Matlock miss out in nailbiting finale

Matlock CC 1sts 124 for 9 dec. lost to Clifton 125 for 8 by two wickets

Matlock travelled to Clifton for the first league game of Derbyshire County League Division One season on Saturday following a difficult week.

With four first-choice senior players unavailable, including the delayed overseas player now not due for three weeks, the situation was rescued by the inclusion of Unicorns all-rounder Gavin Blake and three talented homegrown young players, Drew Mullaney (16) David Lander (17) and Tom Watkinson (18).

The intermittent availability of England Develop Squad wicketkeeper Harvey Hosein enabled new signing Mark Stokes to play his first league game behind the stumps.

Considering the week’s weather, it was a credit to the Clifton groundstaff that the ground was adjudged fit for play, but the soft, wet, grassy surface was to give difficulties to batsmen, bowlers and fielders alike, reflected in low scoring rates, and a high number of extras.

Clifton won the toss and put Matlock in. Despite the second over loss of Leatherday, the visitors got off to a solid start with a 52-run second wicket partnership between Chris Fletcher (16) and match top scorer Matt Cluer (36).

There followed an entertaining innings by Gavin Blake (24 in 31 balls) which ended when a skier was chased by the helmeted wickekeeper who took the catch while felling a teammate at midwicket.

The innings took a downward turn when Campbell Ogilvie included Peter Camm in his 13-over 4-36 spell.

Stubborn resistance by Mark Stokes and Drew Mullaney added a further 12 precious runs but when Stokes (5) was stumped, both Steve Pell and Ed Lander were given out lbw, the score of 110-8 looked as grey as the sky.

During a third interruption for rain, skipper Pell called on his experience to make an inspired tactical change.

He briefed the two not out batsmen to attack the bowling to make as many quick runs as possible, then he would declare on the fall of the next wicket.

This turned out to be Drew Mullaney (18) who had been timing the ball well and hit a six and a four before being bowled.

Matlock declared with a score of 124-9 in 42 overs, so surprising umpires and players alike and panicking the tea room staff.

Pell’s logic in doing so was impeccable as it limited Clifton to scoring the required 125 to win to be limited to same number of overs experienced by Matlock and not the 50-plus if the side lost all ten wickets within the scheduled 50 overs.

The Clifton innings was free from rain but got off a disastrous start.

Peter Camm, bowling with his usual fire and fury, removed Wilson’s stumps to be immediately followed by the pacy Gavin Blake trapping fellow opener Wooliscroft lbw. At 6-2 it was game on.

Despite continued aggressive pace bowling, Clifton began to recover until a double change brought Chris Fletcher and Ed Lander together.

First success was to Lander, removing the dangerous Faisal Khan (21) caught by Blake and left-arm-quick Fletcher dismissed Hilton.

At 52-4, Matlock’s hopes were high, only to be dented by a 46-run partnership between skipper Ogilvie (18) and wicketkeeper Wedgewood (19), broken when Blake (2-39) returned to have Ogilvie brilliantly caught close to the boundary by Tom Watkinson.

Not to be outdone, Camm bowled Wedgewood (19) but by now Clifton needed a mere 15 runs with four wickets left. They threw caution to the wind but, with only four required, panic set in. Fahim Shabir and Abdul Rehman both went to suicidal run outs from throws by Gavin Blake, having a fine all-round game.

At 123-8, two runs were needed with six balls to go, batsmen nine and ten at the crease and Ed Lander to bowl.

The first two were dot balls but then a cool, confident Simon Moore drove the ball towards the furthest boundary to run an easy two and win by two wickets.

These were dogged performances by both teams but hardly reflected in the 22 points to Clifton (now top of Division One) and a meagre four to Matlock, especially as the latter would have qualified for more had the game been called off.

For Matlock, the only way is up, commencing with Saturday’s home game with Ilkeston Rutland, relegated from last season’s Derbyshire Premier League, and due to start at 12.30pm at Causeway Lane.

Matlock 2nds XI had no fixture this week and the 3rd XI game at Mugginton was called off due to a waterlogged ground.