We made the picturesque journey over ‘Owd Betts in the fog and mist to our new Lancashire League colleagues, Norden. The weather forecast had been dreadful all week and all were certain that we would have an interrupted game.
Having negotiated the complicated car parking arrangements and parked in Rochdale, a trip across the outfield back to the pavilion revealed a ground which may not take too much more water should the forecasted rains arrive.
As we hit peak summer holiday season, the revolving changing room door saw a number of changes as Phil Aspinall, Bunny, Solo, & Chris Oddie all came into the team.
It was no surprise given Norden’s choice of professional as a quick seam bowler to see a wicket greener than a leprechaun hiding in the bottom nets, and when skipper Houldsworth conducted his usual ‘village’ performance of striding from the car park straight to the middle and losing the toss, we were asked to bat.
Matty and Bunny opened up and served up a play and miss fest, as the Norden openers bowled brilliantly and gave absolutely nothing to score from. The Norden captain Hasham ‘Boom Fireworks’ Malik had us in knots, surviving a last over meltdown conceding two boundaries – caused by Bunny on the balcony – to record figures of 13 overs, 1 for 11.
A mini collapse just prior to drinks break left us perilously placed at 38-4, but out strode the skipper who batted through the remainder of the innings, on a difficult batting track, to make a well-deserved first Lancashire League fifty in several decades and finishing 54 not out, including 3 – yes, 3 – sixes.
When Ash was out with the score on just 67, the pressure was on by he found a great ally in ‘Jack’ Hussain whose counter attack innings of 26 from just 22 balls generated some momentum in an innings which had thereto been slower than a geriatric slug on a salted snowed-in street.
There was still time for the usual maximisation of fantasy league points from the club chairman as we finished on 156-8 from our 50 overs. It felt below par, on a ground with 3 small boundaries and another ripe for an all-run 5.
Now it’s customary to skip the tea interval and get straight back to the action – but not on this occasion. The spread we were served was quite magnificent, and it was abundantly clear the decision to bowl first by the home side was based on the desire to put up their feet having filled their boots on a fine feast. Comfortably the best offering of the season so far, and perhaps second only to the legendary 3 course menu offered by Euxton CC in 2014.
The clubhouse also deserves a mention, with more TV screens than people for the majority of the first innings, although it did start to fill as the locals came to watch their local side, Man City. Or something like that….
As we took to the field in light drizzle – yes, again we started in the rain when we were behind in a game – hopes were high of making early breakthroughs. But when the usual mix of wides and holiday rustiness was again evident, Norden were 28-0 after just 3 overs. However, the chairman and Phil turned it round and started to build some pressure, with some hefty appeals for LBW. 33-0 quickly became 34-2, with the free-scoring Tolley back in the pavilion.
A large appeal for LBW against Buckley off the bowling of Phil was turned down, and when Humphreys was nicked off by Maher for his third wicket with the score on 64, hopes were high of a comeback win. A large – no sorry, LARGE – appeal for LBW against the professional was turned down first ball, and that was almost as good as it got. Despite the skipper dismissing the Norden pro Sandham for just 7, Buckley was not to be denied as his unbeaten 68 saw his side home in the 38th over.
Not a pointless journey, as the fifth wicket of the innings picked up by Ash saw us nick a bonus point to take back over the hills.
Time to start selection for the following weekend’s double header on the way home……………………..