Marple’s Miracle Men Ensure Top Flight Return!
Marple 215 for 5 (50 overs) 25 points beat Macclesfield 119 all out (33.3 overs) 3 points by 96 runs.
A cursory glance at the match scores in this game would suggest a straightforward victory for the visitors at Macclesfield’s Victoria Road ground. Nothing could be further from the truth, as a remarkable fifth wicket partnership of 163 between James Crisall and James Morgan rescued Marple from the depths of 45 for 4. If Marple could win or draw this game, they and not their opponents would be promoted.
Despite a period of more than a week of very wet weather, the home ground was in good condition. The pitch was, not unnaturally, on the green side, but was firm and had a decent carry through to the wicket keeper. Macclesfield’s strength this season has been in the seam department, and skipper Rob Porter’s opening attack of Craig Melrose and Tom Key were bang on target from the first ball. It was Key in particular who caused most problems. This tall young bowler hit an awkward area just short of a drivable length. Andrew Hall had clipped Melrose for an early boundary, but a delivery from Key that bounced a little more than he expected found the outside edge and Tudor took a fine catch at second slip as Hall attempted a late cut. Crisall, at number three this week, got away to a fast start with three boundaries in a rare loose over from Melrose, but the same bowler produced a good one to get through Makin’s defences at 27 for 2. At the other end, Key continued his deadly accuracy, and Mark Bennett was well caught by Tudor again at slip from a beauty that left him. Macclesfield were then cock-a-hoop when Marple’s Mr Reliable, Paul Wood, was bowled for a duck from another excellent delivery. All four of Marple’s leading batsmen of the season were back in the pavilion for a combined total of just 19 runs.
Wicket keeper batsman James Morgan has an excellent pedigree though, having come through the Yorkshire Academy and the Lincolnshire minor county side. Any side in the top two divisions would be glad to have a player of his class coming it number six. His parting words to his concerned colleagues on making his way to the middle were, “a good time to get a few then!” Crisall at the other end had got himself into the twenties with a mixture of fine strokes and several slices of good fortune, as the Macclesfield fieldsmen spurned several chances, some difficult and others straightforward at this level. Whilst Morgan played himself in with confidence, Crisall went through a period where he could not find the middle of the bat, adding just 12 runs in 17 overs! Morgan caught up his partner, and eventually Crisall rediscovered his touch, especially so after removing his helmet and continuing bareheaded.
The first goal of avoiding a complete collapse was gradually avoided as the hundred mark was passed, but Marple’s target of 200 and maximum batting points looked way off. Maybe Porter, possibly distracted by his fieldsmen’s inability to catch the ball, made an error in bowling Melrose and the excellent Key straight through their allotted spells of 15 overs each. The batsmen had weathered the storm and looked to cash in when the change in the attack came. Porter himself was initially accurate when he replaced Key, but the main problems occurred at the pavilion end. Moores was removed after just one bad over in his seven over spell, but after this, carnage ensued with 98 runs coming from the final ten overs. Morgan mixed up some superb timing with ferocious hitting, and Crisall cleared the ropes on a couple of occasions as Birchall and Tudor were treated very harshly, the Macclesfield heads dropping as the 200 was reached. Morgan was then caught at extra cover in the final over for a fantastic 90. Marple’s top six have all produced some stunning performances this season, and this knock was right up with the best of them. Pat Morahan then hoisted the unhappy Porter for six as a remarkable recovery brought up a fantastic total of 215 for 5. James Crisall ended up 93 not out. He enjoyed good fortune, but joined Morgan in the rout of the Macclesfield attack at the end of the innings. In terms of importance, this innings was possibly his most significant for the club. Tom Key had the excellent return of 3 for 27 from his fifteen overs.
Having gained the maximum batting points, Marple now required just five wickets and two further points for promotion back to the Premier League. When Jack Grundy produced a beauty to Porter to have him caught by Morgan at 2 for 1 Marple were on their way. However, Birchall, possibly smarting from being carted all over Macclesfield, was in defiant mood. Tudor gave good support at the other end as the second wicket stand grew steadily. Paul Wood rested Morahan after six accurate overs, and introduced Greasley. Marple’s master spinner was not quite at his best today as Birchall deftly flicked him over backward square a couple of times, and also cut a short delivery for four. Ed Saxelby replaced Grundy and showed excellent temperament after a nightmare over went for 16. He kept his cool and beat the outside edge with two beauties. Maybe this unsettled Tudor (17) as he then played a careless drive back to the bowler who took a fine catch. Macclesfield were 73 for 2. From this point onwards, no Macclesfield batsman had a plan to try and stay with Birchall. Wood reintroduced Morahan, and his second spell proved to be unstoppable. The middle and lower order were blown away. Birchall continued to attack, but despite hitting a powerful 66, containing some excellent strokes, he was caught in the deep and the game was up. Morahan demolished the tail with some terrific fast bowling as Marple achieved victory, Macclesfield being dismissed for just 119. Morahan was not to be denied with 6 for 33.
So with this victory, Marple return to the top flight of Cheshire cricket for the 2018 season. Captain Paul Wood has made his mark on the team, fostering an excellent spirit and also real steel. On a number of occasions seemingly desperate situations have been turned into fantastic victories. Congratulations are due to all concerned.
At Bowden Lane Marple seconds were soundly beaten by Macclesfield seconds. For the visitors, Isherwood hit a memorable century, completely dominating the innings of 245 for 7. Macclesfield had a more than useful attack, including former Cheshire opening bowler Ian Tait. Marple were 30 for 7 at one stage, but a defiant eighth wicket stand of 60 between Mike Fitzgerald and Matthew Shelton gave the home team some respectability. This has been a difficult season for the second eleven, but with Upton losing at champions Toft, they maintain their second eleven Premier League status.