WEATHER HELPS INJURY-HIT NAIRN CRICKETERS FIGHT BACK
The first local round of this year’s T20 contest saw Nairn, Forres and Highland play each other at Fraser Park, Inverness on Saturday. Similar three-way matches took place the same day at Strathpeffer (Ross County, Northern Counties and Fort William) and at Huntly (Huntly, Elgin and Buckie).
There was a slightly gladiatorial edge to the gathering, as the Highland team has acquired a justified reputation for the fiercest bowling attack in the league. Even veteran players who normally decline to wear helmets when batting, chose to include such unfamiliar protective items in their kitbags for this match. However the grass on the Fraser Park pitch was sparse and short, and the ground still soft and slightly slippery from the previous days’ rain. So there seemed little risk of bouncers from any of the bowlers.
Nairn were still under-strength, with Anniss and Wolton away and unavailable and two regular players on the long-term injury list: Calum Forsyth on crutches with a knee injury and Neil Doherty the victim of a power-saw accident. So only ten Nairn men took to the field in the morning match, with Highland batting first.
Regan and Crabtree made a decent if unspectacular start, and in the fifth over Martin Bronkhorst bowled Regan for just 8 runs. But then Crabtree partnered by Smith began to look for boundaries, and on at least three occasions the ball was despatched into nearby suburban gardens, each time for 6 runs. The big hitting put the ball in the air, but Nairn missed two or three catching chances, although James Kendall was as agile in the field as might be expected from a footballing goalkeeper, and Colin Owens stopped a certain boundary with what could have been an impressive one-handed catch.
The Highlanders had reached 112 in 16 overs when Ryan Kerr bowled Smith for 34, and soon after that Magnus Neill caught Singh for 4, again off Kerr’s bowling. Then in the last ball of the 20 overs, Shane Hayward got Crabtree out on 77. The Highland side had clocked up 147 runs.
The Nairn team then had what can only be described as a batting disaster. Six batsmen out in the first six overs, four of them without scoring. Only Alex Green (4) and Shane Hayward (3) registered anything on the scoreboard, and they too only lasted a few overs. James Kendall recorded what turned out to be the only boundary of the innings, while Brian Stewart had to retire injured and make a visit down the road to Raigmore’s A&E to be told he had multiple fractures to his hand after taking a direct hit from the bowling of KC Clement. Rob Nixon took the two remaining Nairn wickets. The depleted Nairn team managed a total of only 23 in 9 overs. Not so much a collapse as a demolition job. The list of Nairn’s casualties from Clements’ bowling over the years now stands at three, with Alex Green (head injury) and Iain MacLeod (broken arm) both having had to retire hurt in previous seasons’ matches.
After a short break Nairn took to the field again, with Mike Davies and John Sargant coming in as replacement players. This second match against Forres showed the signs of being a much closer contest. Dhami, Forres’ main run-scorer, was run out for 39, and then Durance was caught by Bronkhorst off Owens for only 3. Webster lasted longer, scoring 59 before Bronkhorst bowled him, and Nairn swiftly claimed two more wickets (one a stumping by Green, the other taken by Sargant) before the 20 overs were completed.
So Nairn had to chase a Forres total of 133. While Davies went early, caught off a top edge, Alex Green got stuck in. He and Shane Hayward rapidly pushed the total past 70 within the first
dozen overs, and there were encouraging signs of a Nairn revival. Green was on 48 when dubiously given out LBW despite playing well forward and outside the line. Bronkhorst had just gone in to bat, and Hayward was on 21, when heavy rain forced the players off the field.
Under the strict T20 time-limits and with the third match (Highland v Forres) still to be played, there was only limited scope for delay. The covers went on; the umpires deliberated; the rain persisted. Finally the umpires decided that there was little option but to end the match and settle the outcome using the official NoSCA rain-calculator, otherwise known as the Duckworth-Lewis formula, which uses each side’s run-rate, the number of wickets lost, and the number of overs bowled, to predict the match result. On that basis, Nairn was adjudged to have had a predicted score of 140, thus beating Forres by 7 runs.
This left time for the final match of the day, when Highland faced Forres. Highland racked up 131 for 5 in their 20 overs. In reply Forres managed 79 all out (with Clements taking 3 for 17 and – as far as we are aware – causing no more broken bones!).
So the eventual outcome of Saturday’s unpredictable and uneven series of games was that Highland go through to the next and final round of the T20 competition on 30 June (where they will take on Northern Counties and either Buckie or Huntly).
Meanwhile with the squad seriously reduced by absences and injuries, Nairn regrettably found it impossible to raise a team to play the scheduled Reserve league match on Sunday against Ross County. In a week’s time they hope to be able to muster a full and fit eleven players for the senior team to play at Elgin.