Maurice-Scott Takes Rochdale to the Final

An unbeaten hundred from Rochdale opener, James Maurice-Scott saw Rochdale home and gave them a well-deserved spot in the Worsley Cup final on Sunday afternoon. Visitors Norden were left to rue a 3rd semi-final defeat in 2 seasons after being bravely asked to bat first on a blisteringly hot day at Redbrook. Veteran seamer Steve Oddy struck the two decisive blows in his spell of 10 unbroken overs, dismissing the prolific Josh Tolley and Stags professional Ashar Zaidi for a combined total of just 7 runs. Tolley was first out, given LBW to a ball that looked very leg-side to most observers and Greg Butterworth followed shortly afterwards after top-edging a pull stroke off Casey Roche. With the score on 42, Zaidi attempted a similar shot to a ball that did not look short enough and he mis-timed to mid-on for a duck, leaving the home side in raptures. Norden skipper, Hashum Malik rode his luck early on, being dropped twice, but as wickets fell at the other end he played a more controlled innings than we have seen from him of late. The introduction of Rochdale professional, Sean Whitehead saw Norden’s middle-order ripped apart. His opening spell of 3 for 4 from 6 overs saw Brierley, Crabtree and Willis all dismissed LBW and only 2 scoring shots played off him in that time. Whilst some of the umpiring decisions could certainly be questioned, the lack of intent from Norden’s batters left them stuck on the crease and at the mercy of an umpire who was being pressured by vociferous appealing every time the ball struck the pad.

Finally, that intent did appear in the shape of Oli Holt. He was aided by the bizarre decision to remove Whitehead from the attack after those 6 overs but he played positively and he and Malik were able to compile the partnership that Norden had been looking for. Malik went to his 2nd half-century in consecutive weeks and he struck 13 fours and 2 sixes in an innings that was eventually ended on 79 when he edged behind off Ali Muzaffar. Holt was far from done, though, and he got support from Dean Lord and Usama Malik. The final 2 wickets combined for a further 66 runs which took Norden past 200 and firmly into ‘something to bowl at’ territory. Holt made his first 1st XI half-century for the club and he was last man out for an excellent 63. From 78 for 6, the 215 posted represented a good recovery but on an excellent pitch it still looked short of a par-score.

Any momentum Norden may have had from their tail-end runs was soon extinguished as Maurice-Scott and Zimmy Khan were gifted a flying start by some woeful new-ball bowling. 4 combined overs from Lord and Sami Waheed went for 50 runs as the Rochdale openers were quick to punish anything too short or too full. From that excellent start, Rochdale were able to assess the situation and had the luxury of not having to play a shot in anger against Zaidi. His 10 overs went for just 17 but there was no hint of a wicket and there were plenty of easier runs to be had at the other end. The score was on 123 before Norden got a breakthrough, Khan joining the group of batters to look unhappy at an LBW decision against him. Whitehead then joined Maurice-Scott and neither looked troubled as they cruised towards their victory target. Maurice-Scott brought up a fine hundred and although Whitehead fell with just 12 required, the game was finished with 8.5 overs to spare. Maurice-Scott finished unbeaten on 114 from 135 balls, including 18 fours and 1 six and Rochdale will travel to Acre Bottom to face Ramsbottom in the final.
Worsley Cup Scorecard :

Saturday saw another nail-biter at Stag Park as Norden kept their Lancashire League title hopes alive with a 1 wicket victory against Haslingden, which was secured from the final ball of the game. Alex Willis was the hero, finishing with an unbeaten 35 to see the Stags home after a collapse had threatened to derail what was looking like a routine run-chase. Needing 205, Norden were 126 for 2 with Tolley and Zaidi at the crease and plenty of overs remaining but after Tolley was stumped off the wicket-keeper’s pads, Zaidi followed soon after and Nick Brierley, Lee Crabtree and Ross Collin all perished in quick succession leaving the hosts on 147 for 7 and staring down the barrel of defeat. The 45th over proved to be crucial as Willis opened his shoulders to target the garage and took 18 runs from it. 32 were now needed from 5 overs and there were only 2 wickets in hand when Tom Booth became the 3rd batter to be run out in the innings. Usama Malik joined Willis but only 4 runs came from the 47th over and 22 were now required from 3. Malik found the boundary with a straight drive and when he connected well again at the start of the penultimate over to clear the rope, Norden were favourites again. The next 8 balls produced just 3 runs though, and inincluded the wicket of Malik who was well caught at short fine-leg. Young Jamie Taylor had the unenviable task of coming in as last man with 7 needed from 4 balls but he was able to get off strike from his 2nd ball and Willis was left needing 6 from 2 balls. The first of those looked for a moment like it may go for 6 as he got enough of it in the direction of the shorter extra-cover boundary but the ball bounced just inside the rope meaning a further 2 were required off the last ball. Willis struck straight and the scampering Taylor turned and may well have got back for 2 anyway but a fumble at long-on meant he could coast home and Norden had snatched a crucial win when all seemed lost.

The 1st innings of the game had seen Zaidi do most of the damage with the ball, taking 4 for 27 but a big mention must also go to Taylor who bowled 11 overs and took 3 for 66, knowing that Malik was relying on the teenager for overs with 3 regular seam bowlers unavailable. Mini Bhada made a half-century for the visitors but the drama in this game came late in the day. Saturday Scorecard:

The 2nds’ struggles with the ball continued at Haslingden on Saturday as they fell to a similar looking defeat as the previous week. Batting first, it was the youngsters to the fore with Jo Gordon making 46 and Jack Taylor 37 as Norden closed on 187 for 7 from their 45 overs. Unfortunately, this never looked like being enough as ill-discipline with the ball proved costly. 33 extras were clocked up as Haslingden chased their target down in the 29th over and it is abundantly clear where improvements will have to be made quickly if a promising season isn’t to be allowed to fade away.
2nd XI Scorecard: