Sunday XI v Royal Challengers

James Cunliffe rolls back the years

Sunday XI v Royal Challengers
17 Jul
Sunday XI v Royal Challengers
Posted by: Mat Armstrong
Year: 2017

M& B recovered from 60/8 to force a victory by 74 runs in a game which will be remembered for the exploits of the venerable James Cunliffe and the batting of the M & B lower order. Skipper Matt Armstrong won the toss and predictably elected to bat against new opponents The Royal Challengers. As usual Blair King opened, this Sunday with Alex Le Clerq, fresh off a maiden fifty for the club the day before. King started fluently with a couple of 4's in the second over but then tried to flick James through mid wicket and didn't get a full connection. It looked as if he had got away with it but midwicket did well to take a good catch running backwards. Mike Parkinson jnr walked back ruefully to the pavilion after being dismissed lbw in the following over. The picture looked bleak for M & B as Ash Becker was castled for a duck with a yorker to leave M & B precariously placed at 17 for 3 in the sixth over. All this time though opener Alex LeClerq continued to hang around albeit courtesy of dropped catches. Eventually his luck run out though in the 12th over as he was finally caught for 12 after four dropped catches. After a few tantalising boundaries from Gunbarul his innings was abruptly ended after only three overs by a smart slip catch to leave M & B precariously placed at 42/5 in the 15th over. Despite a few boundaries from Atif Amin a ghastly misunderstanding with Brian Dixon led to Dixon being run out courtesy of a direct hit. The run out of Dixon led to an expletive from skipper Armstrong, unfortunately in earshot of Mrs Cunliffe, who glanced up from her sketching - my apologies. With M & B doing so badly the Challengers brought on their 14 year old bowler who promptly cleaned up Paddy Cunliffe. Following Amin's dismissal M & B had plummeted to an horrendous 60/8, as the vice Chairman James Cunliffe (JC)strode to the wicket. At the drinks interval after 20 overs the departing umpire Mike Parkinson advised one of the oppo players had asked whether we could have a 2 innings game, without having seen us bowled.

After the drinks interval Tom Allen and JC and buckled down to try and occupy the crease and put some pride back into the M & B total. Both were solid in defence and their occupation eventually led to a number of loose balls being delivered, which both capitalised upon. GT was more fluent and he drove and pulled / flicked a number of boundaries and rotated the strike. JC was particularly solid at the other end. Largely due to GT's scoring M & B jumped to 90 odd as GT reached 29, unfortunately for him and the team he got delusions of grandeur and pranced down the wicket to the spinner to hit him over extra cover but only spooned the ball to the fielder. Despite a fine innings from GT, as usual he stormed off head down in disgust ! Skipper Matt Armstrong was M & B's last man as he strode to the wicket to try and support JC. Armstrong was quick to get off the mark with a quick single to mid off and got early confidence with a flick off his legs to square leg for 4, ultimately though he just tried to stay their and support JC. Armstrong had the pleasure in watching a superb innings from JC, solid in defence, strong on the drive as well as forcing off the back foot, despite batting with an 19 year old county bat. Gradually the score built beyond the 100 as small targets were set, become the top scorer. JC played at least two lofted straight drives and a number of drives off the back foot to balls short of a length as well as a few pulls to full tosses. Armstrong played one delightful lofted extra cover drive but otherwise was content to defend and try and rotate the strike. The score continued to increase as the Challengers heads dropped , eventually a 50 partnership then the team 150. In the late 40's JC's hamstring went resulting in either boundaries or singles being the order of the day. JC managed to force a full toss over mid wicket to bring up his maiden 50 for M & B(not sure when he last scored 50?). The tail enders eventually batted out the full 40 overs to post a last wicket partnership of around 75 to leave M&B at 173 for 9 off their allocation, having recovered from the nadir of 60/8. JC was given royal applause as he left the field.

Paddy Cunliffe and Brian Dixon opened the bowling as Vinay scored an early boundary through the off side. Early on Dixon was a bit short of a length, which was not really a surprise as this was the first time he was bowling seam this season, as his preference is now leg spin in the league. Both openers hit boundaries and Vinay looked solid. A beautiful slower ball from Cunliffe caught the opener on the back pad to gain a well thought out lbw verdict. Dixon, by now bowling a full swinging length got the key wicket of Vinay by castling him. Paddy Cunliffe then accounted for the numbers 4 & 5 by castling them both, the first with one which seamed and hit the top of off and the second as the batsman played across the line. Armstrong bowled out both his opening bowlers, Paddy finishing with figures of 8/1/29/3 and Dixon 8/1/26/1. Armstrong quickly got man of the moment JC into the action with fellow twirler GT. GT's first over was rather airy fairy as Harman was able to rock back and hit GT through cow for a two and a boundary, which resulted in a lost ball. The spare ball which Armstrong found seemed to do the trick as the spinners quickly ran through the rest of wickets, courtesy of a number of fine catches. JC''s tantalising flight led to the obdurate Harman finally chancing his arm as he hit a high ball to cow corner, unfortunately for him Gunbarul made ground and his bucket hands did the rest. Gunbarul was again in action pouching an easier catch off GT at mid on. Then Armstrong got in on the act swooping in at deep extra cover to take a catch low down to the disbelief of his team mates. In the same over Ash Becker nonchalantly leaped up to take another catch at short mid wicket to leave the Challengers 8 down. It only took man of the match, JC, 4 balls to finish off the innings as Amin actually took a catch at first slip and then JC bowled 14 year old Virut as the ball bounced over his bat and clipped the top of the bails to bring down the curtain on the Challengers innings for 99 in the 26th over.

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