The sixth week of action in the 2003 North Staffs and South Cheshire League Premier A season served up a thrilling contest between Longton and Moddershall. CHRIS TRAVERS reports…
ANDREW Tweedie, breathing hard after his nine-wicket haul, happily settled for missing out on what would have been his first clean sweep as Longton won a tense, pulsating thriller by one run against Moddershall.
The Longton ground has staged some remarkable finishes over the years, but few could have gripped players and spectators so acutely as this latest chapter which swung one way and another after tea as Moddershall were set 150 to win.
Longton skipper Richard Harvey had been spot on with his prediction at the halfway stage after stating that “150 will take some getting because the wicket is drying slowly”.
But it was too close for comfort for Harvey and his men as Moddershall’s tailenders refused to settle for a draw, came within one boundary of a glorious win, just one more run for a tie and had to settle for bonus points.
A ninth-wicket partnership between Rob Bagnall and Antiguan Adam Sanford was worth 38 as they threatened to hit Longton’s attack out of sight.
But Tweedie, finding extra zip at the end of his 23-over spell, got one past Sanford’s bat to leave the visitors 146-9.
Harvey almost learned a painful lesson when he brought on left-arm spinner Gareth Morris at the fall of the eighth wicket, looking to tempt Moddershall.
Instead, Sanford drove the spinner for two sixes and a four in one over and the picture changed dramatically.
Harvey turned back to big Dave Edwards with Moddershall needing four to win.
Bagnall opened his shoulders, but his pull to mid-wicket stopped just short of the boundary line and Moddershall were two runs short when Edwards hit Bagnall’s stumps and Longton rushed to acclaim match-winner Tweedie (9-66), who had made it all possible.
The South African said: “I can wait for another all-10 chance. This was worth missing out for – it was an incredible finish. I bowled off a shorter run because it was so damp in the outfield.
“There was not a lot of movement out there, but I found a spot at the one end and concentrated on hitting it.”
In the context of the game it deserved a tie, but Longton and Harvey will be boosted by this success as they continue to carve out a title challenge.
Harvey insisted: “We still miss Dave Womble, but we have some talented youngsters coming through. We will be thereabouts at the end.”
Harvey’s instincts prompted him to bat first on a pitch which had absorbed the week’s rainfall, but was still drying out.
Longton’s main batsmen all began confidently without making a major score.
But they seemed on course for a sizeable total when seamers Shaun Brian and John Myatt grabbed five wickets for just 13 to alter the picture.
Enter a youngster to note for the future in Stefan Rduch, who topped his Kidsgrove League section last season with an average of 87.
Rduch and experienced Wayne Morray added 23 valuable runs for the ninth wicket with the former standing up to the pace of Sanford, calmly pulling him to the boundary.
Harvey declared with one over to go, believing he had sufficient runs to test Moddershall, but his calculations were so nearly swept aside.
In-form Iain Carr was in the mood to launch another blitz, but mistimed a leg-side drive and then Myatt, boldly straight driving Tweedie for six, set an example to the middle order before edging the Springbok paceman to the slip.
Champions Norton in Hales maintained their good form to beat strugglers Barlaston.
Neil Davies carried his bat with an unbeaten 36 for the visitors, who reached 104-7 off 55 overs, while leg-spinner Imran Qadir took 5-32.
Opener Darren Long hit a quickfire 49 off 30 balls before the Tractor Boys suffered a collapse, but they scraped home by two wickets.
Betley scored 159 against Checkley, who lost skipper Andy Carr with a dislocated thumb.
The home side scored 133-7 in reply, with John Pickles scoring 61.
Raj Kumar’s 93 not out helped Caverswall reach 161-4 off 43 overs.
Leek lost both points for slow over rate and struggled in their reply to 69-6 with Albie Morkel scoring 41.
Audley struggled against Steve Colclough, who took 6-56 to dismiss the visitors for 145 before the match was abandoned.