Heywood’s third team played hosts to top of the table Clifton in the only fixture to be played at Crimble over the bank holiday weekend, knowing that they would need to continue their good form if they were to challenge their high flying visitors.
Clifton won the toss and asked Heywood to bat first and a completely new opening partnership of Dan Openshaw and Ben McCulloch took guard against the new ball. The young pair applied themselves well and never looked in any trouble as they steadily took the score up to 40 without loss after 13 overs. However, what can only be described as a bit of inexperience led to a disastrous 3 overs where both openers and No4 batsman, Connor McNally were all run out! At 53-3, it was left to the father and son combination of Lee and Ethan Clarkson to get the team back on track, which they did to a degree before Clarkson Snr was the fourth wicket to fall with the score on 80.
From there onwards it became more of a struggle with wickets falling at regular intervals and ultimately the team were all out for 128. Given the sound base provided by the two openers, the score was possibly 30 runs short of what it might have been, with the main plus being that at least all but one of the 40 overs available were utilised. Heywood knew they would have to bowl very well to win this one.
The two young Clifton opening batsmen, Z Flaxman and H Hussain (the former in particular had been in prolific form) came to the crease but Heywood knew that if they bowled a good line and length, the batsmen would find it difficult to score on a relatively slow wicket and a big outfield. So it proved with Ethan Clarkson and Tom Pagett, backed up by some keen ground fielding, making things difficult and in the tenth over Pagett found a beauty to bowl Hussain before Flaxman inexplicably pulled a ‘long hop’ from Pagett straight to the hands of square leg. Shortly after, Clifton caught the run out bug themselves and they were reduced to 35-3 in the fifteenth over.
With senior batsmen still to come, Clifton remained favourites – that was until skipper Clarkson brought himself and Graeme Taylor into the attack to devastating effect. Taylor took his first wicket since returning to cricket following an injury thanks to an extremely smart stumping by Charles Stanford Campbell and struck again a few overs later having the batsman caught at cover point. Sandwiched in between these two wickets though was a remarkable piece of bowling from Clarkson which resulted in a hat trick including two players who would have been capable of winning the game for Clifton. In a non-Covid environment Clarkson would surely have been mobbed by his team mates but 2m fist pumps were sadly the order of the day!
With the score at 48-8 and the job pretty much done, opportunities were given to Callum Jackson, Jonny McCulloch and Connor McNally to get some overs in at senior level and whilst the last wicket put on a creditable 36, Jackson and McCulloch each took a wicket and Clifton were all out for 84.
This was yet another good performance and the team was rightly applauded from the field by the home spectators who were clearly happy to see the progress of what is largely a very young team with support and guidance from a few senior players – a formula which will hopefully serve the club well for the future
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