Manchopper at the Cricket (Whalley Range CC)

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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 CC

Arriving at the ground

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!

Celebs in Range

Pavilion building and big flag….

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.

Sides enter the pitch

First ball….

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.

Match Action

From the undergrowth….

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.

That’s out!

That’s digging one out!

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!

In the clubhouse

Honours & pictures adorn the walls

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.

On the drive

Angled

Solid

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!

A winning score

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!

RATINGS:

Game: 6

Ground: 6

Food: N/A

Value For Money: 9

Manchopper in….Whalley Range

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Result: Whalley Range 2-1 Old Ashtonians (Lancashire & Cheshire League Premier Division)

Venue: Kings Road (Saturday 17th December 2016, 2pm)

Att: 12 (hc)

With the prior few days weather still threatening some fixtures around the Manchester area, so it was that my journey to the Denton Town vs Eagle Sports game was knocked back on a couple of occasions during the morning of his fairly dour, overcast Saturday morning. It was a good decision to do so too. As the clock struck 11am, the game fell foul of the weather and so an alternative was much needed.

Luckily, blog regular Dan had already said he was off to Whalley Range vs Old Ashtonians, a game close by to both of us, due to his work commitments through the early hours and so a decision was quickly made. With the timing now coming into more of a critical stage, I set off on the short bus ride towards the South Mancunian town of Chorlton at just after midday, arriving into the town around 20 minutes later following a swift connection.

Chorlton

Chorlton

First stop: The Sedge Lynn Spoon's

First stop: The Sedge Lynn Spoon’s

With me wanting to ensure I wasn’t about to waste time and money here, I undertook the short 10 minute walk to Kings Road to make certain the game was all set to go. Indeed, the groundsman doing laps of both pitches was a good sign and enough to confirm to myself that we had a match.

After getting back to Chorlton on one of the regular buses that pass the ground which is located across the road from North West Counties side Maine Road’s home, I set my sights, firstly, on the Wetherspoons. The Sedge Lynn is a fairly interesting building, especially compared to a few I’ve been in of late, but I still found myself quickly boring in here and so I swiftly downed my Punk IPA and headed towards Dulcimer bar, which sits on the road heading towards the ground, thus ensuring I was on my way for sure!

A bit different inside too.

A bit different inside too.

Inside Dulcimer Bar

Inside Dulcimer Bar

Final S-tap! Great pun work eh?

Final S-tap! Great pun work eh?

After another quick pint of Warsteiner in here and with time conspiring against me, I still figured I had time still for one final pre-match drink, courtesy of the Chorlton Tap. After asking how long they’d been open, the barman informed me that they’d been there for “..over 20 years”, but did confirm they had gone through a rebrand, so I knew I hadn’t lost the plot in never seeing the Tap here before! Alas, I was to find the dearest drink of the three in here, with a San Miguel setting me back £4.50, compared to the £4 Warsteiner in Dulcimer.

Upon my arrival at the black-and-red-clad gates, the traditional colours of Range, which guard the entrance to the ground, there were around five minutes or so to kick-off. Kings Road is probably one of the better amateur grounds, with its barred-off pitch being joined by a decent clubhouse, newly built following a recent arson attack and a small cabin providing hot and cold food. There is also a secondary pitch behind the far goal, running left to right. As for Whalley Range FC…

History Lesson:

Whalley Range have been in existence since 1900, and have won many honours during their existence. Playing in the Lancashire Amateur League from 1903, they won 6 titles, 4 Aggregate Trophies and a Challenge Cup title during their time there. They then moved into the Lancs & Cheshire League, and won the second division in ’86-’87 to be promoted to Division 1. After one season in the Division One, they joined the Manchester League where they spent 15 seasons, with a high of third in the Division One, before they left and went back into the Lancashire and Cheshire League.

Since their promotion from Division 2 (which became Division One at the creation of the Premier Division) in 2007-’08 the club have won the league title on each occasion since from 2008-’09 through until ’13-’14. 2014-’15 saw the club finally beaten in the standings when they were beaten into 2nd by Rochdalians. Last season saw them finish up in 3rd place, but they currently lead the way once more this season.

Arriving at Range. The banner has disappeared.

Arriving at Range. The banner has disappeared.

Dog doing the warm-ups

Dog doing the warm-ups

Now, I’m not going to pretend as though I remember a lot from the match outside of the goals, as it’s been over six days, as I write this, and my memory isn’t quite that good. I could make notes, I know, but I really can’t be bothered doing that, as I used to do a few match reports back in the day and it ruined my experience of the match overall. SO this is better! Anyway, on with the show!

The game pretty much consisted of Range attacking the Ashtonians defence, but being very sloppy in terms of overall play and finishing. As it was, they were punished during the first half, with Ashtonians winning a free-kick just outside the area and #8 hit a curling effort that flew past the despairing GK. 0-1.

There was still time for both sides to have further chances, especially the home side, but the visiting ‘keeper was on good form, pulling off a few decent stops to keep his side’s slender lead intact. I also got talking to a guy who was sat watching the game with a can  from a precarious position on top of his car bonnet, whilst his feet rested upon the pitch boundary bar. It turned out he had previously turned out for Range, with his Dad having done so and he was now watching his nephew (I think) wear the shirt. Good stuff!

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Match Action

Ashtonians take the lead!

Ashtonians take the lead!

As half-time approached, I headed for the food cabin where I plumped for a chips and curry offering for (again, I think) £2 and my word what a good decision that was! If these aren’t the best food I’ve had at a game this season, then my memory is even worse than I think it is. I need to find out what potatoes they use. There was even chilli sauce just to add to the bliss. Brilliant stuff and lit up what was, in all honesty, a pretty drab game.

The second half got underway and it really wasn’t any improvement on the first. For the second week in a row, however, I did play football Nostradamus and predict that if Range got the equaliser, then they’d go on to get the winner as well. However, it didn’t look like it was their day on the pitch until, with around an hour played, #2 fired in low from a free-kick to level the scores, deservedly, for the league leaders.

After the referee had complained to the Range manager about two spectators who, as far as Dan and myself were aware (and we were pretty much next to them) had done nothing of note, Ashtonians almost retook the lead with the visiting forward spurning a great chance and putting it wide of the home ‘keeper’s goal, before Range again were denied by the skills of the Ashtonians #1.

Match Action

Match Action

Martial Arts in the box

Martial Arts in the box

Match Action

Match Action

That is until the 93rd minute of play, when Range forced a throw in on the far side. The ball was launched in and met by the head of the yellow-clad #3 who powered it past the GK to spark scenes of jubilation for the hosts and despair for the lower-mid table visitors. That was the last meaningful touch of the game as the whistle blew soon after: 2-1, full-time.

As we exited the ground and headed round the corner and back to the main road, we got straight onto a bus back to Chorlton, thus meaning our journey home was shortened by at least 30 minutes, so a decent end to the day there! Another good trip to a ground I’ve been too multiple times and the second time in a row I’ve now visited and not been threatened with having my phone shoved up my arse by a striker and his midfield partner in crime about four/five years ago. But we won’t go there again! I always like my visits to Kings Road and its well worth a trip if your around the area and have done the others around. Onto Christmas and New Year then. Oh dear…

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RATINGS:

Game: 5

Ground: 6

Programme: N/A

Food: 10

Value For Money: 7