On a distinctly unpromising Saturday morning the 2nd XI set off for their visit to third-place Stalybridge. They were greeted by a wicket of two distinct sections, one end dry and creamy-coloured and the other wet and the colour of chocolate.
Under glowering skies Stalybridge won the toss and invited the visitors to bat first on the unpredictable wicket with a wet, clinging outfield. Despite the unfavourable conditions Audlem had the home side clinging on for a draw at the end of an intriguing day's play.
Skipper DannyThorburn and Zar Ahmed started carefully and had inched the score to 35 in 17 overs when the rain began to fall and Ahmed was caught for a solid 10. The ensuing break meant that both teams would lose two overs from their allocation. Thorburn and Paddy Leese upped the rate to three an over with excellent shots interspersed by some eccentric running before Leese was bowled for 24 with the score having moved on to 103.
Thorburn reached his 50 in 100 balls and was finally caught for an outstanding 64, following up his excellent but ultimately fruitless 49 in last week's abandoned match. This made the score 120 for 3.
This solid foundation set the scene for the final ten overs, when Dave Morris and Jason Leigh stroked, guided and bludgeoned a further 67 runs. Leigh was out in the final over for a violent 24 and Morris finished undefeated with a classy 55. Rob Chadwick finished 2 not out with the scoreboard showing 192 for 4 after the 46 overs.
Stalybridge set about their unexpected battle for points with determination. Despite scoring 40 in the first ten overs, the accuracy of Dave Parry and Roy Wild ensured that any chances taken by the batsmen carried a great deal of risk.
Bowling towards the dry end Parry bowled namesake Nick, provided Leese with a juggling catch at gulley to snare Faz Hussain and had Danny Thorburn take a superb catch on the boundary to dismiss the dangerous Joe Robinson as Stalybridge reeled at 18 for 3. Wild trapped Ali Azaad lbw and when Leo North stumped opener Gary Sandiford for 31 the chase was over with the score on 56 for 5.
Survival now became the priority for a team hoping to secure a promotion place in three weeks' time. A nonchalant pouch at short long leg by Dave Parry, two wickets in two balls from Lyndon Woodcock and a brilliant diving one-handed catch at silly mid-off from Jason Leigh brought the last pair to the wicket with 10 overs left.
However, despite facing a variety of bowlers, Jordan Ellliot and skipper Brian Stone (13 not out) were up to the task. 16-year-old Elliot especially deserving praise for his calm innings of 1 not out from 45 balls. Stalybridge finished on a relieved 105 for 9 with Parry taking 5 for 35, Wild 1 for 43 and Woodcock 3 for 15.
Audlem gained a well-deserved 15 points and Stalybridge 4. Despite this excellent showing the 2nd XI slipped one place to sixth in Division 4 as Glazebury were gifted 25 points by Ellesmere Port, who couldn't raise a team, to head Audlem by 7 points. Stalybridge dropped to fourth.
On Saturday the 2nd XI are due to entertain next-to-bottom Ellesmere Port in a match that is scheduled to start at 1.00pm.
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