Bangor CC 1st Xl v Laurelvale CC 1st Gallagher Challenge Cup
Bangor CC hosted Laurelvale 1sts in the preliminary round of the Gallagher Challenge on a rare sun-kissed day at Upritchard. Despite the poor weather previously, the ground looked fantastic; a true credit to Stephen Burns and his team of volunteers who have worked relentlessly over the recent months.
Captain Chris Burns started the day off well by winning the toss and electing to bat, much to the delight of his team. Burns strode out to the wicket seemingly on cloud nine, alongside veteran McCollum, fresh from celebrating his 30th birthday. Unfortunately, despite McCollum’s experience, he chased a wide one and was dismissed for 6. This brought Nixon to the wicket, aiming to build a batting relationship with the skipper who revels in relationships of all lengths. Burns looked his destructive best, hitting the unlucky Khan for a straight 6 before he was deceived by the lack of pace from Edgar. Taimur Khan joined Nixon, who was now timing the ball on the beautiful wicket, as the pair went about punishing any loose bowling. Runs leaked at one end, as Edgar kept it very tight from the other. Nixon lost patience against the medium pace of Edgar on 30, chipping one to mid-off.
Nixon’s wicket brought the in-form Adam McCusker to the crease. Adam, who juggles cricket with his fitness modelling career, played some shots worthy of a photoshoot as he dismissed the away side’s bowling over the offside at will. Khan was looking to get into his stride before he fell for 12, with the score evenly poised at 66-3. Debutant Andy Wood joined Adam, albeit briefly, before he succumbed to the ball of the innings for 2; today wasn’t meant to be for the Englishman gracing the hallowed turf of Upritchard Park for the first time.
The telling partnership came from McLarnon and McCusker who added 80 before Adam perished to Haire for 49. His early season form dispels any talk that he is a ‘rig-based selection’. McLarnon continued to chip away with partners Griffon, and later debutant Qaman. Qaman, who was playing his first cricket match for over a decade, showed that class is indeed permanent by smashing the ball to all areas. The score was approaching 200 when McLarnon was caught trying another trade mark cut to the boundary.
Qaman then hit 4 huge maximums to finish on 39*, as Bangor made 213; a good score against a Laurelvale side who have had their batting issues this year. Once again, the job was only half done which was drilled into the players by skipper Burns.
The usual opening bowling pair of Khan and Nixon started the second innings steadily, as Ajmal swung his blade at everything, whereas Weir was more content in batting time; a real chalk and cheese partnership. The break-through came when Khan bowled the dangerous Ajmal for 21 with a lovely off-cutter.
The next wicket was a thing of beauty. Khan hit a perfect length, finding Weir’s tentative edge which raced to McCusker’s left at second slip. McCusker flew through the air like a salmon showing his class comes with more than a dumbbell or bat in his hands.
First change bowlers Pyper and Qaman replaced Khan and Nixon with great effect. Despite Pyper being half the age of McCollum, he bowled with immense skill and control, hurrying the batsman from a perfect length. He got his maiden 1st Xl wicket with a beautiful delivery, caught behind by Griffun. At the other end, the wiley Qaman fired down accurate off spin which the Laurelvale batsmen couldn’t get away. He was picking off the batsmen at will. Meanwhile, young Pyper was unfortunate not to get a second wicket, as McCollum dropped a regulation catch that he may have taken in his 20s; age is catching up on him.
With Laurelvale 9 wickets down, Burns made an inspired decision to bowl Legspinner McLarnon on a wicket that was beginning to turn. If Warne’s ‘Gatting Ball’ was the best delivery of all time, this was not far behind. McLarnon ran in with venom, pitching the ball a third of the way down the wicket before hitting the batsman plumb in front as it was about to bounce for a second time. It was a plan executed to perfection, as Bangor ran out victors by over 100 runs.
The players were fortunate to have NCU President Clarence Hiles in attendance to adjudicate the Man of the Match award. Despite, as mentioned by Mr Hiles, strong performances from McLarnon, Burns, Khan and Nixon, it was rightfully Qaman with his 39* and 4 wickets for 9 runs, who took the plaudits in a dream debut.