Last man standing secures Arthington win in season opener

Arthington 1st XI are no strangers to drama and it may not surprise many that what seemed a relatively straightforward chase turned into a nail-biting thriller in the latter stages of their opening league encounter with Masham. Having achieved promotion to division one last season, Arthington’s first ever top flight opponents were the team that knocked them out of the previous year’s cup competition in another close-run affair. This time the visitors took away the spoils, but it was anything but easy.

1st XI captain Naveed Andrabi lost the first toss of the season and Masham opted to bat first on what appeared to be a decent batting wicket in pleasant spring sunshine and on a vast outfield, though with one square boundary significantly shorter than the other. Last season’s leading wicket taker, Naveed Piran, took one over to find his range and made an early breakthrough with the first ball of his second via a fantastic, swinging delivery to knock back off-stump.

Masham’s second wicket partnership, however, proved a much tougher nut to crack and though both Piran and Umar Farooq toiled, it took the crucial introduction of spinner Rahul Khode to break the excellent 60-run partnership between Masham’s Sam Ambler and Joe O’Keefe, the latter the man to fall to a superb, instinctive catch at slip by Naveed Piran after a deflection off wicketkeeper Andrew Dowson’s gloves.

One wicket often brings two and this time it brought three, to complete the destruction of the home side’s top order. The new batsman attempted an ambitious single and was rightly turned back by the remaining Masham opener, but he had already over-committed. Arthington debutant Nathan Smith had the simple task of returning the ball calmly to Dowson from mid-on, and the gloveman did the rest. In the following over, Khode’s second, Ambler went for an uncharacteristic shot down the ground, sending the ball high into the air. For a few moments, as the ball was reaching the top of its arc, it seemed it would land safe until Smith, hurtling in from the long-on boundary managed to take a fantastic, sliding catch. The Masham opener batted well for his 35 runs, the top score on the day.

There followed a sedate period, in terms of the scoring, as Masham tried to come to terms with the succession of top order wickets. Nine overs passed before another wicket fell, with the score on 87, Naveed Piran taking his second scalp of the game with a skiddy, slower ball that barely got up off the surface and ultimately flummoxed the batsman. Masham’s middle order then took the game deep and it was not until the 38th over that another wicket fell, sparking another small collapse.

Skipper Andrabi was responsible for unseating the bails on this occasion, in much more conventional fashion. The one constant throughout this whole phase of play was Khode, who bowled his 12-over allocation in a single spell and only conceded 17 runs in the process. It was fitting, therefore, that his final over should reap some additional rewards in the form of his third and fourth wickets. First, an LBW, as the batsman’s pad intercepted a ball that would have crashed into the poles before the right-arm spinner made leather meet wood with his very next ball to bowl out Masham’s only left-handed batsman and avoid any time-consuming field changes every time the batsmen switched ends.

Masham’s tail still managed to add a late flurry of runs, but amid the run-scoring, Nathan Smith continued his successful debut by taking his first wicket with only his second ball when the Masham number ten deposited a cut shot straight to Kamrosh Khan at point who took a good catch of the spinning ball. Masham’s Andrew Sturdy also batted well for an unbeaten 27 and helped his side to 144/9 at the halfway point.

Arthington’s reply got off to the worst possible start, when Sajid Hussain found his off-stump pegged back by a frightening delivery from the Masham skipper and left-arm pace bowler with the very first ball of the innings. The away side’s other opening batsman was Kamrosh Khan, who had been promoted up the order from last season and he signalled his intentions from the outset with three superb shots in the second over: a cover, straight and on-drive earning 11 runs in an over that went for 16, the most profitable of the match.

Khan looked fluent and almost majestic in his stroke-making but Arthington’s captain Andrabi took a bit longer to find his rhythm, so it was unfortunate that the former was the next batsman to perish. As he had already done several times previously, Khan took several paces down the wicket, looking to deposit a full ball from Masham’s change bowler into the leg-side. Unfortunately, he played all around it and was bowled for a quickfire 24, including 4 fours.

New recruit Nathan Smith then joined Andrabi at the crease and was fortunate that a difficult chance at mid-off was not taken before he had even scored a run. Smith, however, soon put away the jitters and managed to begin scoring, forming a 42-run partnership with Andrabi. Masham turned to spin in the 17th over, a decision which immediately bore fruit. Despite an inviting long-hop being bludgeoned for six from the first delivery, the following ball, a full-toss that just escaped being called a no-ball, was edged high into the air by Andrabi and found its way into the fielder’s hands behind the wicketkeeper for an impressive and important catch. Arthington’s skipper reached 31 runs.

The visitors then pressed the self-destruct button as the score went from 76/2, before the fall of Andrabi’s wicket, to 80/6. In fact, three wickets fell in successive deliveries as Umar Farooq and Rahul Khode were both bowled without scoring, before the same spin bowler who had dismissed the Arthington captain also took the wicket of Smith, who had made 21 runs to round off a successful debut. Smith failed to guide a ball down to third-man, succeeding only in diverting it onto his off-stump. Following the disintegration of their middle order, it was once again up to the Arthington tail to dig the team out of a hole.

Ahmer Sadiq and the aggressive Naveed Piran made a significant dent in the required runs, combining for 34. Whether the next move made by the Masham skipper was a stroke of genius or borne out of sheer desperation is a matter for some debate, but the introduction of a slow leg-spinner worked wonders. Piran’s eyes may well have widened so much that they were a distraction, once he had seen the spinner’s first ball land halfway down the wicket and turn invitingly into his hitting arc. Though he struck the ball cleanly, he only succeeded in picking out a well-placed Masham fielder, who took a good catch above his head. Piran’s knock of 25 had, however, tilted the balance once more in Arthington’s favour and included two fours and a six.

