Bril­liant Butt not enough for Town

CRICKET: City side lose their first match of the sea­son and with it top spot

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Cricket - by ALAN SWANN

IT will be scant con­so­la­tion for Peter­bor­ough Town that they were in­volved in a humdinger of a con­est at Northants Premier Di­vi­sion ti­tle ri­vals Fine­don.

In­deed los­ing for the first time this sea­son and con­ced­ing top spot to their con­querors ul­ti­mately made an ex­cur­sion to the county’s sex­i­est cricket ground a mis­er­able ex­pe­ri­ence for Ajaz Akhtar and his men.

Nine runs was the win­ning mar­gin for Fine­don as they main­tained their rep­u­ta­tion for Hou­dini-like es­capol­ogy de­spite a quite su­perb cen­tury from Town opener Asim Butt. They’d won their pre­vi­ous two matches by a sin­gle wicket which sug­gests they have the luck as well as the bot­tle of cham­pi­ons.

It was more of the lat­ter on Satur­day, es­pe­cially as they fielded a side shorn of their star Aussie Clint Tom­lin­son and a cou­ple of other key per­form­ers whereas Town were at full strength as Aussie Paul Burn­ham made his de­but in place of Pak­istani Test squad mem­ber Tan­vir Ahmed.

But Akhtar’s day went down­hill as soon as he’d won the toss and in­serted op­po­si­tion on a day made for bat­ting. It was an un­der­stand­able move given Town’s ex­cep­tional record chas­ing this sum­mer, but some poor open­ing bowl­ing and some sloppy field­ing handed Fine­don the early ini­tia­tive.

Burn­ham is re­put­edly an an­gry Aussie, and not just be­cause of his coun­try’s chas­ten­ing re­cent sport­ing form against mighty Eng­land, but he was ham­pered here by a lack of kit (he ap­peared to be bowl­ing in a pair of clown shoes) and of re­cent match prac­tice.

Twelve bound­aries were struck in the open­ing 13 overs from Burn­ham and Akhtar, most of them by Andy Daniels, a bats­man who played the in­nings of a pre­vi­ously mod­est ca­reer.

Daniels started the sum­mer in the Fine­don sec­ond team and clearly views feet move­ment as a waste of en­ergy, but he struck the ball beau­ti­fully once sur­viv­ing a dif­fi­cult chance to wicket-keeper Chris Mil­ner off Akhtar.

Daniels went on to score 114 and kept the home score­board tick­ing over de­spite a mini-col­lapse as Jamie Smith claimed two wick­ets in an over .

Fine­don’s score went from 117-1 to 124-4 and later from 204-5 to 2169, but the last pair added a cru­cial 28 runs.

Town off-spin­ner Lewis Bruce, who is find­ing bat­ting im­pos­si­ble at the moment thanks to a bro­ken fin­ger, is how­ever turn­ing into a classy bowler. He was the only bowler on ei­ther side to keep con­trol through­out his en­tire spell, which in his case was 17 overs.

Three leg be­fore de­ci­sions and a for­tu­nate close catch by Akhtar meant Bruce picked up 4-48 as Fine­don closed on 244-9 from their 55 overs.

Town’s re­ply was based en­tirely on Butt’s bril­liance. David Clarke was flu­ent in his 23, while Con­nor Cunningham in­cluded a mighty straight six in his 24, but, while Butt (17 fours, two sixes) kept Town com­fort­ably ahead of the run rate, wick­ets fell reg­u­larly enough to keep Fine­don in­ter­ested.

Burn­ham and Butt joined forces to move Town to within 13 runs of vic­tory with three wick­ets in hand, but the opener’s dis­missal from his first mental er­ror (he spurned the op­por­tu­nity of an easy sin­gle from the fi­nal ball of the over in favour of a risky lit­tle leg-side pad­dle) en­abled Fine­don to barge through an open door to grab two more leg be­fore de­ci­sions on a day when the play­ers, and the um­pires, would have ben­e­fit­ted from the em­ploy­ment of Hawk­eye.

The Northants League have ap­par­ently cre­ated an ‘elite’ panel of um­pires this sum­mer which might one day raise an is­sue un­der the Trade De­scrip­tions Act.

Mem­bers of both sides were left shak­ing their heads at de­ci­sions.

Clarke, Matthew Pate­man and Basharat Hus­sain were aghast to be given out, while Town also thought they had trapped Daniels and im­pres­sive vet­eran Andy Roberts early in their re­spec­tive in­nings.

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