Brilliant Butt not enough for Town
CRICKET: City side lose their first match of the season and with it top spot
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.