Nelson began their quest for honours in the Lancashire League with an exciting one-wicket win at Church on Sunday.
Nelson won the toss and elected to field first and were rewarded with two early wickets. Sam Halstead had Levi Wolfenden lbw for 4 and Bilal Abbas well caught by Lewis Bradley for a duck. The Church professional, Usman Tariq and wicketkeeper Sam Tucker then dug in for a 42-run partnership.
Both batsmen were soon dismissed once the Nelson professional Keshav Maharaj was introduced into the attack. The South African found difficulty, initially, bowling on a sloping pitch and conceded 10 runs in both his first and third overs. Tariq, with 35 runs to his name, tried to hit Maharaj over his head but Lewis Hillman held the lofted drive at midoff. Tucker missed the ball completely and was bowled for 19.
Of the remaining batsmen, only Ali Sartaj coped with the Nelson pro’s spin bowling and he was undefeated on 37 when the last wicket fell with the score on 144.
“Kesh”, as his new teammates call him, impressed with 6-47 from 14 overs.
Last season’s leading wickettaker, Toxy Hussain, and the returning Khurrum Nazir, did not get to bowl.
Nelson’s reply was opened with the Bradley brothers but Lewis did not survive long as he was clean bowled by Wolfenden for none. Toxy Hussain was caught off a very firm square drive off the bowling of Kamran Basharat for 4 and Nelson were in trouble.
Chris Heap steadied the boat for a while until he was caught behind for 13. “Kesh” hit a serene boundary but was too impetuous and was caught after facing only six balls.
Captain Neil Thompson was soon out too, lbw for 3, and Nelson were struggling on 51- 5.
Harrison Phelan and Russell Bradley added 26 before both fell to the spin of Usman Tariq off successive balls. Phelan was caught for 12 and Bradley caught for a very sound 32. Nelson were, however, 77 -7with 21 overs left. Khurrum Nazir was equal to the task though and he kept the Church bowlers at bay, including Tariq who finished with personal best figures of 5-29. Nazir was ably assisted by Richard Meade and together they put on 56 for the 8th wicket. With only 12 runs required for victory though, Meade was caught off a ‘steepler’ for 28. Lewis Hillman was almost immediately bowled for 1, leaving Sam Halstead to hold up one end whilst Nazir scored the runs at the other.
It was in the final over that Nazir hit his third boundary to take his score on to 35 and Nelson’s to 148.
Twelve points from the first outing of the season cannot be bad and Nelson look forward to a home match with Bacup tomorrow and then visit Rishton on Sunday. Neither of those two opponents gained any points from Sunday’s openers.