Zaidi and Ahmed Send Norden to the Semis

Brilliant hundreds from Ashar Zaidi and Kabir Ahmed saw both Norden 1st and 2nd XI’s advance to the semi-finals of their respective cup competitions on Saturday. Two hard-fought victories both came from seemingly perilous positions in run chases and both also needed excellent contributions from young players down the order to help guide their sides home.

The 1’s were up against second division opposition at Stag Park in the shape of Rawtenstall, but the game was far from straightforward. Rawtenstall won the toss and decided to bat first on a pitch with a boundary as small as you are ever likely to see in 1st team cricket on one side. As a result, it was always likely to be a high-scoring affair, and so it proved. A solid opening stand of 86 between Matt Kershaw and Cameron Holder was finally broken Greg Butterworth and when the second wicket fell soon after it brought visiting professional, Sean Whitehead to the crease. The former Rochdale paid man set about the Norden attack and upped the run-rate considerably alongside skipper Dean Barlow. His 50 came in just 33 balls and the total went beyond 200 with 8 overs still remaining. It was Lukas Debnam who got the crucial wicket, forcing Whitehead to miscue to Butterworth at long-off and this probably shaved 30 or 40 runs off the chase. That chase was still to be a tough one, though, as Rawtenstall closed on 249 for 7. Norden were soon in trouble as the top 3 were all back in the shed with just 35 on the board. However, Ashar Zaidi loves a run-chase and he took control from that point. His first main accomplice was Oli Holt and this pair put on 67 for the 5th wicket. When Holt fell, it was game on again and neither Scott Butterworth nor Haris Hussain could help Zaidi get within real striking range. The man for the moment turned out to be Jozef Gordon. Zaidi was happy to take singles when offered and the trust showed in Gordon proved to be justified as the pair combined for a crucial partnership of 55 when another wicket would have spelt real trouble. Although Gordon fell for an excellent 25 to a ball that kept very low with just 4 needed, the panic was over and Zaidi finished the job with a boundary to finish on a fine 118* from 96 balls. Norden will travel to current league leaders Lowerhouse in the semi-final on the 8th of July, looking to end their semi-final hoodoo of recent years.
Worsley Cup Scorecard:

The 2’s will also be in semi-final action at home to Burnley that day after they too pulled off an excellent run-chase to secure a memorable victory against Littleborough. A Hare Hill pitch offering a bit of something for everyone, produced a game with plenty of runs and plenty of excitement. Littleborough got off to a bit of a flyer, with former Stag Tariq Maqsood taking advantage of the powerplay. Usama Malik produced a good one to get through Maqsood’s defences and Mo Munawar came back well after getting a bit of tap early on to get Norden back in the game, but a host of dropped catches and a heap of extras contributed to Littleborough’s 227 for 8. Oli Kirkby and David Bebb fell early, but skipper Hashum Malik was looking o play in a more restrained manner than usual and he was looking good alongside Kabir Ahmed before the former was sent packing by an interesting umpiring decision with 150 still needed. 3 more wickets fell quickly and it looked like Ahmed was going to end up frustrated as his teammates looked for boundaries rather than singles to get the set batter back on strike. The run-rate was never an issue for Norden, but the wickets down were, and it took an experienced head in Mohsin Iqbal to help steady the ship. He and Ahmed added 67 for the 7th wicket and Norden fancied their chances again. When Iqbal edged behind for 34, it brought 17-year-old Joe Donnelly, on 2nd team debut, to the crease and the home players and supporters thought the game was theirs. Donnelly had different ideas, though, and he played with courage and intelligence to help Ahmed face as many balls as possible and play the occasional attacking stroke himself, including a huge swept 6 over midwicket. Ahmed remained composed and he won the game with a boundary which also brought up his hundred from 116 balls. A fine win with with several players missing.
Junior Cup Scorecard:

Sunday was less successful, as the 1st team were frustrated by the rain after bowling Walsden out for 173 at Stag Park and the 2nd team were beaten at Colne, despite a century partnership between Ahmed and Sami Waheed and 4 wickets for Munawar.
Sunday Scorecards:
2nd XI Scorecard :

With all 3 teams playing on Saturday, a totally genuine 3rd XI travelled to Ramsbottom to face opposition that wasn’t exactly in the same boat. A century and 4 wickets for Nathaniel Young proved to be too good for stand-in skipper Greg Tattersall’s young side and they fell well short in their chase of 257. Stan Kearns, Saad Malik, Will Hindley and Tattersall himself all made decent contributions with the bat.
3rd XI Scorecard: