CRICKET: Willoughby

Manny Sidhu batting for Willoughby A v Maids Moreton.

Manny Sidhu batting for Willoughby A v Maids Moreton.

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Agony and ecstasy for Willoughby to end league season

The final week of the 2014 South Northants Cricket League season brought agony and ecstasy in equal measure as the club’s two sides endured and enjoyed contrasting fortunes in their final fixtures.

South Northants Cricket League

Division 1

Greens Norton v

Willoughby

Willoughby 99 all out

Greens Norton 100 for 9

Greens Norton won by 1 wicket

Willoughby’s survival in Division 1 was ended in the narrowest and most despairing fashion as they suffered a one-wicket defeat at Greens Norton, falling short of safety by one point.

At the start of play, the maths for the visitors was quite simple: a victory for 20 points or a minimum of five points from batting and bowling and Division 1 safety was assured. In the end, they fell one point and in essence one run or one wicket short.

A green wicket greeted both sides and predictably having lost the toss, the visitors were asked to bat and found runs at a premium as tight opening bowling spells from the hosts saw the pressure on Willoughby’s openers and then throughout. Only James Barnwell with 26 and Marcus Fleming with a top score of 30 offered meaningful contributions; the latters partnership from 76-9 eventually fell short of the crucial three figure mark as Willoughby were bowled out for 99 and one of those vital batting points.

Greens Norton’s Matt Yuill proved chief architect in their downfall and the low total, finishing with figures of 10 overs, 8 maidens, 2 runs and 5 wickets.

The hosts then faced a tricky half an hour batting before tea, and when dangerman Yuill was dismissed first ball by a fantastic yorker from Fleming and a further wicket fell to Barnwell, the hosts were 14-2 at tea with Willoughby in with a chance. Immediately after tea, that score became 16-3 and then 19-5 giving Willoughby a serious opportunity to save themselves. However, the hosts fought back and the visitors’ urgency and anxiety increased especially when results elsewhere became known meaning the 5 points or a win were needed to avoid relegation and even a win for Norton would not see them promoted.

At 78-6 Norton still had 10 overs left, however a crucial partnership of 37 was ended seeing the hosts at 90-8 before the game became tied at 99-9, with either one wicket or one run needed by either side and four overs to go.

Even a tie would see Willoughby survive in the division, so everyone remained keen, however, first ball up was given as a wide to see Norton to the win and Willoughby to relegation by the narrowest of margins.

Division 4

Willoughby ‘A’ v

Maids Moreton

Willoughby ‘A’ 146 for 7

Maids Moreton 144 all out

Willoughby ‘A’ won by 2 runs

If the finish at Greens Norton was tense and nerve-racking, the scene at The Green was equally incredibly thrilling as Willoughby’s 2nd XI’s completed a memorable comeback and victory in possibly one of the most exciting climaxes to a game and league season for the club in recent times.

Starting the day in second spot with the visitors eight points behind in third, the equation was straightforward: a win for either side and they were promoted.

On a soft wicket from light morning drizzle, the home side was asked to bat first and got off to a steady start before opener Ian Andrews and then Kamesh Ganti in at three were both bowled inside three balls to have Willoughby at 19-2.

With honours even after ten overs, remaining opener Badj Rahman departed for 14 before a fourth wicket partnership of 44 between Matt Smart and 17-year-old Manny Sidhu steadied the ship to reach 62-2 at the halfway point, before the latter departed after a measured and disciplined innings.

Smart was joined by Ben Hollis who took matters past the 100 mark before a late cameo from Sean Thornton and Karl Quinney with an unbeaten stand of 20 saw the hosts close on 146-7, a respectable total under the conditions. The pacy Luke Tory took 4-41 for the visitors.

In reply, Maids showed their intent from the outset by moving one of their chief run-getters up the order, however, Karl Quinney removed the likely threat of Stairs for 10 and Thornton on first change had fellow opener Tory caught behind for the second of three dismissals for Ben Hollis behind the stumps.

At 39-2, the game was in the balance but the introduction of Adam Davis to join Andy Hamilton then looked to have taken the game away from Willoughby, as they took the visitors past 50 and then into three figures. With both looking comfortably set and a partnership of 74 to the good aided by two dropped catches, the game swung as Quinney then returned to the attack to take out both batsmen inside three overs – Hamilton for 31, Davies for 56, and then Maids skipper Allen for 5; Sidhu clutching two fine catches in doing so.

From a position of 100-2 with 10 overs remaining and seemingly been batted out of the game, those wickets and a wicket for Ganti saw four wickets fall for only 4 runs as Maids were reduced to 131-7, still 16 short of the hosts’ target.

Naturally Willoughby sense their opportunity was not lost and they were back in the game. However, the next wicket for Maids looked to have returned matters back their way, making a crucial 12 runs before Quinney engineered a run out for Hollis. So one wicket needed by the home side or three runs required by the visitors for victory; 12 balls remaining. Ganti’s second ball of the penultimate over struck the batsmen’s pads in front of the stumps, the field went up, the umpire’s finger was raised, and Willoughby were delirious with delight in completing a fightback of epic proportions to earn promotion.

Quinney returned figures of 4-25, with Ganti 3-20 as Willoughby got their reward and the win needed by a margin of two runs.

Fixtures

Saturday, September 6 – 1.30pm

WCC Single Wicket Tournament

– played for by U11s and U13s

Sunday, September 14 – 1pm start

Club Friendly: Willoughby v Bourton & Frankton