Controversial loss for Lowerhouse

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A SERIES of “interesting” decisions from the umpires helped Lowerhouse collapse to defeat on the opening day of the Lancashire League season at Bacup on Sunday.

On a glorious sunny Easter Sunday afternoon, Bacup won the toss and decided to bat.

Both professionals from South Africa, JJ Smuts for the home side and Francois Haasbroek, were making their Lancashire League debuts.

Former Lowerhouse player Jack McGregor and the left-handed Anthony Taylor opened the batting against Jonny Russell and Haasbroek, and Bacup made a steady start, Russell getting the ball to swing, although he had difficulty with his line.

Taylor was first to depart, with Haasbroek taking a good low return catch.

Smuts looked confident, playing several cover drives.

Matty Walker replaced Russell from the school end, and with the fourth ball of his first over had Smutts well caught at backward point by Jon Finch.

Finch took over from the pro after 14 overs, with the score on 53-2.

McGregor had batted well before he was caught in the covers by captain Charlie Cottam for 31.

Between the 20th and 40th overs only 44 runs were scored for the loss of two wickets as Lowerhouse and the professional in particular bowled wide of the off stump with a 7/2 field.

Bacup were happy to grind out the runs and wait for the loose delivery.

Henry Butcher and Scott Thompson began to show a little more enterprise, playing some good attacking shots and lucky edges before Russell claimed two quick wickets to remove both batsmen to good catches.

Haasbroek provided Lowerhouse with two bonus bowling points with a run out when fielding off his own bowling. Walker returned the best figures of 3-12.

At the tea interval the away side were confident that the 163 required was within their compass, but couldn’t foresee the unbelievable happenings that were about to occur.

The left armer Jo Sipocz opened the bowling from the town end, with David Warren operating from the school end.

Finch and Johnny Whitehead opened the Lowerhouse innings, and appeared in little trouble until Whitehead edged Sipocz to McGregor, who took a good low catch behind the stumps.

Sipocz was bowling booming in-swing deliveries at a decent pace that were to change the game completely, as he received six lbw decisions in his favour.

Paddy Martin was caught deep in his crease, but the other decisions seemed interesting to say the least.

Without the aid of zoom cameras or Hawkeye from the boundary edge, the laws of the game dictate that a left arm over the wicket bowler must pitch in line with the stumps and swing the ball into right hand batsman to obtain a positive response from the umpire.

If he achieved this feat without a little assistance from the man in white, then you have to hold your hand up to a remarkable feat and bowler.

Sipocz returned figures of 9-22 runs with good support from Warren.

Bacup receive 12 points and Lowerhouse two.

The West Enders are at Haslingden on Saturday, before their first home game against Nelson on Sunday.

Meanwhile, a formiddable second-wicket stand from Rossendale duo Lou Vincent and Andy Clough subjected Burnley to opening day misery in the Lancashire League.

The pair struck a 209-run partnership which included a superb century from sub-professional Vincent. The New Zealander hit nine fours and four sixes in making 108 from 106 balls. Meanwhile Clough added an impressive 92, with eight fours and a six, to condemn Steve Brunt’s side to a 107 run defeat.

Skipper Vinny Hanson made an unbeaten 26 at Turf Moor and Matt Kershaw culminated his afternoon with 19 as Rawtenstall closed on 292-5. Brunt tried to spur his side on when he smashed six fours to open with 46 after taking 3-47 with the ball. He partnered Chris Burton (pictured, 43) in an opening wicket stand of 84 to give the hosts hope.

Michael Kelly also made 41 though professional Zahoor Elahi had earlier crashed out for just five runs to his name. Final pair James Capstick (12 not out) and debutant Cole Hayman (15) enjoyed a stand of 27 as Burnley were bowled out for 185.

Burnley now face champions Ramsbottom on Saturday at Turf Moor before facing Colne in the mini-derby at The Horsfield on Sunday for the first double-header weekend of the campaign.

In the Houldsworth Solicitors Ribblesdale Cricket League Padiham fell 10 runs short of their target against Ribblesdale Wanderers despite a spirited fightback.

Wanderers pro Muhammad Majihuddin and Alistair Marsh both exceeded the half-century mark for the visitors as they scored 249 at the expense of six wickets at the Arbories. Padiham paid man Chris Holt took another four wickets as he continued his fine form at his new club.

“It was a good all-round performance on Saturday but again a disaapointing result,” said captain John Bushell. “We didn’t play that well in the first half of the game and our bowling performance wasn’t as good as it has been. But our batting was excellent and we earned five points for our efforts. They really did exceptionally at the end.”

That praise came courtesy of a cool and determined comeback which couldn’t quite stretch the distance. Steve Meehan (46), Bushell (40), Holt (38) and Nezir Mehmood (47) all provided morale-boosting knocks but the home side didn’t quite have enough fuel in the tank.

Bushell added: “I think with a little bit of luck on our side we could have got a result. We just need to combine a decent batting and bowling performance. Quite a few of us chipped in with the bat but we had a little bit of misfortune early in the innings when Kevin Hitchon was run out at the non-striking end.

“We rallied very well at the end but our undoing was losing wickets early on where Ribblesdale had wickets left in the tent which really helped them push the score on. Our catching let us down in the field and as a result they managed to get away. We gave them about 20 runs too many but that fightback gives us heart.”

Padiham now travel to face Whalley on Saturday in search of that first victory of the 2011 season and then they face Great Harwood in the Ramsbottom Cup on Sunday.

But Read continue to march on as they overcame a stubborn Whalley side.

Martin Davies (28) and Lee Kearsley (58) were the stand-out performers in Whalley’s batting ranks as they hit a 173-9 total. But it was Read’s strength in depth and desire that once again saw them through. Professional Stuart Hornby scooped another five wickets while captain Warren Eastham and Jon Harvey had prolonged spells with the ball, and both were rewarded with two scalps.

Eastham said: “It was another great weekend for Stuart with five wickets. I got to have a ball as well and Jon had another long spell (18 overs). We all got to have a go but Stuart looks like he’s going to have the ability to see off the tail.

“Whalley are a stubborn bunch who play as a unit. They value their wickets and they don’t like giving them away. But at the end of the day we just had a little bit too much for them.”

Hornby was ousted by opposite professional Kamran Younas without making any impression on the scorecard but Harvey (65) and Kyle O’Connor (52) did the business while Mohammed Jamal fired an unbeaten 29 to round off the victory.

“Kyle and Jon had great knocks and Jamal came in to finish the game off in style. Stuart has come predominantly for his bowling so anything we get from him with the bat is a bonus. It wasn’t too surprising because Kamran bowls a straight and tight line and he’s one of the best professionals in the league.

“But Kyle and Jon were exceptional and put us in a position to win the game. It was just a shame neither of them saw it through to the end because we’d rather not pile the pressure on those lower down in the order. I’m really pleased with the way things are going.”

Read face Clitheroe away on Saturday before challenging Cherry Tree in the Ramsbottom Cup on Sunday.

• Check Friday’s Burnley Express for the weekend’s scorecards.