot at a Bowl final this year remains to be seen.

But if we do manage to reach some sort of final stage, any batsmen involved will do well to replicate the fireworks of 2017.