The 2018 season was a special one for Arthington 1st XI; going the entire campaign without a single defeat. The 1st XI’s most recent opponents, Whixley, were looking to pull off exactly the same feat having won all of their games to date, with only two fixtures remaining. Arthington, however, had other ideas and produced a superb all-round performance to claim a stunning victory and ensure that their achievement remains all the more unique. Perhaps more importantly, it means that there are still three teams vying for two promotion places with only one more match still to play.

The reverse fixture at Arthington had been a run-fest, when Arthington posted their highest total of the season, 269, only to see it chased down by Whixley with overs to spare. The same result occurred in the Cup Final, with Arthington failing to defend their first innings total. It was for this reason that Arthington captain, Naveed Andrabi opted to bowl first, having won the toss, to let Whixley set the first innings target on this occasion.

Although the opening bowlers Luke Seaborne and Andrabi were unable to make an early breakthrough, both managed to keep the scoring to a minimum and after 10 overs, Whixley had only reached 28-0. The change bowling of Ahmer Sadiq and Wasim Malik proved slightly more expensive, yet it was Sadiq that made the first two breakthroughs in the 17th and 19th overs. The first wicket was a well-caught effort by Malik at cover and the second saw a top-edged full-toss rise high into the air, which gave Luke Seaborne enough time to run from mid-wicket towards mid-on and make the catch his.

Shortly after drinks, Seaborne returned for his second spell and struck straight away. The remaining opening batsman failed to clear Dave Cleasby at long-on, despite the strong breeze assisting the attempt, and was well caught to give Seaborne his only wicket of the match in an economical effort: 10-0-31-1. At the other end, Sajid Hussain had replaced the impressive Malik (6-0-23-0) and took a wicket in his very first over, caught behind by Andrew Dowson.

There was then a period of relative calm as Seaborne and Hussain took the game into the 32nd over, with no further loss of wickets, before perhaps one of the more significant moments. After a short discussion, Hussain, who had been due to be replaced, convinced the Arthington captain to allow him to keep bowling and proceeded to take a wicket in each of his next four overs, one of which being the key wicket of the Whixley number 4, who holed out against the wind to Seaborne at long-on for 38. The other catches went to Akash Hazra back-pedalling to grab a lofted shot at cover, a second for Wasim Malik, this time at long-off and a third for Seaborne, running in from the long-on boundary once more to take a low catch. Hussain finished the innings as the star-performer with figures of 9-0-31-5. Sadiq also impressed with his second spell, but was unable to do further damage to the Whixley tail, finishing on 8-0-46-2. The Whixley final first innings score: 175-8.

Knowing that the target was almost 100 runs fewer than the losing total in the home fixture might have prompted some opening pairs to opt for early caution, but Sajid Hussain and Naveed Andrabi chose a more aggressive approach and started the chase going at almost six runs per over, dismissing the early Whixley pace-bowling to all parts. With the score at 65-0 from the first 12 overs, pace was taken off the ball and the rate dropped slightly, yet the two batsmen remained untroubled. In fact, they combined for a first wicket partnership of 133 before Hussain finally fell, charging down the wicket and missing the ball to be easily stumped by the wicket-keeper for an elegant 56. His half-century included 7 fours and 1 six. Ahmer Sadiq’s stay at the crease was brief, as he attempted a suicidal single to mid-wicket and was comfortably run-out by a direct hit at the non-striker’s end. The debate regarding whose fault it was has yet to be settled.

After reaching another chanceless fifty, Andrabi flirted with danger on several occasions, firstly  mishitting a couple of shots skyward that landed safely and finally serving up a simple chance to the deep mid-wicket fielder, who inexplicably dropped the ball, having had all the time in the world to steady himself underneath it. As a result, there were some jubilant cries of relief from the sidelines. Andrabi and Kevin Braithwaite saw the match to its conclusion in the 35th over, with Braithwaite striking the winning runs over mid-wicket when the scores were level, to finish on 21 not out. Andrabi also ended up unbeaten, for the second match running, making 86, including 12 fours and 1 six.

Arthington 1st XI produced arguably their best performance of the season in this victory against the strongest side in the third division. Unfortunately, their fellow promotion chasers North Stainley were awarded a 20-point victory thanks to a concession, which brings the chase for promotion and potentially even the league title to the final round of fixtures. Both Whixley and North Stainley sit level on points, 14 ahead of Arthington, who must win their final match against Birstwith comprehensively and hope that either of the other two teams lose badly. Despite the equation looking less than favourable for Arthington, to still be in the hunt for a third successive promotion at this late stage is a great achievement that seemed unlikely two months ago.

Arthington 2nd XI were also in action away against Studley Royal. Bowling first, Vince Greaves-Newall (3), Abdul Bhatti (2), Zameer Ahmed (1) and Mohammed Faiyazuddin (1) were all in the wickets, restricting their opponents to 145-7 from the 40 overs. However, the 9 men of Arthington were not able to reach the target, falling an agonising 14 runs short in the 39th over. Ayoub Khan top scored with 51 and both Dudley Rawlings and wicket-keeper batsman Dave Howard scored 16 in reply. 131 all out. In their final game of the season, the 2nd XI take on North Stainley for the fourth time in a very strange summer, looking to square things up as they currently trail 2-1.

Arthington Cricket Club thanks the match ball sponsors for both teams this week: Hunslet Councillors

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