There are many skills a cricket captain needs to lead a successful side. Being a top tosser is one of them.
That’s certainly the case on days like yesterday (June 4) at Bretton Gate, one that started in overcast, bowler-friendly conditions and finished bathed in sunshine, or what passes for for it in the UK.
The flip of the coin was therefore crucial and Town skipper Dave Clarke lost it. They actually batted well in the gloom to reach 241-5 in 46 overs, but a flat pitch and no sideways movement off the surface or through the air meant visitors Northampton Saints, a team without a win since the opening day of the season, came closer to winning than losing.
Indeed it took two wickets in two balls from off-spinner Lewis Bruce to stave off a rare Bretton Gate loss. Joe Dawborn’s splendid catch in the deep to dismiss dangerous Mark Wolstenholme was followed instantly by a rush of blood from impressive number three Pat Bright after he’d reached 54.
From 185-3 and requiring under eight an over to win Saints were left in no man’s land, unsure of whether to stick for a draw or twist and go all out for victory. Ultimately they chose the latter and closed on 210-8 from 54 overs and a points split of 17-7 in Town’s favour.
That left Town seven points off the top of the Northants Premier Division (three more than at the start of the day), but still handily placed ahead of a tough run of fixtures against the teams in first (Old Northamptonians), third (Finedon) and fourth (Rushton), starting with a trip to the latter next Saturday (June 12).
By then Town will hope fast bowler Dawborn will have re-discovered the form that made him a feared Premier Division star in the last two seasons. Yesterday he was the one weak link in a team of bowlers who perfiormed with commendable accuracy, but with little luck.
While Dawborn was conceding almost six an over from his 11 overs, teenage left-arm seamer David Sayer was bowling with skill and pace to regularly defeat the outside edge and emerging talent Mohammed Danyaal was probing for weaknesses with intelligence as well as skill.
They received little help from the surface though - wise men reckoned Town would have won comfortably if they’d bowled first - and it was Bruce (4-66) who claimed the most victims to take his tally for the season to 15, the same as Danyaal. Bruce struck in his first over to break a stubborn first-wicket stand of 47 by dismissing Harry Adair, a debutant loaned to the club, from Northants for 20.
Town had survived some awkward early moments in their innings to post a fine score. Ajaz Akhtar’s departure for 21 after an opening stand of 54 enabled Asim Butt to join Clarke and take full advantage of a team with little bowling depth and who struggled in the field.
Butt celebrated the birth of a third son earlier in the week to make 93 (10 fours, one six), while Clarke contributed 64 (six fours) to a second-wicket stand of 124. Butt only fell when the desire for a declaration became urgent.
Tim Young added a breezy 28 not out late in the innings despite having just one fully functional leg. He may soon join club professional Paul McMahon, a wily player sorely missed on days like this, on the sidelines.
D. Clarke c Harvey b Ali 64
A. Akhtar lbw Niyaz 21
A. Butt c Wolstenholme b Ali 93
L. Bruce c Adair b Jhala 0
T. Young not out 28
M. Howard c Wolstenholme b Jhala 0
D. Sayer not out 2
TOTAL (5 wkts) 241
Bowling; M. Wolstenholme 9-0-33-0; N. Bell 11-2-37-0; F. Niyaz 7-0-33-1; M. Odedra 4-1-32-0; S. Jhala 8-0-60-2; W. Ali 7-0-41-2.
Z. Harvey c Sayer b Danyaal 35
H. Adair b Bruce 20
P. Bright b Bruce 54
J. Collins c Dawborn b Sayer 38
M. Wolstenholme c Dawborn b Bruce 26
E. Gay run out 7
S. Jhala c Danyaal b Bruce 13
N. Bell lbw Danyaal 1
W. Ali not out 4
F. Niyaz not out 1
TOTAL (9 wkts) 211
Bowling: J. Smith 8-2-17-0; J. Dawborn 11-1-65-0; D. Sayer 12-1-31-1; L. Bruce 14-2-66-4; M. Danyaal 9-0-20-2.
Oundle were beaten by four wickets at Wollaston after having to bat first in tricky conditions.
But, after recovering from 23-3 to 82-4, they will be disappointed to be bowled out for just 115. In-form Ben Graves top scored with 47 before his run-out prompted a late collapse.
Oundle fought hard with the ball, but Wollaston eventually eased home with plenty of overs to spare. Tshepo Moreki and Richard Cunningham each claimed two wickets.
Oundle 115 (B. Graves 47).
Wollaston 117-6 (R. Cunningham 2-8, T. Moreki 2-43).