After two straight away games which gave us our first win of 2019 at Rawtenstall, followed by a narrow derby day defeat at Rishton, we returned to the Cliffe on Sunday feeling positive as we welcomed Nelson.
Another week of almost incessant rain had abated, and the ever impressive drainage system had done its job, meaning although showers were forecast throughout the afternoon, it was likely we would get a game in.
Captain Matt Oddie and VC Allan Armer were unavailable for this game, meaning call ups for Zeain Ali and Chris Oddie, who would keep wicket. Chairman Stuart Maher would captain for the day.
As ever, we lost the toss, and were invited to bat. Matt Bunn, who has looked increasingly impressive in his run of consistent appearances, reprised his opening role, today joined by Chris Oddie.
And in what is becoming a recurring theme, we got off to a solid if unspectacular start. The pair resolute in defence and rotating the strike well whilst taking every opportunity to score against Nelson’s openers Bradley and the particularly impressive Thomson.
Runs were hard to come by, Nelson’s field placings were unorthodox but very effective and indicative that they knew their bowlers well, however as Bunn and Oddie got used to the conditions they started to find a few gaps and the score began to build. They passed 50 before Chris was caught behind for 23 in Thomson’s 10th over. This brought in professional Thikshila de Silva, on the back of concurrent scores of 82 and 91.
But it was Bunn who looked to take the game to Nelson, noticeably playing much more aggressively instantly once joined by Sanka. This didn’t last long however, he was caught to a fine diving catch by the Nelson professional Sanjika Ridma attempting to punch the ball over the legside infield. He scored 26.
Zeain joined Sanka and struggled in the face of spin from both ends. Nazir and Ridma tying down the run rate. Indeed this pressure caused the big wicket of de Silva to fall, run out attempting a second run to the sweeper on the legside boundary. Watching from the balcony we had the over before noted the fielder had a ‘good arm’, and he used it here, pinning the ball into the keeper’s gloves, who did the rest.
Faheem fell for 2 runs, and then as the rain came, Zeain also went, for an extremely hard earned 4. And suddenly our fine start had become 81-5. Another couple of maidens were dug out by Jack and Briggsy, before the umpires took us off.
A mini monsoon threatened to end proceedings there and then, but just as quickly as it arrived, it cleared up and following a few minutes of Bunny running up and down with a sponge roller, we were back on.
5 overs lost – 10 left to look to set a manageable target. This would, on the face of it, be a challenge from 81-5, but analysis had shown Nelson’s games this season had shown scores of around 100-120, so we felt anything over this would give us a good chance.
We passed 40 overs and were still short of 100, but then a big straight six from Briggs off Nazir set us going. He fell, bringing in Kaz to partner Jack, and the scoring rate started to pick up. Ridma bowled out his overs with one still to bowl from the Dog and Otter end and Nelson’s decision to bring back the seam bowling of Bradley proved costly; jack despatching him into the car park three times, before sneaking a single to retain the strike for the last over.
He tried to give Nazir the same treatment first ball of the last over, but missed and was bowled. A potentially vital 34 had moved the score to 135-7.
Clifford joined Masood for the last 5 deliveries and the pair managed to add another 9 runs including a remarkable three to a dug out Yorker which didn’t get off the wicket, yet had two unsuccessful and poorly backed up runout attempts.
We ended on 144-7, with our friends DLS granting us another 5 for the lost overs. Nelson would require 150 from their 45.
Following a hastily arranged Mikey Perrin tea (thanks Mikey), the players were back out, refreshed and fancying our chances.
An early LBW for Sanka saw Crotty fall for a duck, but Khurram Nazir and Lewis Bradley both took the game to us, each hitting Faheem into the car park. Faheem was replaced by Maher and immediately he had the dangerous Nazir caught to a brilliant one-handed diving catch from Sanka, Nelson 37-2 in the 10th over.
Sanka was proving unplayable at the other end, and he clean bowled Lewis Bradley for 13 in the next over. 37-3.
The talented Pettinger was joined by professional Ridma, but with Sanka flying and Stuart tying the batsmen down at the other end, the run rate slowed dramatically. They added a further 9 before Ridma got a leading edge to a Maher delivery, the ball looping up and seeming set to fall safe around level with the stumps short of what would have been mid off. But out of nowhere came Sanka; running in from cover, he full length Klinsmann dived, taking the ball inches from the ground at the very end of his reach. Chris Oddie later said it was ‘the greatest catch he’d ever seen live’. Whails it was admittedly very special, he’s clearly never seen a 3rd XI game with ALR at gully.
Runs continued to be hard to come by, and when Jack Bradley (one of five Bradley’s in today’s Nelson team) was run out by some fine work from Zeain, Nelson were 57-5 and struggling.
Sanka completed 10 overs with unbelievable figures of 2-7 with 5 maidens, and was replaced by Kaz Masood as the skies darkened. Rain was due, and the Nelson batsmen knew it. We’ve had some work done on our scoreboard over the winter, meaning not only does it now work, it also has a live DLS par score showing. This showed that Nelson were some way behind.
Pettinger and Thomson looked to attack where they could, but Masood and Maher, aided by a markedly improved fielding display, kept the rate well below the par score, and when the rains came after 24 overs, Nelson were 70-5, with the par score 86.
In such a strong position, our lads were hoping to get back out there to seek to bowl out our opposition, but unlike the earlier shower, the rain this time filled in and showed no sign of abating. The umpires gave it every chance, but at 7pm the decision was made to call it. Captains shook hands and we picked up our second victory of the season.
10 points! We now have 2 wins in 3 and whilst we find ourselves still bottom of the table but we’re no longer cut off.
image courtesy of Nigel Stockley / lancashireleague.com
Another impressive performance, and one that showed we have the capability to post a defendable score on a day Sanka didn’t go big with the bat. Sanka really was a class apart second innings though, two remarkable catches and his bowling unplayable throughout. He really is looking to have found his feet having now adapted to conditions in the UK.
One note – Apologies to any visitors who found there was no food available on Sunday. Our caterer was called away last minute for a family emergency and we were unable to find alternative provision.
Next week sees T20 away at Church on Friday, a FOURTH attempt to play our Worsley Cup game at Clitheroe on Saturday and then a trip to Haslingden on Sunday. Here’s to another victory or three to report on.