Result: Whalley Range 185-8 (50 overs) BEAT Stayley CC 127ao (4 overs) by 58 RUNS (GMCL Division 1A)
Venue: Kingsbrook Road (Saturday 9th June 2018, 1.30pm)
Att: 10-20 (ranging, approx.)
Squeezing in a game of the leather and willow prior to the outbreak of World Cup Fever, which may just bring this year’s campaign to a very premature end, I travelled the short journey over to Whalley Range’s Kingsbrook Road ground for their Greater Manchester Cricket League game against bottom side, Stayley CC. The Stalybridge-based side and GMCL new-boys travelled to Range on a quest to secure their first points of the season, while the Rangers began a few places above their opponents.
A short bus journey dropped me off just five minutes from the ground, where I arrived around twenty minutes prior to the start of play. Whalley Range’s ground is in a lovely setting, surrounded by trees and suburban housing, with large Victorian buildings towering over the ground from across the road. The pavilion stands in the corner of the ground and is flanked by a few tennis courts, whilst it also has a small patioed area to its front, which provides views of the pitch and is a nice place to enjoy the sun, especially on such a warm day as this day was. To the opposite side of the building is the small gate which provides entrance, which is sandwiched between the pavilion and the impressive-looking scoreboard.
Whalley Range Cricket Club were formed in 1845 and have previously had a number of county players, a collection of rugby internationals, a lacrosse legend, a famous composer, a renowned amateur astronomer, a ‘prolific’ author, three Olympians and two future England captains represent them. They originally played at local grounds situated on College Grove (later a school) and briefly played at Hough End (part of which became a WWI aerodrome) prior to moving into their Kingsbrook Road ground, whereupon they benefitted from a number of players from the nearby William Hulme school, which explains why the Old Hulmeians name is emblazoned within the steel fencing outside the pavilion. The club have also played at Old Trafford on a regular basis over past years.
Incidentally, Range also have a celebrity supporter in darting legend John Gwynne, whom the blackboard next to the entry gate showed had sponsored the previous night’s twenty20 game against Denton, this fact somewhat given away by the ‘180’ that had been written in between his name!
More recently, the club have competed in the Manchester Association through the 1980’s (and likely earlier), ’90’s and early to mid-2000’s, prior to moving into the Manchester & District Cricket League. Relegated from the Premier Division in 2006, they were promoted back from Division One the next year and remained there until 2012 when they were again relegated. After one season back in Division One, Range switched into the Saddleworth & District Cricket League’s Division One where they remained through to 2016 when they joined the newly formed Greater Manchester Cricket League and were placed in Division One, where they have remained to this day, currently playing in the ‘A’ split of the division.
Anyway, it soon became clear that the hosts would be batting first and the two sides soon followed the two umpires out onto the field of play and we were soon underway. Range got off to a watchful start, the opening pair of Faizan Ahmad and Zarrar Malik putting on a stand of 25 in the first ten overs, before the latter gloved one down the leg-side to keeper Anton Jones off the bowling of Stayley’s overseas professional, Hamza Nadeem, for 13. I was joined by Dan for the remainder of our stay (we left shortly before the end) just prior to his wicket going, so he clearly brought the bad luck!
Ahmad (20) would follow exactly six overs later, falling to the first ball of the 17th over – skipper Peter Skuse trapping him lbw after an attempted sweep, before Range’s own pro, Marwan Muhammad, and James Newton, their overseas amateur player, came together and laid a fine foundation for their innings to go on from. After initially continuing the watchful theme, they – Newton especially – increasingly became more aggressive and they went on to eventually bring up their 50 partnership and taking the score into three figures.
However, things would soon take a turn for the worse, as the hosts lost three quick wickets for not many. First, Muhammad was caught at mid-wicket off spinner Skuse for 29, before Sully Malik (five) and Janaid Maqsood both fell to Hamza Nadeem in short order, the former leg-before, the latter bowled by a fine yorker for a golden duck. Newton, though, remained, his defences not breached and he found a fine foil in Ateeque Din. The two shared a sixth-wicket partnership of 40, during which Newton brought up a fine half-century and saw the duo advance the score onto 151-5. But disaster struck not long afterwards for Newton, as he was castled by another spinner, Naveed Rehman, again attempting to sweep, having made 54 off 83 deliveries.
There was only six overs left at this point and it became pretty crucial which way they would go. Range needed a few more to feel in a good position on what looked a fairly sluggish pitch, while Stayley needed to dismiss – or indeed restrict – their hosts for as little as possible. Unfortunately for the visitors, Din soon put his foot down and began to advance the scoring rate. He crashed an unbeaten 40 off just 41 balls, whilst being supported by Junaid Fakir (one) and his captain Waqas Malik (nine) – who were both yorked and resultantly bowled, becoming the final two victims of Hamza Nadeem’s five-fer.
