Ton-up open­ers run riot at House party

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


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.

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