National Triumph

25th Sep 2017

The final NEPL Premier Division league game against Tynemouth at home on Saturday 9th September provided a stark reminder of Calum MacLeod’s value to the side. Thwarting Tahir Khan, wicketless in the away game, whilst scoring 78 meant that, having been inserted by the visitors, only Marcus North (42) & John Graham( 51), at 3, showed the necessary application as Khan bowled 15 overs of controlled off spin, varying both flight & pace from the Grove end, for figures of 6-27. Despite a forceful cameo from Andrew Doig (21*)at 9, Andrew Smith’s 1-45 off 15 & Martin Pollard’s 3-20, saw the Bulls slump to a modest 156 all out after only 46 overs.

 Two early wickets for Stephen Humble (40-2 in the 11th) including the dangerous Stuart Poynter, threatened, but with overs in hand, Ben Debnam, through his favoured legside & Matthew Brown moved steadily towards their target. Brown fell for a well constructed 36, taken by w/k Rob Peyton off Jonny Wightman, 109-3 in the 29th but both Armstrong (9) & Smith (9) kept Debnam company so that the 5 wicket win was accomplished in the 41st over. Humble 3-37 & Wightman 1-46. Only two points, two having been lost to a slow over rate, an improvement target for 2018, resulting in a title winning margin of 19 points over Newcastle.

Contrast this rather lack lustre performance with that two days later at the Nat West Club T20 finals day at Derbyshire CCC’s 3aaa County Ground when victories over C & R Hawks & Wimbledon provided the Bulls with their 5th national title in 12 years. Magnificent !  On Mon evening 11th September, the first team to hold both national Club titles, 45 over & T20, at the same time, albeit just for 6 days !

The groundstaff at Derby were outstanding. The sheets covering the square were saturated but the care & attention displayed enabled a delayed start for the first semi final of 16 overs/side at 1200. Losing the toss & being asked to bat by C & R Hawks of the Birmingham & District Premier League, SNCC were 24 -0 in 2.2 overs before Marcus faced a ball, such was Simon Birtwisle’s explosive start, 5×4 in 12 balls !! 

This became 32 -1 in the 4th when North edged behind off Akram for 1. A rain shower at the end of the 5th over power play, 35-1, Birty 30, Rob 2, lost 26 minutes, was followed by three more boundaries before Birty was bowled by Akram, pulling, for 43 (9×4), 52-2 in the 8th. A good start which was built on by  Rob & John Graham before Peyton was caught at cover for 7, 67-3 in the 11th. Another rain break of 32 minutes followed, but to the umpires credit, no reduction in overs.
Captain Adam Cragg joined Graham & although progress was steady, 99-3 in the 14th, an explosive finish saw 40 taken from the last two overs Graham reaching a deserved 50 in the 15th over with  6, 4, 6 from the first three balls. Cragg joined in despatching the last ball for another maximum. 17 from the last over, including 12 wides & the wicket of Cragg for 8, saw Stephen Humble 2* from 3 balls, the Bulls finishing on 139-4 from 16 overs. Graham 56* from 38 balls (3×4, 4×6).

In reply C&R lost Butt to a 1st slip catch off Humble for 1 off the 5th ball of the first over. Humble struck again in his 2nd over having captain Rashid lbw for 3, 15-2. Jonny Wightman then bowled Kabbir Ali for 0 in the 4th over, 17-3. 

Omar Ali, brother of Moeen, showed some nice shots & in partnership with Akbar took the score to 49 before Michael Craigs bowled Akbar for 19. Omar continued but at 80 Lee Crozier bowled Khan for 6. Birty then bowled Ahmed for 5, 91-6. In Lee’s next over, an ambitious second run saw Evans run out without facing a ball & 4 balls later Omar, after a splendid innings of 47, was caught at cover by Birtwisle, 94-8 after 13.

Malik was bowled by the returning Wightman for 9, 106 for 9 & despite some late blows from Khurshid (12*) & Akram (5*) the innings closed at 122-9. A win by 17, only 22 off the last two. Onto the final.