They had led Range to an eventual 185-8 off their 50 overs, Din and Usman Saleem (1*) ending with their wickets intact, whilst Hamza Nadeem’s 5-36 was highly impressive, coming from 15 overs, sharing the bulk of the work with Skuse (2-49) who also got through fifteen. Rehman, who grabbed the other wicket, ended with 1-32 off four.
For the interval, Dan and I headed for the clubhouse, where a decently sized spread had been put out for the players and officials, though it was obviously off-limits for a few of the players, due to their participation in Ramadan, with one player having to take a break shortly into the second innings due to, seemingly, exhaustion. He was ok though and I think returned after a half-hour or so away. Anyway, side-track over and with beer in hand (pint of Stella) we waited out the rest of the break whilst chatting to one of the two umpires about the Windies test and also a recent England game. It certainly went better than the Scotland one, that’s for sure!
Stayley’s opening pair were soon out in the middle and ready to go. However, their innings started badly and it looked as though they would fold fairly swiftly. To be fair to them, though, the first wicket – that of Martin Downend – appeared to have been somewhat iffy judging by his reaction as he came off, with maybe an inside edge not being picked up. Either way, he had to go for four, leg-before to Ateeque Din’s seamers, and Nick Woodhead soon followed, Range skipper and opening bowler Waqas Malik duly bowling him before he could trouble the scorers with one that looked to keep a bit low. 10-2 off 6.3 overs didn’t seem to bode too well for the bottom side, though they could feel somewhat hard done by.
But they showed steely resilience in the middle order who, along with opener Bhavin Patel, steadied the ship somewhat. Patel and A Ahmed added 51 together before the former was bowled by another seamer, Saleem Akram, for a watchful 36 off 70 balls and when Ahmed (18) followed just under two overs later, caught in the covers off the same bowler, it looked as though a collapse could be on once again. However, captain Skuse (19) and wicket-keeper-batsman Anton Jones came together and began to take their side slowly towards their target, adding 30 together and getting it down to under one hundred, when the former was dismissed by the Range pro, spinner Marwan Mohammad, as he skied one out to long-on – where Usman Saleem was stationed, and he duly took a comfortable-looking catch to dismiss him, to have Stayley in a bit of bother at 92-5.
Our time at the game was approaching its usual 7pm deadline, though with Stayley still in the game, I was somewhat reluctant to leave and wanted to stay on and see which way it would go. But, just before we were about to reach the point of no return (I guess I could have returned had I wanted to…), Hamza Nadeem, the visitors’ pro, was caught out in the covers for just two and that looked to be game up. Indeed, as we were heading out of the gates, I reckoned I’d overheard another wicket go down, and that looks to be the case looking at the scorecard, as Joshua Healey (one) was caught and bowled by Akram who now had four wickets to his name, at a time that would tie-in with that.
It seemed to be all down to Jones now with only the lower-order to accompany him. He was given some good support by Kyle McQuillan which enabled them to get the score up to 120-7, before McQuillan was dismissed by Mohammed, stumped by ‘keeper Newton, for nine. The innings was soon wrapped up, with Naveed Rehman being run-out by Junaid Fakir without scoring and Mohammed rounded off the innings in the 43rd over with his third scalp, that of Ronnie Cameron for three (caught also by Fakir), to ensure Stayley’s winless, and pointless, run continued. As it was, Jones was left stranded on an unbeaten 28 and we’d only missed five overs. Damn uncertain results in cricket!
Range meanwhile headed up the table to 6th place and Akram ended the pick of their bowlers, taking 4-45 from his fifteen overs, while Mohammed was impressive in taking an economical 3-19 from nine. Din (1-14 from 5) and Malik (1-26 from 9) also bowled tightly, with Saleem being the only bowler to not take a wicket in the innings, but again kept the scores down with 0-20 from five.
A trouble-free journey back would follow for us, followed by a couple more drinks back closer to home. It was good to get a, pretty-much, full game in at Range, having visited briefly a few years back and it was a decent contest too, though one that went on far longer than I’m used to at club level, considering the silliness of last season’s scores! I’m still uncertain as to whether I’ll do another club this summer, as the World Cup is far more attractive than the Euros a couple of years back, but we’ll see. Anyway, thanks to both teams for putting on a good contest and best of luck for the season!
Value For Money: 9