Report by Andrew Law-Riding – (Yes I wrote one myself)!
Saturday presented the opportunity for many first and second XIs to progress to the quarter finals of the Worsley and Telegraph Cups.
Not ours though, as defeat for both teams to their Darwen counterparts in the first round granted the club a day off.
Most, unable to cope with the unheralded free time, headed for Brinscall, where Ash was turning out as sub-pro for Settle. Others headed off to the beach with family, or to play centres with kids, or shopping with joyous opportunist partners. Allan probably had a BBQ.
So to Sunday, and our 1st XI returned home, welcoming Middleton CC to the Cliffe for the first time. Both teams had matching records going into the game, having won two and lost three of the opening 5 fixtures.
I arrive at the ground at 12.30, determined to have a pint having spent the previous day sober at a family wedding. I get to the bar, place my order, pay, and then I’m confronted by a panicked looking Marcus, our scorer, informing me that ‘play-cricket won’t work’
Pint stays on the bar, and we decamp to the scoreboard. Turn it off and back on again, and we’re up and running. Computer helpdesk 101.
Meantime, the toss has taken place, confusion, as neither umpire or Houldsy hear the call, alas our visitors decided to bat.
Leaving the scoreboard, I was met by our treasurer Mikey, who was on a very early lap. I joined (still no pint) as the umpires led out the teams and the game commenced.
Stuart to bowl first. First ball… thunderously slapped through cover for four. Oh dear, this could be a long afternoon.
Thankfully the first wicket fell four balls into the second over. Gee, who already had three fours and had run at the previous delivery off Kaz Masood, nicked one and Matt Oddie took a fine catch at first slip.
The flow of runs abated slightly, but Middleton were clearly enjoying the favourable conditions and started to build a total. George Walker fell to another fine catch off Masood, this time by Patrick Swanney at gully, but by the first drinks break, our visitors were 85-2, rattling along at 5 an over.
The introduction of Ashen Silva (15-2-37-2) and Phil Aspinall (13-0-43-2) following the break changed the game, the former claiming two key wickets, both LBW, of professional Chris Williams and the well set James Tierney, who had looked good for his 37. Aspinall followed with two of his own, both bowled, and Middleton stumbled along. A mix up led to the run out of Shahid by Hamza Qayoom, before Kaz Masood and Stuart Maher (1-39) came back into the attack looking to mop up the tail. That they did, Kaz bowling Le Carpentier and McGuinness and finishing with 4-37 from his 9 overs as Stu took the final wicket, bowling the dogged Rutter with just 8 bowls remaining in the innings.
Middleton all out for 188, two points in the bag, and a challenging but not insurmountable looking total to chase.
I’d been reunited with my pint by this stage and made it disappear, and the presence of our groundsmen Niall and Cameron Holt (who it must be said are doing a fine job) meant for the first time in forever Mikey and I didn’t need to roll the wicket in the interval, so another one was in order, actually make that two.
Hamza and Matt opened the batting, a pair with great potential, both on the back of maiden Lancashire League 50s, but both of whom had been out in our last home game vs Haslingden without troubling the scorers. There would be no repeat, they got us off to a steady start, reaching 44 before the introduction of the impressive Middleton spinner Highton (15-6-35-3), saw first to Hamza (19), bowled, then Matt (23). Phil Aspinall followed for a 9 ball duck, but this brought Patrick Swanney out to join Ashen Silva. Ash looked in fine form, hitting 8 fours and a six on his way to 44, but just as he looked set to record another 50, he mistimed a pull which went sharply, but straight to the Middleton professional at mid wicket, who made no mistake.
Swanney (37) continued to play his shots, joined by Allan Armer, batting at 6 having taken back the gloves in recent weeks. The pair put on 45 before Swanney was bowled by the returning opening bowler Rutter. Matt Bunn joined Allan, and between them, including a MASSIVE six from Allan, got us up to 182, seven short of victory.
A mix up then resulted in Allan being run out, and when Kaz went 2 balls later cleaned up by Rutter, we were still seven short of the total, but things were starting to feel a little more nervy.
A couple of nonchalant singles from possibly the world’s best number 9 took us to 187 before Bunn fell caught behind after a few nervy wafts trying to win the game.
The experience of Stuart Maher was preferred ahead of talented youngster Harris Masood at number ten, and this proved a successful decision, a ‘back foot punch’ (his own words) through cover brought a boundary, and a second straight 12 point victory for GHCC.
A great game, well contested and in the balance at many stages throughout. Middleton look a great addition to the league and we look forward to many more contests between our two teams. We must note our thanks to their entire team and several supporters who remained in our bar until well after 9pm following the game
Next up for the 1st XI is the return of T20 cricket this Friday at home against Church, before we travel to Church in Sunday.
On to the next one!