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And Now The End Is Near...

posted 24 Sept 2016, 10:59 by Mike Madden
The season stumbled to a close with contrasting fortunes for Whaley Bridge 1sts and 2nds. The firsts needed two good results to stay up, and when they lost to Dinting, having bowled themselves into a winning position, it was a mortal blow to their survival chances, The following week it was a tall task to restrict Old Glossop to no more than four points whilst taking the maximum themselves. The writing was certainly on the wall when they lost the toss and batted first, and the ink was dried on their relegation when they were all out for just 65.

The seconds hosted champions elect Hazel Grove, and once again we put out a somewhat makeshift side. We had just 8 men as start time approached, and the visitors were licking their lips as they sought the six points required to secure their championship. Hang on though, the umpire was Nick Latham, a Whaley Bridge player, and so he was called in to action. Next up was Jack, a willing junior who also donned Whaley whites. We had no hesitation in batting first, and Grove were happy in the collusion. The two ageing openers were soon dismissed, but Ole Madden and Jack gradually rebuilt the innings. Jack fell for a patient 20, which brought our ebullient captain to the crease. Ole went for 45, whilst Tommo finished unbeaten on 65, taking us to a remarkable 166-6. We had made a game of it, and Grove had gained three of their six points. Batting leader Andy Oldfield set about getting the other three in his usual belligerent style, until Colin skittled him for 25. Ole Madden took a simple return catch, then a run out got the home side thinking of more than just making up the numbers. Ole struck again, then Jack got the wicket that his two spells deserved as Hazel Grove wobbled. Councillor Lomax was called into action, and he wibbled and wobbled the ball to great amusement. The batsmen were happy to chase wides, but at David's pace that is not always a wise move, and Grove's main chance of victory, opener Cooky, fell doing just that. David cursed as the ball headed for first slip, and the batsman's eyes lit up as the bowler stumbled to the ground. The ferocious drive lodged in the falling bowler's hand, and that was that! Tom Heyes bowled impressively, taking a wicket to set up a thrilling last over. 11 were required to win, and Ole had the ball. The first delivery went to the boundary, so it was seven off 5, but the next four balls yielded just 2 runs. With four needed for a tie the batsmen understandably panicked, and a run out gave Whaley Bridge a four run victory, whilst Hazel Grove deservedly claimed the title with six points, as well as the demise of Hollingworth at High Lane.

The seconds finished the season at Offerton, in an encounter that veered towards farce on several occasions. Offerton are clearly struggling to maintain their ground, suffering more than most from the recent downpour. Whaley had no doubt that Offerton should bat first, and slow progress was not helped by long grass that prevented many shots that deserved four from getting anywhere near to the boundary. A sure fire six landed a matter of inches inside the rope, but rather than bounce over for four it plugged, and the batsmen ran a single. A couple of chaotic run outs helped the cause, with Tom Heyes particularly impressive in the field. Then came the news, the 11th Offerton player had not turned up. Worse, he was bringing the teas. So, the resourceful Offerton skipper headed for Aldi to provide sustenance for the interval. Aldi had clearly run out of butter as dry cheese sandwiches were accompanied by various quiches, though the fresh cream cakes were a joy to behold. The pitch had proved challenging, but Offerton had still progressed to 173-8, and we would need a good start. The next piece of bad news was that the roller was nowhere to be scene. Looking at the wicket this was hardly a surprise, then Fid and Colin located it in an outhouse. Sadly, it could not turn the strip into the road that we required, and we were soon in trouble. Lomax, Madden, and Madden were all back in the pavilion with not too many on the board. Thompson provided the only resistance with 40, though Colin did get a notable 15. Russ Wild got an even more notable first baller, and so brought an ignominious end to a season in which we secured 6th position with our first point of the day.

So what does the future hold? Offerton will surely live to fight another day, their problems are nothing that a mower and a roller can't fix, and we finished the game as all games should be, chatting rubbish about cricket and related subjects with the opposition over a very pleasant beer. The league are planning to visit clubs who will be required to hold a player's meeting. Bowling restrictions in first team cricket and a reduction to 40 overs in second team cricket are rumoured, but will this be enough to save our noble game? There are at least four clubs that must be scratching their heads, wondering how they can possibly compete next season, and we all know who they are. All of them have failed to fulfil at least one league fixture this season, so their answers to the recent survey are possibly the most relevant. Less so are the views of those who actually have genuine selection headaches every week, but it only takes one fallout, one run of poor results, one key player to pack it all in to throw other clubs into the turmoil.

I await the outcome of the next couple of months with interest and genuine concern.