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STEAMING WEEKEND SEES LEAGUE SUCCESS AND CUP EXIT

On a sun-drenched weekend, the 1sts continued their impressive unbeaten league run but came up short against Thornham's overseas stars in the cup on Sunday.

Temperatures pushing 30 degrees, the Meadows looking an absolute picture, lots of hard work all week to prepare a decent wicket and make the ground look its best and what happens? Watty loses the toss twice and we field for about 7 hours in the baking sun!

Saturday's game with Flixton looked relatively straightforward on paper, but having reduced the visitors to 40-3 with Marshy bowling very well, things started to fall off as the heat soared. Uncharacteristically sloppy fielding, a couple of drops and some good strokeplay saw the visitors pick up their innings quickly; the spin trio of Meehan, Brooks and Sukha struggled to make inroads with some patchy bowling. Marshy, inexplicably wearing about 8 layers including several jumpers, continued to flog himself and picked up four wickets but a stand of 72 between Castle and McKiernan took the visitors past 150.

The return of Wilkes turned things back in our favour, and also saw the game degenerate into a really bad tempered affair that occasionally threatened to spill way beyond the bounds of what's expected on a cricket field, bizarrely often between Flixton's own players. Wilkes put some pace on the ball and tore through the lower order, ending up with 5-43 as the visitors were eventually dismissed for 194.

It was difficult to know what a par score would be - the wicket was pretty slow but the outfield was rapid, with pushes into the covers racing away numerous times. We would have settled for that with the score at 150-5, but perhaps not early on when it looked like we might race through the visitors. Credit to them for putting together a competitive target.

The Totts innings began at a canter, with Bret again launching sixes from the off. However, Kieran and Nick Marsh fell to leave us 40-2 and looking slightly ropey. Some of the game's biggest talking points then came in a fiery 5 over burst where the visitors totally lost their rag with the umpire and each other, while Bret wasn't shy of a few words. Doc finally looked to have some form, stroking the ball around in customary fashion, while Bret was alternating some blistering strokeplay with uncharacteristic inside edges and shots falling just shy of fielders, much to their chagrin.

Things quietened down a little as the score passed 100, but having done the hard work Doc then chucked it away on 37. Howver, a partnership of 89 in 15 overs had broken the back of the run chase. Ry Marsh soon fell, but then Russ joined Bret to put on an absolute masterclass of chinese cuts and inside edges to really annoy Flixton. With Bret passing his 100 in quick time, the game was over with around 9 overs to spare, the big man getting 111 not out and Bird ending on 34 from 31 balls. Good hundred, bad hundred - all looks the same in the Bury Times!

The game was played in a dreadful atmosphere for much of the duration, the baking heat not helping tempers at all, and even some of the quieter Totts players loudly having their say at some of the stuff going on. A match to forget as a spectacle, but a valuable full point haul as we march on, and a good test of resolve after conceding almost 200 in draining weather.

Sunday's game with Div 2 leaders Thornham was an altogether more civilised affair, with the visitors playing in a great spirit and their supporters equally sporting.

Watty lost the toss again, causing a near-revolt; we were all still shattered from Saturday's endeavours, but no matter. Doc and Ry opened the bowling, and it looked like taking the pace off the ball might be the way to go, with Doc's 10 overs going for just 33. Pace on the ball helped the batters, and they eased to 81 from 20, with a big total looking on the cards. Aussie Kindlen had been put down behind early on and made us pay with a classy 52 before falling to Marshy's unplayable first ball which did all sorts.

Si picked up where he'd left off on Saturday and bowled a terrific spell; Nick Marsh also toiled away impressively generating some swing, but Watty got punished for some loose stuff as the visitors' top order cashed in. Sargeant followed his fellow countryman Kindlen in passing 50, eventually making a hard-hitting 74, but when he fell to a brilliant catch from debutant Danielle, the wheels came off. Some impressive bowling from Bret and Ry Marsh saw Thornham crumble from 172-2 to just 242 all out, a total we felt more than capable of chasing.

As it turned out, 3+ hours in the sun looked to have taken an edge off the batting. Bret smashed three boundaries immediately but then fell trying one shot too many, while KC toiled manfully for 17 overs before being bowled. Doc looked assured again, but Ry Marsh was hitting fielders with almost every ball. Doc and Dee looked to have resurrected the run chase, but then Doc was somewhat controversially adjudged caught at gully when pretty much everyone thought it was a bump ball (moral - don't walk!), and that was pretty much that. Dee and Nick Marsh soon followed, but there was plenty of late fun to be had with the lower order, including the world's best number 10, frustrating Thornham and hitting a few boundaries. Despite some almighty stick from the sidelines, Thornham's fielders and spectators took it in good spirit and were good winners in the end.

If that's the standard expected to top league 2 then we're not too far away - we had 5 frontline players out and still competed well; with a little luck early on we may well have kept the score under 200, and that was certainly gettable. It was a tough weekend for everyone in the heat, and to come back and field well and keep going as well as we did on Sunday was credit to everyone after a particularly fractious Saturday afternoon. It was great to see Dee get a chance, while Stoney took a particularly great catch on Sunday to keep us in the game.

We wish Thornham well in the next round, and move onwards to next week's clash at Elton; meanwhile, the 2s return to action with a home game against Deane and Derby.

I Will if You Will Biffaward

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