For Cresselly and Neilson Cole, it was a Sunday of redemption.

Having endured three Bowl final defeats in four seasons, The Doves went into the 2018 affair as a side under pressure. What’s more the opponents were near neighbours Lawrenny, who themselves hadn’t played on that stage since surprisingly beating the hosts in 2001.

And make no mistake, that day still lingered in the memories.

“I actually did play some part in the match 17 years earlier,” recalled Cole.

“I was 12th man but was on inside three or four overs and fielded most of the game. Unfortunately, I remember it well.

“Leading up to 2018, the three losses in four years hurt a lot and I did feel the pressure. We had a dressing room joke going that we had become the team who pushed the winners all the way.

“In the latter two finals I was captain and in fact after the Neyland loss (2017) I considered stepping down.

“After talking to people I decided to give to another go but I knew this would be my last chance to lift it.”

That chance however, was delayed by eight days after thunderous storms curtailed the original final before it had barely begun.

Second time around, it was on a Sunday afternoon – and a glorious one at that. And given the personnel involved, there was little chance of a deflated occasion.

“The Saturday afternoon of a Harrison-Allen final brings an amazing atmosphere. But because it was Cresselly and Lawrenny - switching it to a Sunday was never going to affect things that much.”

Off the field, maybe so. But the new date was to play a part as far as Lawrenny’s key man Brad Mcdermmott-Jenkins was concerned. It meant he would be hot footing it back from his ‘three peaks’ charity challenge to be involved and as it happened missed the early going.

It made Lawrenny’s decision to field after winning the toss a slightly bewildering one.

“I was surprised,” admitted Cole.

“I was thinking Brad would be bowling six overs of the innings and of course for them, the biggest loss was being a player down on the field.

“My intention was always to bat anyway to take advantage of that.”

Sure enough, Cresselly took command as an unbeaten 123-run stand between Adam Chandler and Alex Bayley took them to an imposing 194-3.

Opener Chandler played the anchor role to finish 57 not out, while Bayley blasted his way to 79 not out with 52 of those coming in boundaries.

“The first bit of advice you give about a Bowl final is you can’t win it with one innings,” said Cole.

“You have to perform with the bat in both but a good score first up can put you in control.

“And Bayley’s knock did just that. He’s one of the cleanest strikers of a ball I’ve seen and that was a fantastic innings. It would have been demoralising to bowl against.”

Sure enough, a tough start for Lawrenny became a nightmare one when Bayley caught Simon ‘Chief' Cole off Ryan Lewis, who also bowled Patrick Elliott. At the other end Mike Shaw trapped Steve Lewis LBW and three vital top order players had gone for ducks.

Opener James Phillips did make 39 but it was Harry Thomas who brought his side hope, making a measured 70 in a final total of 146-9 – a deficit of 48.

“Harry batted fantastically.

“It wasn’t a slap and bang kind of innings but he played shots and moved our fielders around.

“But we bowled well as a unit. We haven’t been recognised as a team with a devastating bowling attack but we certainly had one which functioned well together - and our slower bowlers were important that day.”

And at tea, unlike their previous three finals, the psychology was different for Cole and co. In all those affairs they were chasing – this time they were in the driving seat and had a chance to ram the advantage home.

“It was one of those situations where all the clichés come in. We were saying we had to keep playing.

“Ultimately, it was about making sure we had a score on the board we could defend. I thought we had to get 140 or 150 or the door would be wide open.

“I knew it wouldn’t be a 190 track again as it was starting to do a bit more and now they had an additional bowler.”

As it happened, Cole’s side started cautiously and while Dan Sutton (38) and Chandler (27) laid a platform, the scoreboard read 98-5 after 16 overs.

But it was then the class of Dan Cherry came to the fore, as he stroked six boundaries and a maximum in his undefeated 80, leading The Doves to 149-6.

“I think we started too carefully and nerves kicked in.

“But it was an absolutely vital innings from Cherry.

“His class is known around the county and he guided us to the score we targeted.”

It all meant an unlikely run chase of 198 for Lawrenny, and they made a fight of it.

Captain Joe Kidney hit 48 and McDermott-Jenkins defied fatigue to hit a belligerent 52 not out, but 4-46 from Sutton helped ensure there was no panic stations. Not from the Cresselly players at least.

“I think the supporters were more nervous than us.

 “We were doing the calculations and although we knew they were capable of hitting big scores, that meant we’d get chances.”

Lawrenny would ultimately finish 25 runs short on 173-9 and for Cole, a big weight was lifted.

“There was definitely elation and relief,” he said.

“But I was happy for our supporters as well. They’d been through a lot and seen us be runners up in leagues and cups and they deserved to celebrate too.”

The season was tempered however, when on the final day Lawrenny got a measure of revenge on the same ground, beating the hosts to deny them the Division 1 title.

But Cole can still reflect on capturing the one he really wanted.

“It was my best day in Pembrokeshire cricket by a country mile,” he said,

“Ask any Cresselly player about the one thing they want to win as captain and it’s always the Bowl – and it’s hard when you’re a Cole and so many others with that name have lifted it before you.

“So it sounds odd but although we lost the league on the last day I can’t complain.”

The weather made for some great photographs from that final, but the defining one appeared on Facebook the following day with Cole in bed with the trophy……..

“The Bowl is very expensive so I said I’d take responsibility.

“I’ll admit I didn’t go to bed with it, I had it brought it the next morning for the snap.”

We’ll believe him. But after the heartbreak of the previous three finals one thing is for sure.

With or without the silverware attached, Cole would have slept well that night.