Saturday was a great day for playing – and watching – cricket in Nairn. Bright sunshine, a clear blue sky, and a gentle breeze off the Firth.
The game itself didn’t disappoint. It became a tale of two centuries (one from each side); and Nairn emerged victorious.
Ross County, vying with Nairn for second slot in the Senior League, brought a settled team who had already inflicted a heavy defeat on Nairn at Strathpeffer earlier in the season. They won the toss and chose to bat on a Links grass wicket that was still in good condition.
They made a slow start, taking almost 20 overs to reach 50 runs. The breakthrough came when Blake was caught by Anniss off Bronkhorst for 19. Scott, the other opener, was then bowled out for 36, and Embleton was removed by Richie Thompson for just 2.
Ross County’s main threat came from Carney, their leading batsman. He stayed in and played a limited repertoire of shots effectively but without much finesse. His technique was usually to step forward and hit for ‘Cow Corner’, the boundary over mid-on, with the occasional variation being to put one over the head of mid-off. The Nairn fielders all dropped back to the perimeter in the expectation of a catch. But the chances were few: one fell through Macleod’s hands, and Green took a catch diving at full stretch but spilled it as he hit the ground.
Carney’s big-hitting performance saw the visitors’ total move steadily upwards, with the other Ross County batsmen playing a supporting role. Most came and went without reaching double figures.
For Nairn, Bronkhorst (1 for 30, 2 maidens) was consistently accurate and Thompson (1 for 28) bowled with menace, but Wolton (1 for 56) and Owens (1 for 42) proved expensive. Alex Green, having given Mike Davies the wicket-keeper’s gloves, added to the bowling attack, taking 2 for 29.
In 40 overs Ross County built a total of 201, with more than half coming from Carney (107 not out).
The home side believed that with methodical and determined batting, this target was within their reach. The opening pair made a solid start, and kept the run rate up to around 3 runs per over. Then in the 13th over Wolton was caught by Blake off Tolliday for 23.
The bowling changes revealed that Ross County did not have a particularly threatening attack. Belli came on to bowl his slow but accurate spin, but Alex Green had clearly got his eye in and was batting well. Mike Davies was bowled, also by Tolliday, for 6, but Green continued to score consistently. Partnered by Stephen Anniss the pair added more than 70 runs. The home side felt a sense of satisfaction, if not revenge, when Ross County brought Carney (their century-scorer) on to bowl, and in his one and only over Green despatched him for 24 runs including three sixes!
With the home team’s score on 155 Anniss was out LBW for 22. As the match progressed the question was simply whether the Nairn team, with plenty of wickets in hand, could sustain a high enough scoring rate to overhaul the Ross County total within their 45 overs. But few people watching were betting on Ross County. Even bringing back Embleton and Moxon, the opening bowlers, failed to slow the Nairn batsmen down.
Green reached his century and went on to see out the match on an unbeaten 125, while Bronkhorst notched up13 not out. The home side reached 202 for the loss of just 3 wickets in 40.1 overs and claimed a well-deserved victory in a match that was enjoyed by all the players and the numerous other spectators in the afternoon sunshine around the Links.
Nairn’s Senior team thus remains in second place below Highland in the NoSCA league table, with four ‘away’ games still to play in the current season – no match next Saturday (10 Aug) and the next one being at Forres on 17 August.