Sunday 5th May 2019 saw our 1st XI make the short journey to Dill Hall Lane to play Enfield in our first derby match of the season, hoping to force a change of fortunes following two avoidable defeats to start the season.
Three changes to the side did not reflect any poor performance from previous weeks, but were enforced; Chairman Stuart Maher getting a well earned break deciding which end to bowl from in Lanzarote, and Paul Newton on a city break in Milan. Matt Bunn was also away working, probably flying both of their planes.
As a result, opportunities presented themselves to those who had been performing in our unbeaten 2nd XI, namely father and son duo Kaz and Harris Masood, to make their mark in the 1st XI. Mas Ahmed also returned to the side to open the batting after being unavailable for the first two weekends.
In the build up to the game, Enfield naming A.N. Other in their side to try to mask the fact that Hampshire’s Keith Barker would be playing for them did not serve the purpose of surprise I suspect it was intended to, as this tactic had been used before. Keith played as a junior at Enfield and represented the club considerably before his county call, it is his home club and league rule D5.1 allows any player in such a situation to play for their club when not engaged by the county whilst retaining amateur status.
Whilst the team could prepare to be facing two professional first class cricketers, such a selection creates a debate around whether the rule facilitates any unfair advantage, or stops the development of current amateur players for teams that are in this position, however that’s not a debate I’m going to enter into; the players’ attitude that it’s better to test ourselves against top level players, the reality that as a club we may benefit from the same rule in the future given our thriving youth setup, and mentality of “let’s just go and beat them anyway” was the way the team approached the game.
Onto the day of the game. Sunday games have been a tradition in the Lancashire League for decades, believed to be historically derived to attract local crowds to cricket on the Sunday so as not to conflict with local football fixtures played at 3pm on the Saturday. This doesn’t quite work with the way football is run these days, with Blackburn Rovers having their final game of the season kicking off at an inexplicable 12:30 when the cricket starts at 1pm. Decision made to avoid use of my Ewood Park season ticket for a dead rubber against Swansea, I arrive at Enfield to find I am the only person braving the cold that wasn’t at the football. I’d even got there before Howard Cook had chance to set up the entry gate, and managed to unintentionally sneak in for free before volunteering my nominal £4.00 entry fee.
A typical cloudy and freezing early season Bank Holiday saw our Sri Lankan professional Sanka mimicking his Cool Runnings namesake breathing “smoke” before the game and wearing every single item of clothing he had brought with him.
Ok I might have made that up, but it fits the script!
He’d soon have to warm up though, captain Houldsworth unbelievably winning the toss for a second week in a row, and inviting Enfield to get bowled out first. Which they duly didn’t do.
Sanka bowled the first ball, what can only be called a “loosener” that was dispatched by opener Wright one bounce into the empty terrace where Enfield had a barbecue at the T20 last year – which sadly wasn’t on display today.
Thankfully, that seemed to get our pro warmed up, to the point where the next 5 balls were sharp and caused the batsman problems, playing and missing a number of times.
From the other end, Faheem Basharat, formerly of Enfield, would open the bowling with left arm seam, and was encouraging from ball 1, beating the bat frequently, and striking in just his 2nd over, clean bowling Lewis Wright with a ball that swung in through the gate. Enfield 5/1.
In at #3 comes the aforementioned Barker, having scored 82 vs Burnley the previous day, it’s seen as important to get him out early. More tidy bowling from Sanka and Faheem, with the ball seaming and swinging around at both ends, kept the score in check.
In the 9th over, Sanka got the wicket his early spell deserved, beating the other opener Jones for pace and castling his middle stump. 18/2.