Andrew Dowson’s visit to the middle was brief and once more cast doubt on the result as the score reached 117/8. The required rate was at less than two runs per over at this stage, so running out of time was at least one factor the Arthington tail did not need to fear too greatly. The immovable Sadiq was joined at the crease by Aakash Hazra, who began his stubborn vigil, blocking out any balls on the stumps and wafting unsuccessfully at anything else. However, with Sadiq now taking on the scoring mantle, the Arthington score climbed ever closer to the 145 required.

There was, of course, one more twist in the tail. Hazra, who had already had a warning with a potential run out, played the ball straight to a Masham fielder at cover. Having struck the ball well, he confidently set off for a single, which was rightly turned down by the experienced Sadiq. Hazra though, had bitten off more than he could chew as he made his way back to the safety of his crease in vain and was well short when the bails were removed. The loss of Arthington’s ninth wicket put the match on a knife’s edge. The score was 134/9. 11 more runs would seal an Arthington victory, but one mistake or a great piece of bowling would see Masham take the win.

The home side turned to their two opening bowlers to make the breakthrough. Sadiq was happy to give number eleven Luke Seaborne a look at the left-arm quick by taking a single, before a nudge into the off-side took a second run from the over. However, Masham now had six balls at Seaborne to take the one remaining Arthington wicket. There was a brief scare when a thick inside edge saw the ball travel between the stumps and the batsman but the next ball reached the boundary in an unusual manner when Seaborne accidentally diverted a leg-side delivery wide of the wicketkeeper with his right heel, also beating the long-leg fielder to the rope. Arthington’s tailender then crashed a full half-volley to the right of mid-off for four to bring the scores level. It took only two balls for Sadiq to find a gap during the next over, which allowed the final batting pair to complete the winning single and bring the match to a close with 4.4 overs to spare. Sadiq finishing unbeaten on 28. A heroic knock, given the circumstances.

The first encounter of the season was an exciting match of cricket with both teams believing that they could win at various stages. Arthington certainly have a lot they can improve on in the coming weeks, but if this match is anything like the games to come, they are in for a thrilling campaign. Next week, the 1st XI travel to last season’s championship winners Darley.


Arthington 2nd XI start the season with a convincing win

Arthington 2nd XI began their 2022 campaign at the ACG against Boroughbridge & Staveley. Like the 1st XI, the seconds had achieved promotion last season and were in unchartered territory in division six, a division in which the 1st XI had also found themselves in the not-so-distant past. Unlike the 1st XI, however, they made short work of their opponents with an emphatic victory in a relatively brief encounter.

The new 2nd XI skipper Martin Hings won the toss and chose to field, no doubt eager to try out some of his new bowling options, choosing to open with himself and fellow Martin, debutant Martin Finn, taking the total number of Martins on the field for Arthington to three. Finn made the early breakthroughs, helping himself to a trio of wickets, first with the help of a catch by Umer Khan before disturbing the timbers for the first and second of eight occasions that the Boroughbridge batsmen were unable to defend their stumps in the innings. Hings ultimately went wicketless and was also unusually expensive due to the exuberant if ill-advised manner in which most of the Boroughbridge batsmen went about their work, but Finn ended his first spell for Arthington with three for 32 in six overs.

One thorn in Arthington’s side was number four batsman Liam Blacker-Meek, who took to the home side’s bowling like none of his teammates. In fact, in reaching 71 he was the only batsman on the visitor’s roster to reach double figures, including 5 fours and 5 sixes. An impressive knock. Around him, however, he was offered little support and wickets continued to tumble at regular intervals.

Vince Greaves-Newall had just about recovered from his back-breaking evenings at the league and club dinners in which he scooped up nearly all of the awards on offer. He got in on the act as the first change bowler and made light work of the away side’s middle order, bagging three wickets, only one of which required the assistance of an Arthington fielder; Dave Howard produced a fine catch behind the stumps. Another debutant, albeit for the second time, Andrew Stoddart began his second spell at Arthington with a man of the match performance, helping himself to four wickets including the prize scalp of Blacker-Meek, beating the bat but not the stumps on all four occasions and bringing about a swift end to the Boroughbridge innings. The visitors were bowled out for 102 in just the 18th over.

In the absence of Jo Nash, last season’s regular opener, Umer Khan instead began the innings with Stoddart, and the pair combined for a terrific 93-run partnership to all but clinch victory without the need for any other Arthington involvement. Stoddart struck seven boundaries on his way to an unbeaten 42 and Khan began the season in impressive form, with 6 fours and 3 sixes over the mid-wicket boundary on the shorter side of the ground helping him to 46 before he was finally dismissed, missing a straight ball and hearing the damning rattle of bails hitting the turf.

Vince Greaves-Newall was the number three batsman, but no runs were required from his blade on this occasion. Instead, and perhaps fittingly, it was Stoddart who capped a fine second debut by hitting the winning boundary to seal an impressive 9-wicket victory for the home side.

Though it means little after only one match of the season, Arthington find themselves joint first in the table with three other teams who achieved maximum points from their opening fixture. Next week the 2nd XI host Crakehall, whose last visit to the ACG saw them concede 444 runs in Arthington cricket clubs highest ever score.

Special thanks to Ken Clayton for braving the cold, the nerves and an “ear-bashing” from Sajid Hussain to score for the 1st XI. It is greatly appreciated.

The club would also like to thank this week’s match ball sponsors for their support and generosity.

1st XI match ball sponsor: Malcolm Barraclough

2nd XI match ball sponsor: Martin Hings