Town win in style to stun the lead­ers

CRICKET: Akhtar’s claim that Town can win the ti­tle isn’t look­ing so crazy now

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Et Sport - by ALAN SWANN

PETER­BOR­OUGH Town skip­per Ajaz Akhtar is so full of self-con­fi­dence, he’s prob­a­bly dis­ap­pointed not to have been in­cluded in the Queen’s Birth­day Hon­ours list.

That’s why when he told the lo­cal crick­et­ing world that he had built a side ca­pa­ble of win­ning the Northants Premier Di­vi­sion, few be­lieved him.

But it ap­pears he may have been telling the truth. It wasn’t just the fact that Town beat a Northamp­ton Saints side with three for­mer first­class county crick­eters in their lineup, to dis­lodge them from the top of the ta­ble for the first time this sum­mer, it was the man­ner in which they achieved it.

A six-wicket vic­tory only partly told the story of an af­ter­noon of com­plete dom­i­nance from the moment Akhtar won the toss.

Saints rode their luck be­fore be­ing dis­missed for 159, a to­tal Town passed with 17 overs to spare to make it six wins from six matches that haven’t been af­fected by the weather.

There are po­ten­tial de­fi­cien­cies in the Town bowl­ing at­tack which may sur­face on hard and fast wick­ets, but there are no con­cerns about a starstud­ded bat­ting line-up.

Last week­end’s he­roes Asim Butt, caught at third man, and David Clarke, dis­missed by the only straight­ish ball Saints open­ing bowler Harry Bai­ley, the son of for­mer Eng­land cap Rob Bai­ley, de­liv­ered were un­for­tu­nate to fail.

But up stepped two other high-class per­form­ers to steer Town from 28-2 to the verge of vic­tory.

Matthew Pate­man is a for­mi­da­ble char­ac­ter who plays with a pas­sion and de­ter­mi­na­tion that be­lies the fact that he’s been a club mem­ber for just three months (al­though £2 a run also prob­a­bly helps), while Con­nor Cunningham is a pre­ciously tal­ented teenager.

To­gether they added 112 for the third wicket be­fore Pate­man fell for 58. Cunningham, who was given an early life by a field­ing blun­der, was still there at the end on 68, much to the an­noy­ance of lead­ing home sledger Richard Stemp.

Stemp, a for­mer first-class left arm slow bowler, en­dured a dis­ap­point­ing af­ter­noon, scor­ing one run, drop­ping a dolly and see­ing Cunningham missed off his own bowl­ing by an­other ex-pro­fes­sional Michael Davies and fail­ing to take a wicket be­fore be­ing out-chirped as well as out-played by a 17 year-old who now tops the topflight bat­ting av­er­ages.

But for all the flurry of fine shots which steamed Town to vic­tory, it was all set-up by a fine dis­play in the field.

In­evitably Akhtar led from the front once the world’s stiffest shoul­der loos­ened up (he even in­cluded Dr Sun­deram in his side in case of emer­gen­cies this week­end).

The cap­tain con­ceded just 30 runs from 17 overs de­liv­ered on the trot and claimed three big wick­ets in­clud­ing Saints’ other old pro­fes­sional Alec Swann and the di­vi­sion’s top run-scorer Zak Har­vey.

Akhtar’s reg­u­lar field and bowl­ing changes also worked as Saints slumped from 80-2.

Off-spin­ner Lewis Bruce out­bowled the big­ger names in the home side to re­turn ex­cel­lent fig­ures of 4-38 from 12 overs, de­spite play­ing with a bro­ken fin­ger.

Basharat Hus­sain was com­mend­ably ac­cu­rate while Jamie Smith’s fig­ures were un­fairly treated by a se­ries of out­ra­geous edges, al­though he did hit back well to claim three late wick­ets.

Chris Mil­ner’s wicket-keep­ing was also im­pres­sive on his 18th birth­day, but the catch of the day was held by Akhtar at slip.

The 41 year-old threw his aching body to his left to dis­miss dan­ger­ous Saints’ slog­ger An­drew Reynold­son off Bruce be­fore em­bark­ing on the sort of cel­e­bra­tion last seen when Peter Crouch bagged Abbey Clancy.

“Don’t write me off,” ap­peared to be Akhtar’s mes­sage.

TOWN opener David Clarke made 77 as Brad­ford/Leeds UCCE beat Ox­ford Uni­ver­sity in a two-day match at The Parks last week.

More cricket in to­mor­row’s ET

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