Pirates well and truly scuppered

21 May 2012

PORT Talbot fell to a second consecutive defeat after David Brown anchored Mumbles to a five wicket victory at Marespool.

Star turn: David Brown of Mumbles.

Brown’s unbeaten 88 took the home side over the finish line despite a few late jitters which had threatened to give Port Talbot a way back into a match that had been snatched from their grasp earlier in the day by a devastating middle order collapse.

The Pirates lost five wickets for 11 runs in the space of five overs as a seemingly solid platform was blown away in a crazy 20-minute period that culminated in them being dismissed in the final over for only 179.

A blistering start by Brown and handy contributions from the rest of the top order then took Mumbles to a deserved victory with more than three overs remaining.

For the first time this season, match day dawned bright and sunny, and a full 50-over contest was assured. Heavy midweek rain left both captains unsure as to the nature of the wicket, which was relatively firm with a slight covering of grass. Mumbles’ Morgan Hodges called correctly and decided to bowl first, after a toss that appeared to be not a bad one to lose.

For the first half of the innings, Port Talbot appeared to be working themselves into a position to post a substantial score.

Sean Griffiths and Ian Thomas started in a watchful manner with Dan Lewis-Williams, bowling downwind from the sea end, moving the ball in the air and off the pitch. The two openers reined in their usual attacking instincts and set about to build a solid foundation.

Thomas was prolific square of the wicket, with some strong cut shots and deft deflections, while Griffiths struck three boundaries through the off side. He and Thomas had put on 60 before Alex Griffiths induced his namesake into a thick edge that was well held by Hodges standing up to the stumps.

Dan Cherry began positively with a fine straight drive for four from his third delivery, while Thomas, batting with authority, struck three boundaries in five balls as Griffiths and left arm spinner Daniel Roberts struggled to find a consistent line and length. Thomas’s second 50 of the season came from 72 balls when he pushed Roberts for an easy single to long on, and with another half century partnership now raised for the second wicket, Port Talbot were well placed at 124 for one going into the final 20 overs.

The turning point came when Thomas was adjudged lbw for 51 attempting a reverse sweep off Roberts, having survived a confident shout the ball before. Mumbles were suddenly revitalised, and six runs later they had more cause to celebrate when Cherry went back to a ball from Chris Nelson that kept low and trapped him plumb lbw for 31.

The two left arm spinners, Roberts and Nelson, now took centre stage as the Port Talbot middle order was swept aside in a remarkable passage of play that saw four wickets fall for five runs in the space of 23 balls.

Anthony Thomas was beaten in the flight by Roberts and stumped by Hodges for four, Mark Cox went lbw to Nelson for two, and to compound the Pirates’ woes, the unfortunate Michael Samuel was run out without facing a ball when Roberts’ return to the stumps at the bowler’s end from square leg left him stranded after a calamitous mix-up with Ryan Evans.

From the smooth waters of 124 for one, the Pirates had sailed headfirst into a storm at 135 for six in the 37th over.

Evans and Dean Cox temporarily halted the capitulation with a determined stand of 18 with the overs starting to run out. Nelson, who had bowled with control and discipline, picked up his third wicket when Evans also fell lbw sweeping across the line for nine.

Thirteen more runs were added before the dangerous Stuart Phelps was spectacularly taken low to his right by Hodges off Dan Lewis-Williams,  who had been brought back on from the pavilion end, leaving Port Talbot on 166 for eight in the 46th over.

At 173, Lewis Jones became another run out casualty when David Brown made an excellent stop at short extra cover before a piece of quick thinking saw a return to the keeper’s end with the batsman short of his ground.

Last man Richard Edwards managed to survive long enough to allow Port Talbot to pick up a third batting point before Cox perished in the final over attempting to hit Roberts over the deep mid wicket boundary for six, the catch well taken by Tim Hemp just inside the rope.

Cox went for 20, another useful contribution following his exploits at Usk last week, but once the dust had settled Port Talbot would have been extremely disappointed to post only 179 following the strong position they had built. Roberts, with three for 32 and Nelson (three for 24) deserved the applause of the crowd as they walked off.

Port Talbot were looking for an early breakthrough when the Mumbles’ reply came and they got it thanks to Edwards when Roberts was well caught low to his left by Phelps at backward point for two with the score 27.

The fact that Roberts had contributed so little of that opening stand gave some idea as to the onslaught the visitors had faced from the bat of fellow opener David Brown. The former Gloucestershire and Glamorgan man unleashed a stunning array of boundaries in the early stages of the innings as Jones and Edwards were ruthlessly put to the sword. Anything over-pitched or misdirected was treated with disdain as Brown carted seven boundaries in his first 30 runs, and 50 came up inside 10 overs.

Both bowlers did better than their figures suggested, but with such a quickfire start on the board, Cherry was forced to turn early to spin.

Dion Holden had also begun brightly, with a couple of early boundaries, but Brown was struck a painful blow on the hip by Edwards. Although able to continue, he did appear slightly hampered by the blow, and was content from then on to play in a more restrained manner.

Stuart Phelps was once again on the mark in his spell as the run rate began to slow, while Mark Cox was finding plenty of purchase and troubling Brown with the doosra away from the right hander. Fifty had been added by the pair when Holden top edged a sweep off Cox and Anthony Thomas took the catch comfortably at short fine leg.

After Darren Thomas had joined him at the crease with the score on 77 for two, Brown reached his half century from 59 balls. With him at the wicket, Mumbles were always in the driving seat. Thomas struck two fine cover drives off Cox in the space of three balls, piercing a packed offside field as the 100 came up in the 24th over.

Although Mumbles were not under any real pressure as regards run rate, their scoring was gradually slowing.

Thomas had moved to 20 and the pair had added 44 in 17 overs before he tried to hit Ian Thomas over the infield but mistimed his attempt to Jones at mid on. When Hodges fell leg before to Phelps for nine, the bowler having changed ends to bowl from the pavilion ed, Mumbles were 138 for four with 42 still needed from 12 overs, and Port Talbot could sense a few jitters in the home camp.

The spinners were tightening the screw with Ian Thomas bowling an economical spell to go with his half century earlier in the day.

Alex Griffiths relieved some of the tension with a positive start to his innings including a couple of early boundaries. With Brown content to keep rotating the strike, Mumbles always had the extra insurance of him at the wicket. Gradually the Pirates’ optimism evaporated, and it soon became a question of time before Mumbles reached their target.

With four required, Griffiths tried to end it in one blow but mistimed a big hit off Mark Cox and skied a catch to extra cover where Richard Edwards ran round to take a well judged catch, Griffiths going for a sprightly 27 from 30 balls.

Fittingly, it was left to Brown to hit the winning run from the second ball of the 47th over with an easy single.

Mumbles could celebrate a deserved victory that they hope will kickstart their season after a first day washout and a losing draw last week. Brown finished on an excellent 88 not out, a contrasting innings of power and aggression at the start and calmness and experience at the end.

Port Talbot were left to rue the middle order collapse that denied them a substantial score to defend, and will know that with the visit of early pacesetters Sully to The New Mansel on Saturday, they will need to redress their early season batting woes against a powerful all-round outfit.

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