Blunham’s cricketers storm to Hospital Cup success

Thankfully Sunday brought warm, sunny weather which allowed the Bedford Hospital Cup Final to finally be played after twice being postponed as an evening match.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 12th September 2012, 11:23 am

Unfortunately the original venue of Ickwell Green was unavailable so the final between Blunham and Bedford Pakistanis had been switched to Bedford Park where the ‘Blunham faithful’ arrived in their droves to ensure that this would be anything but a ‘home’ final.

Clapping, cheers and the sound of vuvuzelas, punctuated the normal buzz that surrounds the park on a weekend and a real sense of anticipation filled the Blunham team and the spectators.

Only once having reached this final in the 1930s and never having won it, there was a weight of expectation that laid upon the Blunham team, especially after having removed cup holders Westfield in the first round. Bedford Pakistanis had of course been there a number of times before and were last year’s runners-up.

Pakistanis’ captain Shabz Hussain – who usually plays for Blunham at the weekend – won the toss and chose to bat, something that the Blunham captain was happy to let him do.

It was difficult to know what a decent score was going to be on what looked like an ‘up and down’ track, plus with such a young Blunham side (more than half being teenagers), fielding first and easing some of the nerves in the field seemed the sensible option.

Ben Spendlove and Dom Aloia opened the bowling. With most of the Pakistanis’ batsmen favouring hits to the onside, both bowlers worked to specific plans to keep the ball on, or outside, off stump, forcing the batsman to fetch the ball to the leg side.

They both executed this very well, and this was well illustrated when the first wicket fell to Spendlove, as an increasingly frustrated batsman top-edged a ball whilst trying to pull it from outside off, and Darryl Hendricks snaffled the opportunity.

With runs coming at a slow rate, frustration built and there was a steady trickle of wickets with one more each to Aloia and Spendlove which brought talisman Hussain to the wicket. After failing to beat the infield with a couple of well-timed shots, Aloia bowled a length delivery that kept low and beat the defences of Hussain so the Bedford side were now four down and struggling with only 20 runs on the board.

Connor Heaps and Neil Wildon came into the attack and the former soon had wicket number five, well caught at long on by Heiny Schlehmeyer. Taz Hussain was now at the wicket a another potential match winner. But he was quickly deceived by a slower ball full toss, that put him on the back foot and a tentative prod missed to see leg stump leaning back.

One Pakistani batsman was recalled to the wicket as he was wrongly adjudged run out by the umpire after the bails had been dislodged by Hendricks but he failed to collect the ball. But next ball he was on his way, bowled off his pads, so the reprieve was shortlived.

The pressure on the batsmen increased, no maximums and few boundary fours, saw further murmurings from the sidelines. A dot ball was usually followed by a heave to leg and all of the remaining batsmen were bowled by slower off-cutters that they were either early on, or completely missed, as they beat the inside edge.

Bedford Pakistanis had shown a complete lack of composure and the majority had thrown away their wickets for a meagre total of 55 runs off 13 of the available 16 overs.

Great credit to the opening bowling partnership for starting the rot and being miserly with donations to the total, it set the tone for the innings.

Even on a less straightforward wicket like this one, Blunham only really had to keep their heads and bat sensibly to reach their winning target. Connor Heaps and Del Armitage opened the batting, youth and experience. Both hit some flowing boundary strokes before Shabz Hussain brought one back through the driving gate of Heaps, and bowled him. This brought Hendricks to the crease with both batsmen remained largely untroubled by either the pitch or the pace attack as they achieved a winning 59-1 off just 
9.3 overs.

Captain Wildon was adjudged Man of the Match by umpire Paul Barnes for his contribution of five wickets for just seven runs and Blunham were presented with the trophy for the first time by Graham Franklin while the match scorer was Carole Harding.

The win underlines just how far Blunham Cricket Club has come in the last decade and they can now look forward to their first ever appearance in this Sunday’s Heritage Cup Final against the new Bedfordshire County League champion Flitwick at The Hollow, Potton. It starts at 2pm.