ASHINGTON Cricket Club’s first XI are in a right spin at the moment.
Saturday’s setback against Lanchester was their fourth defeat in the first six matches and was a mirror image of the previous reverse a week earlier at Percy Main.
In both games, Ashington put themselves into match winning positions only to falter with the common denominator being their inability to conquer a spinner.
Last week, Main’s professional Anirudh Singh put the skids under them at a crucial stage, taking 5-17, and on Saturday, Masood Mirza took the plaudits with 6-33 from 13 overs, including the key wickets of Andrew Gray and Stephen Boyd.
Gray and Boyd had added 72 for the third wicket when Boyd – on 27 – fell lbw to Mirza trying to sweep.
Teenager Gray completed his half century with a single in the 29th over and later played a couple of delightful shots off his legs which both found the boundary.
However, in the 35th over, after hitting ten fours in 75, the youngster tried to play to leg again and spooned a simple catch for wicketkeeper Nathan Hudson.
Their demise was crucial as the middle and late order struggled against Mirza and never got into any rhythm.
After Boyd’s dismissal, Martin Sexton went first ball to Mirza leaving James Harmison to stave off the hat-trick ball before the latter eventually returned a low catch to Mirza off his own bowling.
Daniel Grant became the third lbw victim for Mirza, who finished the innings off by clean bowling Craig Wood, all of which left the Colliers 26 runs short of their target.
Sandwiched in between Mirza’s successes, Matty Storey and Surya Rathore both fell to Luke Blackaby, whilst early in the Ashington reply an error of judgement by Scott Dunn, who shouldered arms to a delivery by Hayden Petch saw him bowled middle stump before Jack Jessop was trapped leg before to the same bowler.
It was a mixed bag as far as Ashington’s bowlers were concerned.
Boyd and Rathore gave little away in the early stages with the visitors having faced more overs than the amount of runs they had on the board at one stage.
That picture did change, but just when they had moved to two an over, opener Lawrence Pearson was well caught by Boyd off James Richards.
Prolific runmaker Paul Underwood was joined by Blackaby and the pair upped the rate even further until the former, who had reached his half century, was bowled by Rathore from the last ball of the 36th over for 53.
Blackaby passed the 50 mark before losing partner Graham Brinton who was well caught in the deep by Jack Jessop for three.
Hudson partnered Blackaby and the pair had a shock in store for the Colliers as they took 47 runs from the last five overs.
Blackaby ended unbeaten on 85 and Hudson 33 as Lanchester closed their innings on 197-3.
First XI vice-captain Stephen Boyd – who took over the reins from unavailable skipper Michael Thewlis – has targeted his side’s next two matches as having a crucial bearing on the way their season can pan out.
Boyd said: “Our next two games – away to Tynedale and home to Burnopfield – are really important and the results will determine whether we can aim for the top half of the table or become embroiled in a tough fight against relegation.
“We shouldn’t be in trouble at all, we should be comfortable in mid-table, but we cannot just play games where we bat first and win.”
Reflecting on Saturday’s latest defeat, Boyd said: “It was another one of those frustrating affairs where we’ve been in control probably two thirds of the second half chasing an okay total and once again we have capitulated, which has been a sort of a hoodoo since I’ve been at the club for as long as I can remember.
“Masood Mirza has done that to us a couple of times in the past.
“Fair enough he has got his various assortment of deliveries which bamboozle us a little bit, but we’ve still had a chance right at the end going into the last five or six overs.”
He continued: “I have to shoulder a little bit of the responsibility myself because we were going along brilliantly until I’ve swept and been given out lbw, and from thereon it has been pretty much a procession.
“We just lack some good batting experienced players who work extremely hard.
“We have got some talented youngsters and have a talented team, but I think you’ve got to win games like this one – and the encounter against Percy Main the previous week – and if you do not, then you are going to end up in trouble.”
He added: “That’s two weeks in a row where spinners have caused the damage.”
As Lanchester racked up a score of almost 200, Boyd said: “I was 80 per cent happy with the first half.
“We know teams are going to come at us hard and there could have been a bit more support for our bowlers who have done a half decent job.
“To be fair, I was still happy to restrict Lanchester to 197 because with them having wickets in hand, it could have been much worse so we’ve done well to keep them below 200.
“We could have done even better and that would have made a massive difference at the end.”
He concluded: “Overall it’s disappointing – good teams win those matches.
“But once we go to five or six wickets down we never seem to pull the game back from there and if we go in chasing the last 35 runs required with another couple of wickets in hand, then we’ve got a massive chance.
“So that’s two weeks in a row where spinners have caused the damage; have slowed the scoring rate and taken the wickets against us.”
Ashington 4 points
Lanchester 20 points