They say that 1 wicket brings two, and it absolutely did…but not in the eyes of the umpire. The first ball that Enfield professional Shashrika Pussegolla faces, he is hit on the pad halfway up the shin in front of middle stump, his bat nowhere near the ball. Massive shout from bowler, wicket keeper (sorry, back-stop), slips and gulley and even mid-off. The umpire was the only person in the ground, including both Enfield batsmen (verified at the tea break) that didn’t think it was out. After recovering from the shock of this decision, and somebody stopping Matt Oddie from punching the floor in frustration, we get on with the next ball – extra 5mph from an angry pro, regulation edge to slip, but the catch is dropped!! We can’t blame this on the umpire having his eyes closed, maybe our slip fielder did.
Shambles over, Enfield’s two professionals then went about building a partnership and looked relatively comfortable.
Cue the skipper taking the ball for the first time this season. If coach Seedle hadn’t also been absent on holiday, he’d have applauded the decision.
Kaz Masood was brought on at the other end replacing pro Sanka, looking to transfer impressive form with the ball in the 2nd XI into 1st team wickets. Steady partnership building continued by the Enfield batsmen, and despite a lot of playing and missing, the deadlock was only broken in the 24th over – Kaz bowling Barker with a ball that nipped away off the seam with the score on 71. Big wicket.
In at #5 was Mr Bracewell, a bloke that in last year’s T20 game appeared to decide that he didn’t like the look of Enfield’s clubhouse and went about firing cricket ball shaped missiles at it for the good part of an hour. No repeat of that today, skying a drive off Paul Houldsworth to Sanka at deep long off after scratching around for 15, surviving another very questionable LBW decision when shouldering arms to a Kaz Masood delivery that nipped back in.
Former GHCC captain Patrick Swanney in next, having made the decision to join Enfield in the winter. Paddy was caught behind by Allan Armer off the bowling of Kaz, who bowled a good steady spell and deserved his wickets.
The two Enfield batsmen then kept the scorecard ticking over until the end, finishing on 198/5 and setting us a target of 199, pro Pussegolla having been gifted the two early lives before getting off the mark, and another when dropped at long on late in the innings, nurdleing his way to 79 not out.
Our team having tea felt that this was a reachable target, hopeful to get the season going with a first win.
Out strides Mas Ahmed, and from ball one looked like he was setting out to win the game on his own. The first over from Barker saw the ball fly off the middle of the bat, many though straight to fielders. Following a leg bye on the last ball, Mas began to cash in on Enfield’s other opener. Calling on his inner Mike Bassett, he went 4-4-2 off the first three balls, before annoyingly getting a nick through to the keeper on the 4th ball to end such a promising start.
Zeain in at 3, who didn’t last long, though could consider himself unlucky to be given out LBW for a ninth ball duck.
Two more wickets quickly followed, with both Matt and the pro Sanka being victims to the expert spell of bowling by Barker, both bowled. 24/4 after just 9 overs, we needed a spell of rebuilding.
This duly arrived through Harris Masood and Allan Armer, both playing shots and not fearing the attack or the position we were in. Harris played well to reach 17, before a change of bowling saw him being done by the non-spinning arm ball of O’Loughlin.
Allan continued to play his shots, reaching a creditable 32, not losing any attacking intent and scoring 5 boundaries.
Jack Hussain was the next man to depart. Having earlier silenced the chirping Enfield slip cordon by belting Barker back over his head, he was unlucky to hit a crisp drive too close to bowler Pussegolla who took a sharp return catch.
When Allan was out bowled in the 25th over, with the score on 74, the odds were stacked against us to get close to the Enfield score. Paul Houldsworth was caught behind for 4, before spinner O’Loughlin wrapped things up with the wickets of Kaz Masood (10) and Faheem two balls later. Danny Briggs picking up the fantasycricket points for being the man not out having scored 5.
94 all out. A disappointing result especially given the optimism before the game. The match was won by the performances of the two opposing professionals, one of whose 79 not out, and the other’s spell of 3/39 removing the top of our batting order being crucial to the result.
Despite the disappointment, there were several positives to take from the game, and we move forward to play an unbeaten Colne team at Cliffe Park next Sunday.