WHAT a difference a pro makes!
Nelson had Australia “A” team opening batsman, Liam Davis, as substitute professional on Saturday at Bacup and he showed Nelson supporters just what they had been missing.
Shahzaib Hasan’s contract has been terminated by mutual consent so the club will be looking for match-day pros for the rest of the season. Hasan had not fulfilled his early promise and his lack of runs put extra pressure on the amateurs. It was all so different at Bacup.
Bacup won the toss and elected to bat but struggled against the pace attack of Richard Meade and Waqas Tahir. After 10 overs, they hadn’t lost a wicket but only 13 runs were on the board.
Their problems increased when David Crotty relieved Tahir and, in his second over, had Jo Sipocz lbw for five. Meade then had Bacup’s sub-pro Shaun de Kock, caught in the very next over for one and Joe McCluskie became Crotty’s second victim when he was well caught by Tahir for nine. After 20 overs, Bacup were 40 for 3.
Nelson tried several bowlers but home skipper, Tim Farragher, and Matt Collinge, slowly but surely, built a formidable partnership. Even after 40 overs, the score had only advanced to 98 but they began to find boundaries to push the score along.
The pair had added 82 when Farragher was lbw to Meade for a valuable 60. An over was lost mid-innings due to a stoppage for a sudden shower but a flurry of runs in the final few overs lifted Bacup to 168 for 5, giving them a fighting chance.
Nelson opened their innings with Liam Davis but he lost his partner, Tom Bradshaw, for three in the fifth over.
David Crotty did not last long either as he was lbw to de Kock for five but, thanks to Davis, who was proving what a class act he was, the runs flowed at a handsome rate and the score reached 40 for 2 after 10 overs.
With Neil Thompson as his partner, Davis entertained the Nelson followers with some glorious stroke-play. He brought up his 50 with a drive through mid-on and then accelerated towards his century.
Thompson, meanwhile, was playing his part in a stand that eventually was worth 119 runs. At the 25 over stage, Nelson were 95 for 2 (compared to Bacup’s 55 for 3). Forty runs came from the next five overs as Davis and Thompson asserted their authority over the bowlers.
Davis was in sight of a brilliant century when he was bowled by a yorker from Butcher for 94, a score that included 14 fours and a six. There was just time for Thompson to hit his fifth four to complete his third 50 of the season before he was caught at backward square-leg for 51.
With the Bradley brothers at the wicket, Nelson coasted to an impressive victory by six wickets with 13 overs to spare.
Sunday’s game against Ramsbottom was a more frustrating affair. Sunshine and showers – short periods of sunshine with long periods of showers.
It finally stayed fine long enough to begin a 23 over game at 4-10 p.m. Visitors Ramsbottom won the toss and decided to bat and set a big target to defend.
Professional Pieter Malan and skipper Jon Fielding opened the innings determined to set the pace. Nelson’s opening attack was sub-pro. Jon Holland and Richard Meade but the damp conditions did not suit the slow left-arm spin bowling of the Australian “A” team player.
Fifteen runs came from the first three overs but Meade then produced a beauty to clean bowl Fielding for 11.
The Bell brothers, Alex and David, also had their wickets shattered by Meade (both for ducks) and the rampant Meade followed that by bowling Rob Read for eight, putting Ramsbottom on 34 for 4 from 12 overs.
Holland picked up his first wicket when he had Tom Parton stumped for one but Malan was still at the crease and he suddenly opened up with some aggressive stroke play. From 63 for 5 after 17 overs, the score shot up to 97 for 6 from 20.
Mike Dntith had been caught and bowled by Holland but Malan was now in full flow, taking a particular liking to the slow left arm bowling.
Meade grabbed his fifth wicket, having former Nelsonian Sam Halstead caught for 12 but Holland’s last over went for 19 as Malan punished him mercilessly. Malan’s undefeated 70 included four fours and four sixes and Ramsbottom closed on 125 for 7.
Russell Bradley opened Nelson’s innings with Tom Bradshaw but, after hitting two boundaries, a full blooded cut went straight to Fielding in the gully to give Haslam his first wicket. Jon Holland, not recognised as a batsman, came in at number three but, after facing three balls, he edged Haslam to the stumper – out for one. Bradshaw was caught at mid-on for six and Nelson were struggling at 19 for 3.
David Crotty and Neil Thompson produced the only real partnership of note, adding 45 for the 4th wicket. Both batsmen passed personal milestones during their stand; Thompson passing the 2,500 run mark in league matches and Crotty passing 3,500.
Thompson collected three boundaries on his way to 16 but was then stumped off the bowling of Fielding. However, at the 17th over stage, Nelson were actually ahead at 64 for 4 but they didn’t have a Pieter Malan!
Crotty tried to keep the run-rate up but he was caught on the long-off boundary for 20. Richard Meade also tried to keep the attack going and a beautifully timed straight drive off Fielding went into the pavilion seats. Fielding had the last laugh though as he had Sean Lemon and Lewis Bradley stumped off successive deliveries.
When Fielding bowled Meade for 16 in his next over, it put paid to Nelson’s quest for victory and Chris Heap (8) and Toqir Hussain (1) batted out the remaining few balls for Nelson to finish on 91 for 8.
Next weekend, Nelson have a free Saturday before they take on Todmorden at home on Sunday.