Ton-up openers run riot at House party
PETERBOROUGH Town’s opening batsmen were so good at Horton House on Saturday they’d have pushed the dancing dog all the way in that talent show.
Alan Burton, the shaggy-haired red setter of the team, and David Clarke, a whippet between the wickets, smashed an unbroken first-wicket stand of 248 in 49 overs as Town stormed to the top of the Northants Premier Division with a resounding 160-run win.
They are an interesting pair who prove that opposites attract. Burton is all brute force and ignorance, whereas the cerebral Clarke plays shots that are as stylish and attractive as Angelina Jolie.
Burton clubbed a competition best 136 and Town declared as soon as Clarke reached three figures. Five more runs and the pair would have passed the club record mark of 252 set by Clarke and Asim Butt and Rushton last season.
But there’s only statistic Town are interested in this season and that’s a first Premier Division win in 16 years. Captain Ajaz Akhtar would probably sell his England amateur caps, his double Lord’s-winning ap- pearances and members of his family to still be top in the middle of September.
The skipper is certainly impressed with a start that has yielded three straight wins, but he will be keeping feet firmly on the ground for the next five months,
“It’s a good start, but that’s all it is,” Akhtar announced. “We’ve beaten three teams that we would expect to beat if we play well, but there are sterner tests to come.
“I fancied we could pick up maximum points against Horton, but the way we went about it was very encouraging. The openers obviously batted well, but we kept that intensity in the field.
“Anyway being top now counts for nothing. We were top with two weeks to go last season and finished third so we know there can be no complacency.”
For the first time this season Akhtar elected to bat first in pursuit of 30 points (there are only 22 available for a win batting second) and it proved an eminently sensible decision.
Burton was cautious at first, but soon found his stride against a pedestrian attack. He went on to batter the boundaries and finished with six sixes and 15 fours to his name.
Burton also found a novel way to combat the nervous nineties as he went from 77 to 107 in one over from seamer Will Scott. A sequence of 2, 4, 6, 6, 6, 6 took him to a quite brilliant ton in spectacular fashion.
The more stylish Clarke was happy to play the junior partner, but still contributed two sixes and nine fours, although he suffered a personal alarm on 99 when he slogged a ball straight to the only fielder on the boundary.
Happily for him Horton’s fielding was as clinical as the rest of their game and the catch was spilled enabling Akhtar to declare six overs early.
That extra time proved entirely unnecessary. The batting line-up at this House was made of straw.
Jamie Smith blew two Horton batsmen away in an aggressive opening burst, while Akhtar went past the outside edge so regularly his sledging skills were tested to the full.
Wickets did fall regularly though, especially when off-spinning professional Paul Mcmahon was brought into the attack.
Gentleman Mcmahon may look like and act like he’d be perfectly at home in the 1950s, but he possesses a ruthless streak when faced with players of infinitely less ability.
Last season the Cambs Minor Counties captain was the Premier Division’s leading wicket-taker and he probed before pouncing here to finish with figures of 5-29. He prays on weakness as skilfully and effectively as one would expect from a member of the legal profession.
Smith (2-7) and Akhtar (2-13) did the rest of the damage with the ball while vice-captain Lewis Bruce pulled off such a graceful run-out he will hitherto be known as ‘the cat’.
Town are now one point ahead of last season’s runners-up Northampton Saints at the top of the Premier Division table. Previous leaders Stony Stratford, who visit Town this Saturday, lost to Brixworth and dropped to third.
TERRIFIC TON: David Clarke.