It was a surprise to arrive at Alexandra Meadows on Saturday to find that there was no immediate prospect of play despite the sunny weather.
Apparently there had been standing water on parts of the ground earlier in the day and the outfield was very soggy. Play did start at 2-45 p.m. with a 35 over game and, having won the toss, Nelson elected to bat first.
James Lickess and Tom Bradshaw gave Nelson a solid start, putting on 38 for the first wicket at just about three per over. Lickess was the first to fall, snicking a delivery from Nick Turner to the wicket-keeper; out for 15. Bradshaw soon followed, out for 20 after giving a return catch to Turner. Shahzaib Hasan hit one six before lofting another drive to be caught at deep extra cover – he was the only Nelson batsman to be dismissed in single figures.
David Crotty and Neil Thompson (pictured) added 24 runs in 33 minutes but, when Thompson was caught at mid-wicket for 15, Nelson had taken 27 overs in compiling 87. The last eight overs produced a flurry of runs that gave Nelson a chance of victory. Crotty hit a couple of boundaries before he was caught at mid-on for 23, Russell Bradley hit a four and a five (four overthrows) in his 13 and Richard Meade hit a four and a six in a 14-ball 23 not out.
Waqas Tahir then put Nelson in a marvellous position by bowling Mohammed Bhada for one and the dangerous David Pearson for a duck. East Lancashire were 3 for 2 from four overs and it took quite a while to recover. The third wicket did not fall until the 15th over but the score had only advanced to 31 when Meade had Mini Bhada caught at mid-on. A superb pick-up and throw by David Crotty then ran out John Turner.
The home team professional and skipper, Ockert Erasmus, and Paul Kelly had a rebuilding job to do but they were struggling until a spate of wides undid all the previous good work by the bowlers. Meade bowled the first, which went to the boundary for a five; then skipper Neil Thompson bowled three wides in succession, followed by Shahzaib Hasan, whose five balls were all wides. The Nelson bowlers were guilty of conceeding 30 in wides in total and they were suddenly in danger of losing a match they were comfortably winning.
Erasmus sensed victory too and he went on the attack, hitting four fours and two sixes in a score of 46 which was ended by Meade obtaining a siccessful lbw decision. East Lancs. needed 18 to win from three overs but Hasan made amends for that horrendous first over by taking two late wickets.
The first was courtesy of a fantastic diving catch by Waqas Tahir in the gully to dismiss Kelly and the second was with the last ball of the match. With East Lancs. needing two to win off the last delivery, Adam Chester was caught off a ‘steepler’ by Crotty.
After the excitement of the previous day, Nelson’s visit to Ramsbottom was a bit of a let-down as they came away with a comprehensive drubbing. The weather was ideal for cricket and a sizable crowd watched Ramsbottom record a nine-wicket victory to leap-frog Nelson in the league table.
Nelson won the toss and elected to bat, totally unaware of the demons in the Acre Bottom pitch. James Lickess and Tom Bradshaw opened the innings but found the opening bowlers, Mike Haslam and Sam Halstead difficult to play. Haslam kept a good line and length and was difficult to score from whilst Halstead got uneven bounce. Halstead got both openers caught behind for four.
Shahzaib Hasan and David Crotty both played innings foreign to their nature in attempts to defend their wickets. Hasan took 54 minutes in compiling 13 before edging Haslam to the stumper and Crotty (10) survived 48 minutes before offering a return catch to Haslam. Haslam also claimed the wicket of Neil Thompson (3) with one that “popped” to finish with 3 for 9 from 14 overs.
Lewis Bradley hit a couple of boundaries in a top score of 14 and Chris Heap managed to reach double figures but no batsman felt comfortable and Nelson were eventually all out for 106 in the 49th over.
When Richard Meade shattered the wickets of Richard Rothwell with the fifth ball of the innings, it looked like Ramsbottom were about to struggle in the same way as Nelson had. Although the occasional ball did fly, the wicket became much more docile and Jon Fielding and Pieter Malan, captain and professional respectively, were soon stroking boundaries at will. Malan hit ten fours in an accomplished 60 not out whilst Fielding hit 4 fours and a six in an undefeated 36 and Ramsbottom cantered to victory with 9 wickets in hand and 26 overs to spare.
Nelson travel to Bacup on Saturday before the return home match against Ramsbottom on Sunday.
• Today, Lancashire Ladies U17s take on Durham U17s in a 45 over game,starting at noon at Seedhill. On Friday, August 3rd, a Nelson Select X1 will entertain Barrowford CC in a 20/20 game with a 6 p.m. start.