Cricket 19: NWHTC – Final Fling in the Valleys!

After ten rounds in the ring, or possibly cricket ground, two teams travelled to Wales to fight it out for the right to be crowned inaugural North Western Hemisphere Test Champion. An administrative error meant that the awe-inspiring Ottawa Oval in Canada had been double booked and so a quaint little ground in Glamorgan was the neutral territory selected to host the final between Scotland and ourselves. If nothing else, carbon emissions were limited and Greta could at least raise a smile!

Scotland had of course performed the double over us during the round robin stage, chasing down in excess of 400 on both occasions. Provided such history and having been presented with a lush swing inducing green deck, it was no surprise that having benefited from the fall of the coin, Scotland opted to insert us into bat on the grand finale’s premier morning.

To a chorus of rapturous applause from both the locals and travelling fans, opening batsmen Dawid Malan and Haseeb Hameed bounded to the wicket in confident mood but aware of the stern challenges that lay before them. Hameed, fresh from scores of 102 and 90 against Netherlands will have been disappointed to fall for only 20 in the final. Following a century of his own in said match, Dominic Sibley reverted to type with a promising but unfulfilling 38. Malan (74) continued to justify his selection as opener but like skipper Joe Root (84) will have been disappointed not to make a ton on such a magnificent occasion. Moeen Ali, excellent in all facets both in the final and the competition as a whole, made 65 but Sam Curran (4) missed out. It was a great shame for the Surrey youngster given his swashbuckling contributions in the competition up to that point. Chris Woakes (14), Jamie Overton (23), Stuart Broad (28) and James Anderson (10) all made handy contributions alongside a fine Jonny Bairstow (65 not out). There were contributions from throughout the batting line-up but it was disappointing that nobody went big and thus 427 only seemed a par total against a Scotland side that have regularly been amongst the runs during the NWHTC. Spin bowler Martin Law (3-96) and pace bowler Abdulrahmann Egan (3-111) stuck to task with the ball to claim three wickets apiece.

Having batted so well in the league stage of the tournament, Scotland simply failed to show up in the final. Opening batsman Mahdi Clay top scored with 42 as the Saltires crumbled from 90-2 to just 196 all out. Moeen (3-28) led the way with Broad (2-47) and Curran (2-23) collecting two wickets each. Our varied attack that consisted of pace, swing, spin as well as a mixture of right and left-arm helped keep Scotland on their toes and unable to settle. The efficient Martin Law was left stranded not out on 39. Some great bowling changes as well as an excellent decision review by Root helped limit Scotland’s total.

We opted to enforce the follow-on and Scotland were soon in trouble once again. First innings top scorer Clay was amateurishly run out for just 6 (Village!) and Scotland were soon 59-4 staring down the barrel at an innings loss. Once again Root was on the money with his bowling changes as the likes of Overton and Moeen struck almost if not immediately. Finally resistance came in the shape of Gene Moore (88) and Dorian Burke (73) as the right-hand/left-hand pair batted out the day before lifting the score to 205-4 on the third morning.

It seemed almost certain that we would be set a tricky total to chase but having spent the night dreaming of scoring a match-defining century in the final, Moore (88) was run out after fine work from Malan and Root on the boundary. Stuart Broad (4-46) then ran riot dismissing Law (2) in the same over followed by Skinner (1) and Watt (3) in the overs that followed.

It was the economical James Anderson (12.3-2-23-2) who had the honour of sealing the inaugural North Western Hemisphere Test Championship when he dismantled Carter Scott’s stumps to seal victory by an innings and six runs.

Defeat was a sickener for the Scots having beaten us in both round robin matches but they flatlined in the final. Despite not quite been at our most ruthless with the bat and becoming sloppy in the field during the Moore/Burke partnership, our batsmen outperformed the opposition including finally getting on top of the spin combo of Law and Watt whilst our bowlers made breakthroughs at regular and crucial intervals.

The team, both players and backroom staff are honoured to claim this title and would like to place on record our support for the… support of our fans. As a reward for your undying support all official merchandise both in store and online has a 20% markdown for the immediate future and the players will be holding a meet and great at Lords in the next week or so.

I’d like to place on record my praise of the players in particular captain Joe Root whose captaincy has evolved greatly during the competition culminating in final success. Moeen Ali (824 runs at 63.38 and 28 wickets @ 24.14) beat off stiff competition most notably from the likes of Haseeb Hameed and Sam Curran to be named Player’s Player of the Competition.

Disclaimer: Unlike most match reports of recent times, this one was written entirely post match. Playing such match was obviously spread over a reasonable period of time with a lot of ‘life’ sandwiched in-between, hence it may not seem as in depth as other match reports. It’s a better way of playing the game though and slightly less obsessive way of writing up the report.

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