The Ecstasy and the Agony

Rarely, if ever, can Norden have been involved in two such dramatic games in succession as they were at the weekend. A short trip to Rochdale in the league and a Worsley Cup semi-final at home to Clitheroe always looked like it would make for an exciting double-header and so it proved.

On Saturday, Redbrook was the venue for a game that swung one way then the other pretty much throughout. Norden were put in and were going well at 106 for 2 with Josh Tolley and Ash Zaidi at the crease and 18 overs remaining. However, a collapse inspired by the excellent slow-left-arm of Rochdale professional Sean Whitehead, resulted in the visitors losing their final 8 wickets for just 34 runs. The pitch was certainly offering something for the spinners and Whitehead was ably supported by youngster Jacob Pauline in exploiting that and causing problems for all the Norden batsmen. Once Tolley had been bowled by Whitehead when just one run short of his half-century, the wickets fell with alarming regularity and seemingly in a blink of an eye Norden had been dismissed for just 140 and were facing an uphill task to take anything from the game. Whitehead returned the superb figures of 6 for 32 and Pauline 3 for 25, including the big scalp of Zaidi. In reply, Rochdale found things difficult from the start and were unable to put together a significant partnership. Zaidi was quickly into the action with the ball, removing Jack Duffy and Whitehead in his opening spell. Greg Butterworth and Sami Waheed also chipped in with wickets and the crowd were ‘treated’ to the little-seen off-breaks of Josh Tolley as skipper Malik looked for the extra spin-bowling option. At 83 for 7 the game looked up for Rochdale but Ali Muzaffar was still there having played resolutely at one end as wickets tumbled around him. He found an ally in home captain Jamie Roche and they put on 30 for the 8th wicket to put the game back in the balance. Zaidi returned to bowl Roche for 15 and followed up having Casey Roche caught at slip leaving 28 still to win from 4 overs as last man Steve Oddy joined Muzaffar in the middle. The set batsman now started to open his shoulders and took 13 from a Tolley and 6 singles from the next 2 overs left the equation at 9 runs required from the final over and Muzaffar to face Zaidi. A dot ball was followed by Muzaffar launching the ball over the ropes for 6 and bringing Rochdale to within touching distance but incredibly Zaidi was able to respond with 3 further dot balls and with 3, or more realistically a boundary, needed off the final ball Muzaffar danced down the track but missed and was stumped giving Norden not only the victory but also the maximum 12 points. Zaidi finished with the match-winning figures of 6 for 35.

Saturday Scorecard:

If the players and spectators had recovered from the previous day’s nerve-wracking encounter, they were not given much respite as Clitheroe came to Stag Park for a cup semi-final with both clubs knowing that a win would result in the honour of them hosting the final. Usama Malik could not have given Norden a much better start when he dismissed opener Thomas Lord and stand-in professional Kohli (not that one) in the 2nd over of the game. Ali Ross and Jack Dewhurst set about the rebuild and it wasn’t until the 23rd over that the next wicket fell when Waheed bowled Dewhurst. Ross chipped a return catch to Butterworth for a patient 38 before Sam Mulligan and skipper Peter Dibb were able to add some impetus to the Clitheroe innings but the Norden bowlers were able to keep things under control. Butterworth’s 10 overs yielded 4 wickets for just 17 runs and Jack Taylor continued his extremely promising start to his first-team career with 2 more wickets. Waheed returned to take the final wicket and Clitheroe had to make do with the below-par looking 177. Hashum Malik promoted himself to the top of the order and it looked an inspired move as he got off to a flying start despite Tolley and Harvey Fitton falling cheaply at the other end. Zaidi joined the skipper and at 90 for 2 inside 20 overs, things looked good for the home side. Zaidi might have considered himself a touch unfortunate to pick out the only man on the leg-side boundary when looking to take on a short ball from Kohli and when Malik missed a sweep on 55, Clitheroe could sense an opportunity. Butterworth had looked in no trouble in making 18 before he chipped up a tame catch in the ring but Stephen Pimm and Lee Crabtree seemed to have taken the heat out of the situation in reducing the target to just 24 with the run-rate never a problem and 5 wickets remaining. Sam Halstead returned from the Woodhouse Lane end after receiving some harsh treatment from Malik with the new ball and he provided the spark for Clitheroe which turned the match on its head. Pimm misjudged a ball that nipped back and was bowled shouldering arms before Dom Humphreys and Taylor committed the cardinal sin of going back to full balls at Stag Park and were trapped in front from consecutive deliveries. Waheed joined Crabtree and they were given no let-up by some excellent Clitheroe bowling. The pressure was mounting by the ball and with 9 needed Waheed was bowled by a fine delivery from Dewhurst and the tension was unbearable. Last man Usama Malik came to the crease and Crabtree decided he had to take on the small boundary after Halstead had finished his spell. He aimed for the garage at straight midwicket but failed to make contact to a straight ball from Cole Hayman and the death rattle followed by whooping cheers from the Clitheroe players and their sizeable travelling crowd sounded the end of Norden’s Worsley Cup hopes.

Sunday Scorecard:

A fine bowling display gave the 2nds a comfortable victory on Saturday. Norden’s innings was a case of batsmen getting in and getting out with 4 of the top 5 falling for scores between 18 and 29. Some useful lower-order runs from Mo Munawar and Usama Malik helped the Stags up to 166 all out with veteran Robin Jackson the man who inflicted most of the damage, taking 5 for 26. Malik and Munawar then turned their attention to their main job with the ball and they proved far too good for the visiting batsmen, sharing 7 wickets for just 54 runs in superb opening spells. Melbourne Austin finished a good day for the older generation with the final 3 wickets to bowl Rochdale out for 57 and complete a 109 run victory.

2nd XI Scorecard: