Still reeling from how close we came to beating 2nd placed Middleton last week, on Sunday we travelled to fifth placed Bacup.
Bacup is a place I’ve only ever been to once before, for a night out with our Treasurer and former captain. This was quite an experience, which involved extremely reasonable alcohol prices, wandering around a large town centre genuinely struggling to find places to drink (they’re all in the hills), and then being sent on a wild goose chase by a local which had us waste an hour looking for a seemingly non-existent venue called Diamond Lights.
My lasting impression of the place, admittedly unfairly, is derived from the first half hour of this evening. Walking into the first bar, we were met by an Irish band, complete with bodhran, flutes and banjos, playing a cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit.
As I reached the bar, I was warmly embraced by an oddly attired man with boot polish on his face, who believed me to be an old friend called Eric (thankfully not Dave) and wanted to know where I’d been for the last ten years and how the family were. Despite my assertion that I wasn’t the man he thought I was, he was having none of it. We spoke for ten minutes about past adventures I knew nothing about before we went our separate ways. I was later informed he was one of the famous Coconutters
Anyway, enough of that. The little man and I set off in good time for what would be another new ground for us both. I put TMS on the radio for the World Cup Final (spoiler, we won) and set a course on the sat nav that took us over the back end of nowhere, rolling hills and beautiful scenery. We passed the Singing Ringing Tree, and were dropping down the hill towards Bacup when my phone rang.
Erm, you’ve left his changing bag here.
The prospect of finding a supermarket in a town I once spent an hour looking for a pub didn’t appeal, and the chances of the little man getting through a 50 over cricket game without wanting to be fed or changed was slimmer than Australia’s chances of winning the World Cup, so I turned the car round and headed back. He figured this out, and cried all the way.
Returning home meant we missed the first half hour of play. The club WhatsApp group had informed me that we were batting. No worries, I thought, we’ll only miss the now customary solid if unspectacular start.
WRONG! I parked up to find us 28-4, with the pro out and Allan and Jack battling to try to help us post something respectable. The little man knew, and cried again.
I acquired liquid refreshment, and set off on a lap to see if he would settle and was struck by how friendly the people were. Almost everyone I walked past said hello, despite me having met only three people before, and many were happy to chat about all things cricket. There were a few characters, and all appeared to carry the same nervous excitement I was feeling as the World Cup final played out in the bar.
As I walked round, Allan clubbed a straight six out of the ground, and into a greenhouse. The homeowner was reportedly distinctly unimpressed, but one of the downsides of living near a cricket ground is that if you own anything smashable and don’t protect it, inevitably it will be smashed.
A quirk of Bacup’s ground is that the player’s changing rooms and viewing area is on the opposite side of the ground to the bar. As I made my way around to the base of the steps, I turned around to see a ground that looked at least 3 times the size it did from the bar.
Middle Order Recovery
Wicket, Allan out bowled by the opposing pro for 23, the score having recovered somewhat to 68-5. Kaz Masood joined Jack and the pair added another 7 before Jack fell for 17. Briggs Joined Kaz, and stuck about whilst the latter played a vital innings, together they continued the good work of Allan and Jack, and the score passed 100 before Briggs holed out for 9. Masood continued to a GHCC best of 35, and with Paul Clifford adding 11, we set a much more competitive looking 141.
Over tea, the players watched as New Zealand closed their innings, setting England 241 to become champions. Was it enough? Was our score enough? I pointed out to anyone that would listen, that they had come within one wicket of beating a team higher in the table just last week when defending a lower total than that set today. Analysis of Bacup’s performances this season had indicated the bulk of their runs had come from the openers, one in particular, and the professional, Serasinghe, who leads the league for runs scored. If we could get these two out, I felt we had every chance.
We opened the bowling with professional Thikshila de Silva and chairman Stuart Maher. The Bacup openers looked to get after anything loose and whilst the pace of de Silva troubled them, they found Stuart easier to get away, and raced to 32-0 after just 6 overs. The introduction of Paul Newton by Oddie paid instant dividends, Aaron Fielding skying one in his very first over which was well taken by Maher.
His next over saw us claim the vital wicket of Newbitt, caught by Clifford who seemed to initially misjudge the flight, diving full length to catch a ball that dropped where he had been standing.
De Silva was being heckled, every ball, by one man sat by the sightscreen, shouting NO BALL as he started each and every run up. Think Rob Schneider in Happy Gilmore minus the silly hat and Volkswagen.
Serasinghe, another Sri Lankan and a good friend of our former professional Ashen Silva, was getting himself going however, and with number 4 Collinge (4), he added 24. This was looking ominous for a man with 3 100s already this year, and Bacup were only 80 away from their target.
Then, de Silva found a way through, clean bowling him to the absolute delight of the entire team and travelling support. I politely asked his friend if it was a no ball. He didn’t answer.
I lost the next 15 minutes to a particularly difficult car boot nappy change, but when I came out the other side the score was 66-5, Newton had picked up two more wickets, As I set off with the pram again, he took his 5th, our opponents were crumbling.
De Silva then got back into the action, trapping Schofield LBW before bowling Jack Bradford for a second ball duck, and when Newton bowled Ben Lord to claim figures of 6-13 from 7 overs, the writing was on the wall.
All that was left was for de Silva to wrap up the final wicket, bowling Aspinall for a duck and claiming the 12 points for us. No Ball man had disappeared, and Bacup had seen their last 8 wickets fall for just 6 runs.
An exceptional bowling performance, getting the key batsmen early then building pressure to draw wickets.
Man of the match has to go to Newton, but note must be made to the contributions made by Armer, Hussain and particularly Kaz Masood, for leading a recovery from a poor start and putting us in a position to be able to bowl them out.
Oh, and we won the World Cup too. That was nice.
Enfield next week, a team that have struggled recently after a positive start and one that with a few more wins we have a realistic chance of catching. Of course they beat us at their place earlier this year, so we’ll be looking to even the score. Hopefully A.N. Other won’t be turning out for them this time, he was a decent player.
On to the next one.