James' First and Last

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Audlem 2nd XI hosted Holmes Chapel 2nd XI for the first time in five years on Saturday. Third placed Holmes Chapel played their part in an excellent game of cricket that was a credit to both sides with tenacity, respect and no little skill on display.

Visiting skipper Ollie Dale invited the home team to test itself against his young bowlers and whilst not as weakened as in the previous match against Stretton, the home side had released stalwart openers John Wainwright and Zar Ahmed to add their expertise to the batting of the first team away at Norbury.

Brilliant 84 from Danny Thorburn

Skipper Danny Thorburn and James Hindle, playing his last game before work takes him away to Bath, were able substitutes and very steadily put on 52 for the first wicket before Hindle(16) looped a catch to gully. Ron Farnell (9), Andrew Jinks (19, including two massive sixes) and Sam Colclough (1) provided support but it was Danny's performance that caught the eye. In probably his best innings for his team, he played in exemplary fashion, blocking the (many) good balls and dispatching 17 deliveries with immaculate cover drives, cuts and pulls to the boundary. Father Paul also showed he could pick the bad ball and hit four characteristic fours before hitting one just as far but straight up in the air to be caught for 19 by wicket-keeper Budd. Danny finally departed for a brilliant 84 with just five overs remaining.

A beautiful cameo from Reg Farnell (21), a hard-hitting 24 not out from Rob Mottershead and yet another undefeated innings from all-rounder Lyndon Woodcock (1 not out), not dismissed since the first match of the season, saw Audlem post 229-8, their highest total for several years.

Youngsters slug it out

Holmes Chapel set about their daunting target positively but soon lost opener Dearneley, Rob Mottershead ably demonstrating the dying art of catching a ball at slip without using his hands. The Farnell brothers subjected their young counterparts to a furious bombardment of fast bowling but to their credit the young Chapel batsmen punished anything remotely loose and the score soon mounted, the first fifty coming in 10 overs. The youngsters of both sides slugged it out like apprentice prize fighters, thrust and parry (not that one) providing ample entertainment for the faithful spectators.

Eventually the opening barrage was limited by the number of overs permitted to young bowlers, much to the relief of the three slips and not least to wicket-keeper North who had landed only hours before the start of the game after a valiant attempt to support the economy of the Greek Islands but who was overjoyed to keep a clean-sheet of byes in the innings, despite the bowlers' best (and worst) efforts.

Rob Mottershead and Lyndon Woodcock, nursing bruised hands from their many stops in the slips, took a while to settle to their accustomed rhythm. Harry Roberts (an excellent 25) and George Dray (16, out to a brilliant Ronnie Farnell catch) gave way to Tom Langley and skipper Dale, who by his own admission felt good for 50 and looked to emulate the innings of his opposite number. At 105-4 after 15 overs Chapel were more than in the game. The visitors' brave efforts came to nought however as Lyndon's bail-trimmer defeated Langley (14) and North pouched a skier from Dale (26), despite Sam Colclough's best efforts to distract him. During this period Andy Jinks had attempted to disprove the old adage that catches win matches by spilling three opportunities before diving fell length to snaffle the hardest of the four to come his way in a twenty-minute period.

The last serious obstacle to victory was Phil Harrison, part of Chapel's own father and son partnership. He was adjudged LBW to Woodcock, a brave decision by the young umpire, considering Mr Harrison was probably one of only three members of the visitors' team old enough to have a driving licence to get the team home. Ronnie Farnell finished with 2-37, brother Reg 1-21, Rob Mottershead 2-34 and Lyndon Woodcock (4-27) was only denied a five-for by the quick thinking of Rob Mottershead who grassed a simple chance to enable the soon-to-be-departed James Hindle to bowl an over.

First and last

Reminiscent of a younger, taller, blonder, rounder Roy Wild, James wheeled away for five balls from the Road End before the crowd erupted as he took his first ever league wicket in his last league match for Audlem and the innings closed on 119 all out. A 300-mile round trip from his Bath chair will be necessary for his next wicket but James will always be welcome at the cricket club, as will his father Norman, especially if he makes a habit of supplementing the tea with enough food to last until the Sunday match (and possibly the mid-week match to follow that.)

Despite remaining unbeaten in the first half of the season, Audlem remain four points behind leaders Stretton with Holmes Chapel some 37 points further back in 3rd place. Regular fans will be pleased to know that Saturday sees a third consecutive home match for the 2nds when Styal are the visitors to the Gorse Croft.