Leigh fall short in Final mission

Leigh's Mullaney bowls at Procter. Photo: DJ Carty
Leigh's Mullaney bowls at Procter. Photo: DJ Carty

It was simply not meant to be. On the day the best team did win. Mattie McKiernan’s brave youngsters did not disappoint however in a brave display against a very strong and confident New Brighton side last Sunday.

Leigh entertained the Wirral based side in the Ray Digman League Trophy Final on a gloriously sunny September Sunday.

The tie boasted no less than four ( three current ) first class players in Karl Brown and Steven Mullaney (Lancs & Notts) for Leigh along with Louis Botes and Luke Procter (Various, South Africa & Lancs ) for New Brighton.

Leigh of course, were without club professional Hamish Kingston, who was recalled to the Tasmanian Winter Training squad earlier in the summer. On paper this looked like a high scoring affair and one glance at the track would only support that claim. However New Brighton Skipper Louis Botes called correctly at the toss and did not hesitate to insert Leigh, a wise move in that all too familiar hindsight mode.

Leigh started slowly – Paul Keenan and Ross Zalem putting on a fairly solid 37 before Zalem was brilliantly stumped down the leg side by a lively Adam Neal off Fernando. Just seven runs later Keenan had pulled one to mid-wicket for the 1 st of 6 wickets for Nawab, who continued to bowl beautifully. Keenan had grafted for his 23 ( 44 balls 1 x 4 , 1 x 6 ) which proved to be a vital knock for the home side.

Next up were Karl Brown and Steven Mullaney who both unfortunately went very cheaply to the now very buoyant Nawab in identical fashion holing out on the up in the off, much to the obvious delight of the visitors and their travelling support.

At 58-4 Leigh were beginning to look somewhat precarious. Enter skip Mattie McKirenan to steady the ship once again. Initially with Adam Shallcross, a patient 11 from 24, briefly with Joe Davies but vitally for a partnership of 44 with Hedley Molyneux ( 19 golden runs off 28 ), Mattie produced a superb captains knock of 51 not out ( 2 x 4 & 2 x 6 ).

Mattie weighted his innings perfectly,grinding patiently when need be and attacking at the perfect time to support his partners and to ensure that Leigh vitally used up their allotted 45 overs. Having been 89 for 7, the final total was huge credit to Mattie, who scored the lions share of the rest of the runs to take Leigh to 158 all out, just 5 balls short of the 45 overs.

Leigh managed just 12 boundaries in the innings, 9 x 4 and 3 x 6.

Coupled by very unlikely batting from some of the top order, this was always going to be a very challenging total to defend.

However, it was a total to defend, when at some points it looked unlikely Leigh would have one!

If Leigh were ever to be in the game, they needed early wickets. They came too, as Mullaney roared in from the Wesley Guild end and Hedley Molyneux very tidy from the Pavilion end. Mullaney poled both skipper Botes and number three While, but to land New Brighton in the mire at 18 for 3 it was Molyneux with a quite stunning caught and bowled to send Evans packing.

This magnificent athleticism is up there in the top 10 catches ever seen at Beech Walk. It was also an indication of how Leigh had their tails very much up both in the field and with the ball; they positively had the visitors riled.

This brought Lancashire’s Luke Procter and Upal Fernando to the crease and the beginning of the partnership that would win the final for New Brighton.

The two had to quieten down the Leigh attack which they did with some brave, sensible and very experienced batting. The run rate was never an issue and both batters used this very much to their advantage, sensibly defending through maidens when Leigh’s attack deemed it necessary, but always punishing anything short or wide to keep the runs at a steady pace. The boundaries did come but the nudges and the manipulation of the ball was the most impressive aspect of the 110 run partnership. It constantly meant Leigh had to try something different to break the partnership, while both batters really never took any risks.

And try Leigh did, Brown, McKiernan, and Housley were all introduced into the attack. Fernando and Procter really were good to watch and demonstrated how to set a fabulous base from a recovery to a winning position.

Eventually, skipper McKiernan broke the partnership with the score on 128.

Still a big ask for Leigh. However all was not lost with a flurry of wickets from Brown, McKiernan and Mullaney again had New Brighton at 148 for 7.

There was perhaps some momentum and a glimmer of hope for Leigh. But Procter made 56 not out. Together with Fernando’s 59, it was the winning difference and the Ray Digman Trophy was travelling back to the Wirral with New Brighton, the deserved winners.

Well played Leigh – even better played New Brighton. The consensus amongst the Leigh support? Another 20 and Leigh would have done it.

Man of the match went to Ashraf Nawb for his devastating 6 for 20 spell.

The club would like to pay massive thanks to all that made the day and night a great cricketing success down at Beech Walk.