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Morpeth II (186-9) v Newcastle City II (184-9) Northumberland & Tyneside Cricket League, Division B1

MORPETH recorded an overdue first victory of the league season against Newcastle City on Saturday – but not without incident.

After losing the toss and being asked to field first, the home side’s opening bowlers Ben Jones and Jimmy Craigs started well, Jones especially sending down out-swingers that whistled past the outside edge regularly.

The City openers were looking streaky and relied on some luck to find their way to 40 without loss but Jones then got a much deserved wicket.

His full ball was skewed to cover, where returning London inhabitant Tom Wright took a one handed catch above his head. It was excellently judged, if not the most elegant piece of work.

Kurran Dhugga was introduced and his off-spin was proving difficult to get away, while the home side continued to reign in City, as Tom Wright entered the attack.

His stingy line and length kept the economy rate down, and the pressure told as Dhugga beat the number three batsman in the flight and clean bowled him.

He then got a second wicket two balls after drinks when the other opener tamely chipped to Ben Jones at extra cover.

Wright joined the party by picking up a wicket, caught at mid-on by Harbottle, and Morpeth were beginning to take the initiative.

But the hosts missed a fairly straightforward run out chance and Dhugga could only parry a tough caught and bowled chance as the visitors began to recover.

David Harbottle and Nick Rose bowled good spells without reward, however the re-introduction of Jones and Dhugga turned the tide again.

Some extra pace and bounce from Jones led to a top edge that set the ball spinning high to Stephen Cowell at backward point, who clung on with ease. Then a swinging yorker saw off the next City batsman, before the next played on to a good length ball that nipped back from outside off stump.

He claimed his fifth with a thin edge to wicketkeeper Jonny Wailes, and was not finished there as another wicket ensured that his remarkable spell of 12 overs concluded with figures of six for 34.

The innings closed on 184-9, with Dhugga unlucky that Wailes missed a stumping off the final delivery of the innings.

In reply, Wailes and Cowell were relatively comfortable through the first 10 overs, rotating the strike with quick singles and punishing any loose bowling.

Wailes square cut and clipped fours over the leg side, but following a classy off-drive to the rope carelessly slashed to cover to depart for 25.

Cowell then feathered to the ‘keeper and returning talisman ‘Errol’ Brown got a ball that jagged away and stayed low for a duck, and 38-0 had become 39-3 in an over.

Jimmy Craigs was bowled for five as things didn’t look to improve. Harbottle was in at six and was starting to show what a quality bat he is. Even when number three Ingram was caught behind for 11, Harbottle continued at good pace, driving strongly down the ground as well as working anything too straight through mid-wicket.

Adam Lawn could not hang around with him, out again for a single figure score.

And the hosts were in even more trouble when Harbottle, who had starting pulling the ball very well, played across one and was bowled for 35. Morpeth were 91-7 with 16 overs to go.

Jones and Dhugga got together at eight and nine and began positively to battle against a probable loss, with Jones changing his usual tactics to play mainly straight shots.

They racked up a couple of boundaries and quickly moved the score to 120, with Morpeth’s players and fans beginning to wonder if they could yet win.

The pair showed great bottle and cricket nous to play almost ‘tip and run’ combined with the odd attacking shot, such as when Jones reverted to type and brutally murdered a leg stump ball high over mid-wicket for six.

The little and large combination moved the score on to needing only 25 off the last five overs. But just as it all appeared to be plain sailing, a slight misunderstanding saw Jones run out for a brave and brilliant 38.

Dhugga was still looking well in control, but Wright’s support was over for five with a leading edge giving a simple caught and bowled.

Dhugga and Rose needed seven from the last over, no wickets in hand. They scampered a single, then after a dot, Dhugga played a wristy cut and they managed three.

There could not have been more pressure on Rose, but the number 11 slapped a cover drive to the rope to leave Morpeth in raptures.

Dhugga was unbeaten on 33 after a memorable knock and Morpeth won by a wicket with two balls to spare.

Man-of-the-match: Ben Jones.