Tuesday, 23 July 2019
Monday, 29 May 2017
It was a glorious afternoon as I arrived high on the hills at a picturesque Moorside Cricket and Bowling Club, with the car temperature showing a balmy 24 degrees. This temperature was to drop considerably as the afternoon progressed and a cold front swept in. Moorside Captain Rick Harrington had won the toss and put Middleton in as the umpires led both teams out to observe a minutes silence in respect of the Manchester Arena bombing victims. 
 There had been quite a change in personnel over the winter at Moorside with the arrivals of Drew Fullalove and Pip Taylor from Shaw. Ruan Havenga was the Overseas Amateur with the dangerous Imran Khan in the middle order and a tidy bowler.
However, there was no question that the star attraction was Namibian international Gerry Snyman. He had wreaked havoc in the Saddleworth league in 2014 averaging 70 as the pro for Heyside. Moorside had invested significantly in his arrival and he would be their key player. Indeed, I thought that the club was flying the flag of Namibia in his honour, however it turned out to be the official Moorside flag that fluttered over his picturesque ground with an excellent view of the surrounding areas. Indeed one of the joys of the Pennine League is to tour some of the quaint Oldham villages with picture postcard cricket grounds, however Towncroft still stands out for its magnitude. 

The Oldham Chronicle on the Friday night had declared in its headline " Gerry Snyman is ready to rumble"and made it clear that Gerry "G Force" was the star man with Captain Rick Harrington  declaring " Middletons form does not worry us one iota". Leading Middleton out to bat was the Professional Chris Williams and young Rhys Tierney.  Red tape once again precluded the watching Overseas Amateur Harry Nichols taking to the field, a real travesty in my opinion. Opening the bowling for Moorside were Warburton and Jamie Taylor with a maximum 10 overs in this a Wood Cup match. Both Middleton openers were timing the ball well and looking very comfortable taking the score to 36 when young Rhys was caught by Anchor off the bowling of Warburton. Rhys's good work was not complete as in the field later I watched as he encouraged, supported and inspired his teammates as they sought to bowl out the opposition.

Joining the Pro in the middle was the hero of the Shaw victory, Captain George Walker. In the meantime Chris Williams had moved smoothly onto 30, offering no chances, keeping the ball on the deck  as he found the boundary with increased regularity. Both Chris and George no doubt realised that without the unavailable Gee and Nichols, it was their duty to build a substantial base upon which the innings would be built. George kept his defensive play maintained, punished the bad balls and crafted a valuable 44. Chris meanwhile was in excellent form, offering no chances whatsoever and with glorious drives on both sides of the wicket, Chris found the boundary on 17 occasions. Crucially he was going at a run a ball and keeping the scoreboard ticking over. This was a top performance from the Bolton lad who had learnt his trade at Silverdale and the Morecambe coastline as a youngster. It was a pleasure to watch his every shot live and indeed his mother was tracking his excellent progress over the internet. With close to a 100 partnership George was bowled by Imran Khan bringing the in-form Grant Jones to the wicket. The bowling conditions were ideal, however this wouldn't stop the Pro and Grant from keeping the momentum going.

Grant quickly got his eye in with a couple of easy singles and with the score on 130 and Chris on 64 , the match was nicely in the equilibrium. On the Friday evening the Sports Editor of the Oldham Chronicle had boldly predicted a "hurricane of G Force proportions" . Of course he was referencing the Moorside Pro Gerrie, , what he hadn't accounted for was Grant who was about to blow his own whirlwind. He wisely got used to the track and conditions with a couple of well taken fours and singles to keep the flow going. Once settled , Grant then unleashed a couple of mighty sixes out of the ground onto Turf Pit Lane with straight lifted drives. Supporters breathed a sigh of relief as he cleared the assembled cars in the car park.Just to show his versatility Grant then moved to the other end of the wicket and pulled a couple of sixes again clear out of the ground onto an adjoining Crown Green bowling club. The first landed as the Crown Green bowlers were measuring up a tight head with all the bowls surrounding the jack, no need to bother, as the cricket ball landed scattering the bowls in place. The next six  sent the Crown Greeners running for cover as they implored the Moorside Captain to change his bowlers in order to stop the carnage onto their green. 

A fresh bowler made no diffference as he too, was promptly dispatched out of the ground. In this form the only field you can set for Grant is 5 fielders on the boundary and 5 in the car park.  Moorside Captain Harrington was left scratching his head as he tried seven bowlers as Chris and Grant built a 130 run partnership before Chris was eventually caught for a glorious 132,  his best score to date, including 17 fours. With almost 350 runs to his name plus 20 wickets and still in May, a perfect start for the Moonrakers pro and a nice lad to boot.  

