On a hot blazing day, Rawtenstall won the toss and surprisingly put Great Harwood in to bat, a surprise move considering the wonderful batting surface and glorious sunshine.
It soon looked a wise decision however, as having opened the batting with Owais Qayoom and Joel Houldsworth, Great Harwood were soon 4 wickets down for four runs, as incredibly accurate bowling by M Tayyib (3-18) and Harry Etchells (2-27) put us under huge pressure. Matt Oddie, fresh form a fine maiden first team 50 against East Lancs the day before, joined Ethan Houldsworth in the clubhouse for a solitary single and Joel Houldsworth who carried his bat for 47 runs last weekend, could only manage 2 .
Some sensible batting by Ammar Malik (11) and Wayne Fitzharris (13) steadied the ship, but with the new ruling for dangerous bowling being applied in all levels of cricket, no less than three Rawtenstall bowlers were warned for bowling over waist height and all three were then removed from the bowling attack for repeating the offence, opening the way for part time bowlers, allowing new batsman Muhammad Shakeel the opportunity to play freely and virtually score at will, showcasing a vast array of powerful drives and pulls on his way to a magnificent 124. With second team captain Russell Whalley watching on, we suspect this was likely to be Shakeel’s first and only appearance in the third team.
As remarkable an individual debut performance as this was, we should not forget about the crucial batting performances of Alex Kennedy (24) and captain Stephen Schofield (19), who held together the other end, allowing Shakeel the confidence to play his shots. Shakeel (124), was the last man out, as Great Harwood made a remarkable 248, including 55 extras, an incredible achievement considering the terrible score in the first ten overs. Rawtenstall walked off rather despondently having missed a great opportunity.
A Fish and Chips tea allowed Great Harwood to rest and reply with authority. Malik, (2 – 12 from 3 overs) and E Houldsworth, (0-12 from 5 overs), followed by Schofield, whose maiden first over was immediately followed by a wicket, thanks to a spectacular full blooded catch in the covers by Joel Houldsworth, removing the dangerous batting Adam Etchells, who walked off, shaking his head in total disbelief. At the other end, young spin bowler Marcus Hamer took a wicket with his second ball, leaving Rawtenstall under enormous pressure, leaving Rawtenstall’s opening bowlers to try and make a fist of it. Both Tayyib and Harry Etchells, attacked whenever the opportunity arose, but Great Harwood’s young but talented side maintained the pressure and twisted the knife.
Joel Houldsworth (2-8 from 5 overs) clean bowled Harry Etchells, (23), who had looked dangerous. Thomas Newton, (1-16 from 4 overs), bowled with control and moved the ball appreciatively. Batsman Nicholas Rae, hit Newton for a monster six, who then replied by ripping his leg stump out next ball.
Alex Kennedy took over from Marcus Hamer and produced some exquisite turn, finally hitting the Rawtenstall skipper full on the front foot, umpire Arnold stuck up his finger, deciding the ball would have gone straight on rather than repeat the incredible turn.
Shakeel was thrown the ball and produced some understandably tired long hops which went for 8 runs a over. Shakeel’s last ball was gratefully hit down the throat of long off and caught by Fitzharris, his first catch since 2016.
Needing only 2 wickets from the last 6 overs, Schofield’s second spell, was far more accurate, finally taking the middle Stump of Tayyib who had gallantly scored an impressive 58 runs. Joel Houldsworth wrapped things up nicely by clean bowling the final batsman to give Great Harwood a huge victory.
Shakeel would have deservedly won man of the match so thankfully, a collection of £22 was gladly consumed up in the bar. Both umpires had been consistent throughout the game, congratulated both teams and the discussed the merits of sending 3rd team players off for dangerous bowling and how to deal with frivolous appealing.