Report by John Steel
East Leeds – 199-8 - 18pts defeated Liversedge 194-10 – 7pts by 5 runs
East Leeds were under no illusions as to the scale of the challenge which lay ahead as they entertained talented, top of the table Liversedge at Pontefract Lane on Saturday.
For the second successive week, overnight rain had threatened to disrupt the weekend’s proceedings and whilst the pitch appeared relatively firm, it retained a green tinge and visiting skipper Matthew Barnes sprung no surprises when he exercised his right under current league rules to ask East Leeds to bat without the formality of a toss.
The home side made three changes to the side which prevailed over Rodley last week with Asif Iqbal, Michael Shelton and Aaron Pearce replacing Andrew Eames, Adam Farnell and Shamraz Hussain and it was Iqbal who joined Adam Lines to open the innings.
A searching opening spell from James Lunn brought few scoring opportunities although Lines punished any errors of width from Adam Clarke to remove him from the attack after a number of increasingly exasperated LBW appeals.
The score moved steadily on to 46 before the visitors struck for the first time; first change bowler, left arm seamer, Ben Cross having Iqbal caught by Adam Ives for a painstaking 14. Shamoon Mushtaq then arrived at the crease to lend strong support to Lines who was growing in confidence and authority to add 89 for the second wicket before the experienced Barnes removed Lines, bowled off the hip for an excellent, career best 77 made from only 96 balls with 14 boundaries.
Steel, promoted to number 4, perished quickly in the pursuit of runs before Raffaz, (22) similarly promoted struck lustily in adding 44 for the 4th wicket before becoming the second victim to Barnes’s left arm spin; with Mushtaq departing shortly after, Javed Aslam (18) batted in his customary cavalier style before a flurry of wickets left the home side agonisingly short of a fourth batting point of 199-8. Barnes with 4-45 was the pick of the Liversedge bowlers and was supported by a thoroughly professional fielding effort which was exemplified by Sam Trevitt’s two running catches in the deep to dispose of Steel and Raffaz.
Liversedge obviously sensed that they were in a battle and skipper Matthew Barnes promoted himself to open alongside the vastly experienced Jonny Trevitt for the first time this season and it was Barnes, acting as a pinch hitter who benefitted from some loosely directed bowling from Aslam and a slice or two of good fortune to race to 43 from 30 balls before he chanced his arm once too often to Mushtaq who had replaced Aslam at the Abattoir end; advancing down the pitch to be stumped by Lines as the ball fell from his gloves on to the wicket. Mushtaq immediately followed up by trapping Sam Trevitt first ball leaving Liversedge on 70-2 before bowling James Lunn just four runs later.
Shelton, who had seen Barnes missed behind in a well-directed opening spell, was replaced by Iqbal at the Pavilion end. Ben Cross however was in a mood to counter attack and had made a fluent 34 from 20 balls before he succumbed to one of the few poor balls of Iqbal’s spell, going airborne through the off-side to a long-hop which was plucked from the air by Martin Kent at extra cover.
Whilst Trevitt continued to accumulate, Iqbal whose subtle variations in pace and length which brought him 1-25 in 11 overs applied pressure to the run rate leading to Mushtaq picking up Mark Goodall to a fine running catch by Shelton at deep extra cover before bowling Trevitt for a hitherto patient 44 as he tried to increase the scoring rate. A combination of poor calling and an accurate throw from the deep from Shelton led to the run out of Thornton and when Mushtaq took his sixth wicket by bowling Adam Ives for 0, the game looked as good as over with the visitors reeling on 136-8.
Wasim Tariq, who has spent much of the year up the batting order came in at number 10 to launch a vigorous assault on Sam Thewlis who had replaced Iqbal; his 29 from just 19 balls with 3 sixes threatened to take the match away from East Leeds as he added 47 in short order with Jonny Phillips before another mix up and another fine return from Shelton saw him run out with 17 runs still required.
Adam Clarke, coming in at number 11 with a highest score against East Leeds of 47 ran well with Phillips and struck a powerful blow through the off-side off Thewlis before taking a single to face up to the last over which was to be bowled by Shelton from the Abattoir end with just 6 runs required for victory. Shelton was convinced that the win could only be realistically achieved by taking the wicket and proceeded to soothe the nerves of the East Leeds faithful by producing a peach of a delivery to bowl Clarke with the first ball of the over.
Mushtaq’s 39, combined with an East Leeds best of 6-67 brought him a deserved Man of the Match award although the pick of the batting was Lines’s career best 77 and Iqbal’s bowling had a huge influence on the result.
Shelton took the fielding point with a spectacular running catch and two cool as you like run outs, but mention should also be made of Martin Kent whose splendid catch disposed of the dangerous Cross and Sam Thewlis who did sterling work in the deep.
Other than mis-calculating Iqbal’s bowling allocation, Dan Thewlis led his team intelligently in terms of both bowling changes and field placements.
In inflicting Liversedge’s first defeat since their loss to Sandal on the opening day of the season, East Leeds have moved on to 221 points; 12 points behind ‘Sedge and 7 points behind second placed Townville.
With 34 points in the bank in relation to the forfeited Brook Walton matches, East Leeds will be watching other league results carefully, however promotion is in their own hands; a straight run of victories should see them playing Championship 2 cricket in 2018 – no pressure boys….
As ever, the match was played in a cordial atmosphere, both teams being blissfully unaware of the acrimony surrounding the abandonment of the corresponding 1stXI fixture at East Leeds.