Zain Tahir arrived and was bizarrely given out stumped off a wide, while young Tom Rutter was bowled trying to push the score along. Grant meanwhile had reached 67 off only 53 balls when another glorious shot was destined for the boundary when the Moorside Pro Snyden made an excellent diving catch to dismiss Grant. Mcguiness and Pete Foden then joined the party hitting sixes before the innings closed on a commendable 297 for 6.

As the players left for the tea break I watched as the expected cold front made its way over the Manchester skyline with the temperature falling to 13 degrees and fine drizzle appearing. A chilll wind was now blowing as the covers came on and the umpires decided in view of the weather to reduce the overs to 42 and runs required to 249. Middleton Captain Walker now had various scenarios running around his head, his bowlers would not be able to bowl their full 10 overs, more rain could force a result after ten overs or a bowl out, all very complicated. Chasing such a large total I felt that Moorside would push Snyden up from four to open the batting, however Harrington decided to leave him at his normal number. With this in mind Walker decided to hold back opening bowler Mike Pritchard for the arrival of the star man.

When the opening pair of Anchor and Gartside made their way out to the middle,  the conditions for bowling were dire.  Wet outfield, cold wind, drizzle and slippery underfoot, the Middleton team took out a supply of rags in an attempt to keep the ball dry. Captain Walker decided to open the bowling with the Pro Williams and spinner Steve Mcguiness, mindful that he had to use a minimum of five bowlers. In difficult conditions both kept the batters behind the run rate and indeed Mcguiness gave away less than 50 off his overs which for a spinner is commendable on such a small ground. However, with a short boundary towards the scoreboard end, the Moorside batters were adept at playing late cuts and scoring fours.

Eventually Williams removed opener Gartside for 14 caught by skipper Walker which brought Moorside Captain Harrington to the wicket. Harrington scores quickly and he reached 33 in no time before he was brilliantly run out by Tom Rutter. Tom had also been given a bowl at the pavilion end and he was finding the mark from the off. The wicket brought the pro and danger man Gerrie Snyman to the crease, and if Moorside were to win the match then this was the man to do it as he has done so on may occasions. Walker responded by immediately bringing Mike Pritchard into the attack and Mike struck straight away by removing opener Gartside caught by Walker.  Despite the poor conditions Mike was bowling with his usual pace and venom and probably the quickest I have seen all season. A quiet unassuming lad off the pitch but on it he gets all fired up with a real will to win. Just what any team needs. 

The battle was now on between Pritchard and Moorside Pro Snyman with the former bowling the only maiden of the day. Snyman had been joined by the very dangerous Imran Khan and they could easily swing the match in Moorside's favour as they began to find the boundaries. However, Pritchard had other ideas as he bowled for me his best spell of the season, 9 overs, 3 wickets for a mere 33 runs. Whilst his Ashton performance of 7-7 got the headlines, for me this was a better spell. Bowling against two quality and international batsmen, in form, a short boundary and a hostile crowd, Mike stopped the Moorside juggernaut firmly in its tracks. The run rate which had been advancing well beyond a hundred was slowed right down by Mike and when it reached 156 he took the vital wicket of Snyman. 

Snyman who had hit 3 towering sixes, one of which had taken a car wing mirror clean off , then tried to hit Mike out of the ground. However, the pace and movement of Mike's deliveries meant that the ball went soaring sky high rather than over the boundary.  It was a key moment as Snyman only gives one chance per innings and this was it. The ball was in the air for what seemed an age and I looked hoping to see the usual safe pair of hands underneath it of either Chris Williams or Grant Jones. Rather it was 16 year old youngster Leighton Le Carpentier who was eyeing the ball hurtling down towards him at around 60 miles an hour with the odd Moorside fan shouting loudly in an attempt to distract him. It was the key moment of the match and Leighton swallowed it up no problem whatsoever,  which led to his teammates sprinting over to him in wild celebration. Catch of the season so far from Leighton who returned to his GSCE studying straight after the game. Snyman trudged slowly off the pitch, gutted at what he had just witnessed. Williams and Mcguiness combined to each remove the dangerous Havenga and Khan whilst Steve then removed Craig Taylor. The game was wrapped up by Mike Pritchard when he had Fullalove caught and bowled to give him 3 well deserved wickets and Moorside 207 all out. 

This was a great victory and one which seemed in doubt until Leighton stepped up to the plate in very difficult conditions. I had a brief chat with both him and young Rhys Tierney and found them both very polite, respectful and a credit to the club.  The next round sees us at home to Royton on 24th June.
Home of the Moonrakers

Middleton C.C. currently compete in the Lancashire Cricket League.

Senior matches take place on the majority of Saturday and Sundays.

The Junior sides play on various nights throughout the week, as well as the Under 13s playing on Sunday mornings.

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