Whickham whacked in war of attrition

Whickham II (129-4) v Ponteland II (138-7) Northumberland & Tyneside Senior League, Division B1

PONTELAND seconds braved the elements to claim a remarkable victory against old foes Whickham in a war of attrition at the Glebe on Saturday.

Despite rain showers on Friday and Saturday morning, Whickham told the visitors to travel as the pitch was playable.

And with no rain upon arrival, the whites were donned and the crucial toss was made with Pont captain Chris Morgan continuing his recent dismal spell with the coin as Whickham inevitably elected to bowl first in a reduced 42-over match.

And that decision looked to have paid off as the home side picked up the early wicket of James Ealey, who was caught behind for just two runs.

A shower came over the ground and play was halted for over half- an-hour with the overs further reduced to 35. On resumption, Ponteland’s poor form of the bat of late continued as Matt Darwood was bowled for three and then Tom Common chopped on for two with the away side reeling at 14-3.

Jonny Appleby and the experienced head of veteran Andrew Morgan then set about rebuilding the innings, with Morgan Senior in particularly fine touch as he made hay with his traditional array of square cuts and cover drives.

But just as the innings looked to gain momentum, the heavens opened again and with overs continuously being lost an early tea was taken, ironically during the sunniest part of the day.

Fortunately, the tea break only deducted a further three overs from the allotted and the innings resumed as a 32-over match with 14 overs remaining for Ponteland to bat.

Appleby and Morgan continued their good partnership before Appleby was bowled and a shift in the batting order saw big hitter John Gardner promoted to number six.

Gardner (who scored 43) took a particular liking to the slow bowling attack of the home side as he and Morgan (44) accelerated the innings, with boundaries flowing at regular intervals.

They were both dismissed within the same over, but an effective stand saw Ponteland rise up into the 100s with Neil Pinnock coming in at the end to hit a few lusty blows in a quickfire 13 not out as the innings ended on 138-7 – a very competitive total given the conditions, the earlier batting collapse and the constant reduction in overs.

In reply, Gardner started where he left off with the bat as he caught and bowled the Whickham opener in the first over before later dismissing skipper Nunn with a peach of a delivery which the opener left thinking it was going well past his off stump, only for it to divert massively back in and send the bails flying.

In similar fashion to how Ponteland had started their innings, Whickham then came out the other side of their early collapse to recover with ex-skipper Bobby Cameron and Ross Walker putting on a well-worked partnership before yet more rain intervened.

It was only a short break and third and fourth-change bowlers Dave Waters and Tom Common then produced two tidy spells, with Common getting the vital breakthrough to trap Walker LBW in front and he then bowled Kevin Roberts for a duck before the biggest rain break of the day arrived at around 6.15pm.

This one was particularly heavy and persistent and chances of play resuming looked slim, but after the quiz book got its umpteenth outing of the day in the Ponteland changing room, the rain once again halted, some old towels did the trick to mop the pitch up and the game got underway again at 7.25pm, with Whickham needing 80 runs to win from the remaining 14 overs with just over an hour remaining until the 8.30pm cut-off.

Cameron continued his controlled innings and some lusty blows from Andy Gibson brought Whickham close.

But with Common keeping his cool at one end and the ball struggling to make its way to the boundary through the wet outfield, Ponteland turned again to the returning Gardner who produced two more excellent overs as the home side left themselves just a little bit too much to do, finishing on 129-4 from their 32 overs.

Given the weather, it was astonishing that this game even got started, never mind finished, so for the team to claim this victory was really something of a huge achievement in the context.

Pont claimed 17 points, which moves them up to third in the league and halts their run of three consecutive defeats.