Victory proves elusive

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Benwell & Walbottle II v Morpeth II Northumberland & Tyneside Senior League, Division B1

MORPETH arrived at Benwell & Walbottle full of hope and looking to notch their first win of the season.

There was no shortage of runs, entertainment, tension and rain – but the search for victory continues.

Skipper Wailes won the toss and chose to have first use of what appeared to be fairly batsman-friendly conditions.

It seemed a wise choice with Wailes and Cowell making comfortable progress in the early overs, with the former cutting and driving through the covers without much fuss.

Gangly seamer Birrell was getting some bounce but the Morpeth duo never appeared in any great trouble until the weather intervened. Play was suspended on 11 overs at 47 without loss when the heavens opened.

The weather eventually cleared up and Cowell and Wailes returned to the middle for a revised 34-over innings, but soon Birrell’s bounce accounted for the solid-looking Cowell and he edged to slip, where opposing skipper Grice held on smartly to a sharp chance.

Jimmy Craigs then approached the crease but he departed without scoring when Collis got one to cut back and stay low and the ball thudded into Craigs’ shin for a clear-cut lbw.

Cal Urwin then arrived and after a stuttering start to acclimatise to conditions, he and Wailes began forging a partnership of note.

Wailes continued to latch onto anything wide of off-stump as the singles became easy to find, with the boundary being breached regularly.

Birrell and Collis bowled their 10-over spells straight through, signalling an acceleration.

Wailes passed 50, including a trademark pull over mid-wicket, but played one bold shot too many and was caught by elder statesman Green for 60 at mid-off.

Urwin was beginning to cut loose with lusty blows down the ground. Harbottle had joined him and struck a clean six over square leg before skying a routine catch to mid-on to give Jevons a second wicket.

Adam Lawn was sacrificed next, run out for two as Morpeth chased some quick runs towards the end of the innings.

Cue Kurran Dhugga. Coming in at seven, the cheeky off-spinner set off like a train, flicking his third ball for six over square leg. Urwin was continuing at the other end, and timed the innings maturely to end unbeaten on 59.

Dhugga’s onslaught continued with two boundaries and a maximum slapped over the leg side to end 30 not out from just 13 balls, as Morpeth seized the initiative to end 205-5.

The hosts set off at a rate of knots, although Ben Jones and Will Thornton opened with good pace and began to find more control, with Wailes spilling a chance to give Jones the wicket of Green after enticing an outside edge.

When the ubiquitous Dhugga was introduced as first change after 10 wicketless overs, he got the visitors on the board immediately.

He trapped Anderson lbw for a brisk 26. The off-spinner then had Green caught by Lawn at mid-wicket after miscuing a slog sweep for 22.

However, the hosts continued to make good progress with the seam of Urwin and Nick Rose proving fruitless.

Robbie at number four had been striking the ball cleanly before Dhugga beat him in the flight to bowl him for 43.

Birrell was next to go lbw, again to Dhugga. Swing-bowler Harbottle joined the attack and immediately removed Bertram’s middle stump, after a well-constructed 36.

He claimed another two balls later when left-hander Denehy failed to cope with a length ball swinging back in and he was trapped lbw.

With six wickets down for 146, Morpeth were in the driving seat.

Captain Grice had come in at six and was not wasting time getting his eye in, hitting Dhugga over extra-cover and wide of Cow Corner for boundaries. Collis had joined him and the pair began making alarming progress.

The quickies came back but Grice was repeatedly hitting to the short-leg-side boundary. The pair took Benwell & Walbottle to the verge of victory, when Thornton yorked Grice for a match winning 40.

However, it was too little too late and Collis ended unbeaten on 25 as the home side reached the target with an over to spare to win by three wickets.

Morpeth man-of-the-match: Kurran Dhugga.

The team will look to get that sought-after win on Saturday at home to rivals and league leaders Ashington. The game starts at 1.30pm.