Matfen front runners for second spot

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Will O'Brien.
Will O'Brien.
13 September 2017 10:43PM

MATFEN Hall all but secured the runners-up spot following a crushing victory over Humshaugh.

The decision by captain Alex Pearse to bat first on a damp pitch came as a surprise to the opposition, but it proved a good call as Matfen passed 200 for the sixth time in a row when batting first in a completed innings.

That was largely down to the century of New Zealander Will O'Brien who batted through all 40 overs and added three sixes and nine fours to his haul.

Either side of a heavy rain shower which held up play for 30 minutes, he added 50 for the opening wicket alongside Ian Pilkington to get the hosts off to a good start.

Pilkington played briskly in difficult conditions and added a six and two fours before being bowled by Nathan Byerley with the score on 63.

As a result, O'Brien, who was given a couple of chances early on, was joined by fellow Kiwi Alex Tait, and the overseas pair added 119 in 19 overs as they showed no mercy by hitting the ball hard on a slow outfield.

Continuing to catch the eye, Tait hit his fifth league 50 on the bounce before he was caught by Rob Forster off skipper Andy Crawford.

Ed Crawford then took three wickets in four balls to deny Matfen quick runs, claiming Tom Scott, Max Stephens and Aaron Tiffin.

Matfen opened the bowling with brother and sister Aaron and Ellie Tiffin, and Aaron beat the bat consistently to concede a single run from his opening four overs.

Fresh from her trip to Barbados with the U14 National Festival team, Ellie was electric as she moved the ball both ways to dismiss the top three batsmen. She trapped Byerley leg before and bowled Crispin Starker in successive deliveries, before clean bowling Ed Crawford later on.

Kelly Withycombe and Tait continued the good work, the former tempting Nick Reid and Matty Williamson into catches.

But it was Tait who proved the chief destroyer with his best spell of the season, taking four wickets in seven overs including that of top scorer Rob Forster.

Scott picked up the final wicket to clean bowl Will Forster, the victory meaning they cannot finish any lower than third.

Their chances of occupying the runners-up spot were boosted when South Northumberland 1864 lost to Newton.

It was a close run thing as South North were still in with a shout going into the penultimate over, but it was Newton were hung on and secured maximum points.

After the early loss of Andrew Jeffery, Dan Taylor and Zack Brown got them off to a solid start, which was helped on by the batting of Chris Telfer.

Jonathan Bennett continued the trend, but the 139 total set seemed within South's grasp as they came out after tea.

Keshav Krishnan and Ruaidhri Fletcher put them on the path to a challenging total as they put on a good second wicket stand.

Calum Fletcher and David Harbottle chipped in too, but Newton's bowlers came out on top with Taylor and Dave Archbold adding two late wickets each to give their rivals a lot to do.

Alan Fletcher was run out as North grew desperate for extra runs, the team picking up just six points as they lie 16 off Matfen.

After three straight defeats, discounting the game awarded to them when Wylam conceded, Haydon Bridge picked up maximum points in their comfortable victory over Newcastle III, whose relegation was confirmed as a result.

With just one win to their name all campaign, Newcastle haven't been able to be competitive this season and it was the case again at the weekend as they fell 92 runs short of their hosts' innings of 169.

Bridge struggled for runs early on with Jamie Taylor, Craig Stanners and Chris Welton going in single figures, but captain Graeme Pigg steadied the ship as he geared towards his 50.

He was to fall seven runs short, but good knocks from Mark Elliott, Tom Waugh, Liam Stephenson and Ian Watson helped the team along.

Both Taylor and Stephenson struck early in Newcastle's reply, but Reitze and Tyagi tried to rebuild the innings.

Phil Kelly later added some runs, but Bridge turned to veteran Watson, who boasted the best bowling averages in the division in 2016, to end their resistance as he cleaned up the tail.

A week after playing a big role in denying Matfen the chance to go for the title, Benwell Hill III conceded their game with Haltwhistle.

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