Tim Hart reports, “The Western Warriors Under 16s completed their 50-over campaign, with a good victory over the Eastern Knights at Dresselrigg (Livingston CC). After winning the toss and electing to field first both Warriors opening bowlers Shahzad Ahmad (Ferguslie CC) and Faizan Rauf (Clydesdale CC) made early breakthroughs, to leave the Knights 13 for 2. The score progressed to 50 for 2 off ten overs before there was a twenty-over passage of play where scoring was very slow, as the spinners gave almost nothing away. Bowling very effectively in tandem, Rafay Khan (Renfrew CC) and Fletcher Rao (Prestwick CC) combined for 20-5-39-2 to really put the squeeze on the run-rate – with Khan having figures of 10-4-15-0 and Rao picking up two wickets, one thanks to a stumping from Under 13 wicket-keeper Owen Gould (Clydesdale CC). Tarun Koteeswaran (Clydesdale CC) and Under 14 Aditya Mahapatra (Ferguslie CC) then both produced tidy supporting spells to prevent the Knights from accelerating too quickly, as the score reached 154 for 4 after 43 overs. Then it really became the Rauf show, as he took 5 for 21 in 3.5 overs with a series of cutters and slower balls – in a great display of death bowling, during which the Under 14s (Gould and Mahapatra) held on to high-pressure catches too. Knights 203 all out, Rauf 8.5-0-35-6!
“In reply, Tom Bradburn (Stirling County CC) set the innings up well – punishing anything slightly over-pitched, with a series of crunching drives. The Warriors had reached 42 for 2 off nine overs when the rain arrived – some would argue quite fortuitously, as it coincided with the start of the World Cup Final! The rain fluctuated between light and steady drizzle for the next couple of hours before the DLS calculation left the Warriors needing 160 off 32 overs. Bradburn and Khan took the score to 77 before Bradburn was caught for 28, just as the pair had started to rotate the strike very effectively. At 80 for 3 after eighteen overs, 80 runs were needed off 84 deliveries. When Khan went caught for a good 34 and Koteeswaran was run out in the quest for quick runs, the Warriors were 108 for 5 off 23 overs – needing 52 off 54, comfortably behind on DLS and with the drizzle intensifying again! Although it took Rauf thirteen deliveries to score his first 3 runs (!), Sturgess was looking very fluent at the other end and pair were able to build a match-winning partnership. When Sturgess hit three consecutive boundaries in the 28th over, it pushed the Warriors ahead on DLS again and left them needing 18 off 30 deliveries. The pair would see the side all the way home, after their 50 partnership came up in just 40 deliveries when Sturgess hit the returning opening bowler over square leg for 6, with Rauf fittingly completing his man-of-the-match performance by hitting the winning runs. Warriors 163 for 5, Sturgess 44*, Rauf 20*.
“Given the late team changes, three playing through various ‘niggles’ and the two late call-ups from the Warriors Under 14 squad, it was a remarkable effort – and one which everyone who participated can be very proud of. The victory has given the Warriors an outside chance of winning the 50-over championship, although the result in the final match (Caledonian Highlanders v Knights) would need to be favourable. As always, there were a few development opportunities thrown up by the match and players can try and focus on becoming even more effective in certain disciplines – but everyone can now look forward the challenges that the T20 Day (29 July) will bring.”