Wimbledon won the toss &, after their 9 wicket win over Clifton, decided to bat. The innings began at 1845, just 15 minutes behind schedule. Having seen SN score 139 off 16 the Surrey side clearly intended to go hard & 27 from 3 overs saw Welch & Johnston take the initiative. In Jonny Wightman’s second over they both paid the price, Welch skying to cover, where Michael Craigs took a well judged catch & four balls later Johnston hitting high towards long off but slightly into the wind, where a retreating John Graham in full stride, held a great catch over his shoulder, 31-2.
Swann dished out some treatment to Michael Craigs as did Webb to Lee Crozier. But in Crozier’s next over Webb was beaten in the flight & smartly stumped by Rob Peyton, 58-3 in the 7th. Deciding spin was the answer North’s first over, the 8th, from the City end, was despatched by Matt Spriegel for 12. Two overs later Birty’s first turned the game with two wickets as Spriegel hit straight to Humble at long on & three balls later Brown was bowled, 81-5.
Swann & Scott put on 16 before Swann(29) was lbw to North hitting to leg, 97-6. Gunn (8) was busy but bowled by a Birty slower one, 108-7  in the 16th, before Marcus persuaded Scott to hit to leg & got another lbw, 112-8 in the 17th. Wightman returned for the 18th over & Boobbyer was caught by Humble at deep mid off. Humble then removed Hindmarch with the first ball of the 19th over, lbw for 2. 117 all out !! Humble 1-17(2.1), Wightman 3-18 (3), Crozier 1-20 (4), Craigs 0-14 (1), North 2-20 (4), Birtwisle 3-23(4). Game on !

The SN innings began at 2007. The lights were on. So was Birty, sweeping off spinner Spriegel’s 4th ball for four. 13 off three but then in Hindmarch’s second four imperious boundaries, the second a sumptuous cover drive, saw the score leap to 30 off 4. North hit Bunting for 10 off 4 balls & followed up with another off Boobbyer before mistiming to mid on for 16 , 48-1 in the 6th.
Rob Peyton off the mark first ball, then played a delightful on drive between bowler & mid on for 4. At 63-1 off 9, Wimbledon turned to the spin of Scott from the Racecourse end. He bowled 4 overs of tidy off spin for 13 including the wicket of Birtwisle for an outstanding 47 (7×4) from 46 balls, caught at backward point, reversing in search of a boundary, 86-2 in the 15th.

Good running between Peyton & John Graham kept the momentum. Rob’s occasional miscues fell to earth, as the Bulls approached their target. 11 off a Gunn over, the 16th, 101-2. 17 needed off 4. Was there any tension in the scorebox ?! A tad but eased as a Bunting over went for 4 then the returning Hindmarch for 6. 7 to win off 2. John Graham chipped a Bunting slower ball to cover at 114, 8 balls to go 4 to win.

Enter Adam Cragg, bristling with intent. A scampered two & a single tied the scores from the last ball of the 19th over. Craggy on strike & it was fitting, in his first season as 1st X1 Captain, that he should despatch Hindmarch’s second ball high over the mid wicket boundary for the winning runs !! Peyton, coming of age by the innings, finished 37*(38 balls), Cragg 9*.

The presentations followed as Simon Birtwisle was most deservedly named ‘Man of The Match’ for his 47 & 3-23. One outstanding piece of cover fielding showed what this final meant to him. He acknowledged a great team effort, praised the quality of cricket in the North East & highlighted the importance of experience & character in the victory. 

All those in the squad of 15 wish to send their heartfelt thanks to our stalwart supporters who made their own way to Derby, & all to those who kept in touch during the day & sent their best wishes afterwards. We were all able to celebrate the Bulls 5th national title success in 12 years. Particular thanks go to Ken Waller, our esteemed photographer, who encountered more than his fair share of difficulty persuading ground stewards to be allowed around the perimeter for an advantageous position & to Gordon Halliday for his competition administration & liaison with the ECB during the long campaign. 


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