Arthington scrape through to second round despite batting meltdown

There are many words that could be used to describe the 2nd XI’s first taste of the Wath Cup: bizarre, farcical, ridiculous to name but a few. Arthington were close to snatching a defeat from a near-certain victory that had gone well past the jaws and had almost been fully digested, such was the manner with which the home side nearly threw this game away.

The hosts knew all about their opponents as they had faced them in the first league match of the season and managed a comfortable nine-wicket win. However, their aggressive approach to batting meant that the shorter format of the game may well suit them more than it would Arthington. Captain Martin Hings won the toss and elected to field first, as it was in the league match in April, in the hope that history would repeat itself.

To say that Arthington started well would be an understatement. Within four overs and with the score on only 14, the visitors had managed to lose half of their wickets. A wicket fell in the very first over when the two batsmen disagreed over the prospect of a second run and found themselves in the middle of the wicket as a great throw from Mohammad Faiyazuddin arrived, allowing opening bowler Luke Seaborne to walk up to the bails and remove them.

In the third over, his second, Seaborne struck twice more, taking the bails off on two more occasions, this time from 22 yards away. The first ball bounced off a good length, the batsman’s swing failed to connect and the ball did the rest. The second wicket in the over was much more devious. Having heard all about the opposition’s tendency to swing across the line, Seaborne almost halved his pace. The plan worked and the slower ball cannoned gently into the top of the leg-stump.

At the other end, Andrew Stoddart began to make his impact on proceedings, though another run out had to happen first. Once more there was confusion, which allowed Vince Greaves-Newall to roll the ball calmly from third man to wicketkeeper Dave Howard who did the rest. Stoddart’s gnawing accuracy then did for the fifth Boroughbridge & Staveley batsman as bails hit the turf again.

Seaborne was forced to end his bowling efforts prematurely and was replaced by Greaves-Newall, yet all the damage was being done at the other end by Stoddart, who ended his four-over spell with three wickets having effected an LBW and a caught & bowled from his final two overs. The visitors were in all sorts of trouble at this point with the score on 36/7 at the halfway mark.

The way things had gone, it seemed unlikely that the away side would even bat out their 16 overs, so it is a credit to their captain at number eight and their number nine batsman that they did. Though perhaps not playing with as much freedom as they would have liked, due to the precarious position in which they found themselves, the 40-run stand gave them a chance. They were not without good fortune, however, as the partnership could have been broken on two occasions if not for two dropped catches at long-off.

Greaves-Newall, Douglas Jones and Fahad Ahmad all tried to take another wicket but were unsuccessful and it took the Arthington captain, Martin Hings, to finally see to both batsmen in his one and only over, the last of the innings. Dave Howard’s sharp glovework to effect the stumpings was equally vital in the dismissals, which turned out to be crucial in the context of the match. The final total from the first innings was 76/9.

Martin Hings decided to rearrange the batting line-up, which resulted in several changes from their last league match including an opening partnership of Mohammad Faiyazuddin and Gareth Meredith. It is fair to say that their running between the wickets was dreadful and the first three runs of the Arthington innings all featured an element of confusion, hesitation and mixed calls. Amazingly, the pair began communicating more effectively and put on 22 runs before Meredith fell to an LBW. He made 14 runs including three fours, favouring behind square on the leg-side.

Fahad Ahmad was then dismissed from his first ball having edged behind to the wicketkeeper, but Faiyazuddin and Malcolm Barraclough combined nicely in their 19-run stand until the former was also given out LBW. Having already struck a nice boundary, Barraclough bludgeoned the only six of the innings over deep mid-wicket and forced a change of ball.

Vince Greaves-Newall struck several delightful straight drives and soon the score reached 60/3 from nine overs, meaning only 17 runs were required from the remaining 42 balls to secure victory. Surely a simple enough task. However, once Barraclough had been given out LBW from a ball that kept a bit low and struck him on the pads in front of the stumps, Greaves-Newall and Andrew Stoddart seemed intent on taking the game as late as possible.

Through a combination of missing the ball completely, picking out fielders or turning down easy singles, the innings stagnated horribly. 17 off seven became 13 off five and that became seven runs required from the last three overs. Though the match should have been done and dusted by this point, Boroughbridge & Staveley had somehow managed to claw their way back into it and now sensed an unlikely victory of their own.

Their cause was further helped when Stoddart was run out attempting a rare run. Akhil Adulla did not take easily to the 16-over format either and played out numerous dot balls in the short time that remained, taking the strike from Greaves-Newall who was looking increasingly anxious at the other end. In both the fourteenth and fifteenth overs only one run was scored which, considering several batsmen were still waiting to come in and finish the job, was fairly unforgivable. The severe lack of run-scoring meant that suddenly five runs were needed for victory from the final over.

Greaves-Newall and Adulla had finally agreed to play tip and run and managed one run from the first ball but Adulla was run out from the next. Luke Seaborne chanced his arm at glory but being forced to swing from ball one resulted in a mistimed pull shot that was caught at mid-wicket. The batsmen had crossed, however, leaving Greaves-Newall on strike, yet a dot ball from the fourth ball of the over further worsened Arthington’s position.

Only a single was managed from the penultimate ball of the over meaning somehow, having been in a position of some comfort, the hosts had only reached 74/7 and now needed three runs from the final ball to beat the away side’s modest score. Dave Howard slapped the ball away into space on the leg-side and the pair easily completed one. Greaves-Newall turned and began sprinting back towards the non-striker’s end but he was going to be well short of his ground; the throw was already on its way back and it was a good one. Incredibly, the fielder behind the stumps failed to take control of it and though he completed the motion of taking the ball and removing the bails, the ball was not in his hands. Two runs from the final ball had tied the game.

There was then a period of some discussion over how the match would be decided but due to Arthington losing seven wickets to Boroughbridge & Staveley’s nine, the home side were the victors on this occasion. An honourable mention must be given to the away side who stuck with it when all hope seemed lost and some serious questions must be asked of Arthington’s middle-order batsmen who failed dismally in completing the most straightforward of batting tasks.

It seemed fitting, however, that a rare and unusual cup tie should end in a rare and unusual result. Arthington dominated the opening half with some great bowling and fielding and only a lower-order stand spared the away side’s blushes. The first half of the batting innings was also very positive as all the top order batsmen went about the task in the right way and set the innings up perfectly for the conclusion. Hopefully, lessons can be learned so that future chases can be completed with overs to spare.

Special thanks to Ken Clayton for scoring both innings. Everything that you do for the club is hugely appreciated. In the second round, the 2nd XI travel to West Tanfield on June 7th.