Todmorden fall victim to Ali blast

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Todmorden CC earned the bragging rights in Saturday’s pre-season friendly but it was rivals Walsden CC who emerged from the weekend with the broader smiles.

The Centre Vale club knocked off 175 to win the warm-up game but they fell victim to a great knock from Colne’s Ali Azmat in the Lancashire League opener 24 hours later and lost by 26 runs.

A further blow was the loss of experienced middle-order batsman Matthew Brierley. He was out leg before to a ball which broke a toe, meaning he will be sidelined for four to six weeks.

Walsden, meanwhile, launched their bid for a third successive Central Lancashire League title in highly-satisfactory fashion with four points from a five-wicket win at Rochdale on Sunday.

A busy weekend at Centre Vale started with the friendly and the main focus was on a first outing for newly-arrived professionals Michael Neser (Tod) and Umesh Karunaratne (Walsden).

Tod were underdogs but had previous match practice this season and made it pay.

Neser bowled at a lively pace to reduce Walsden to 30 for three off 10 overs but Nick Barker’s quality knock of 90 lifted the visitors’ total to 174.

Home skipper Andrew Sutcliffe led the way with three wickets and followed up with 44 while Neser took two wickets before following up with a match-winning 77 not out.

On Sunday Sutcliffe elected to field but Colne racked up 251 for six with their Azmat making a superb 168.

Azmat came to the crease in the second over, after Gideon Foster had dismissed Joel Dearden, and hit 20 fours and nines sixes off 143 balls.

He figured in stands of 96 with Ammad Akram (24) and 100 with Tom Bradshaw (17) before perishing in the final over when Simon Newbitt took a good catch.

Sutcliffe said that although paceman Neser had bowled economically (two for 42 off 17), the rest had delivered “too many boundary balls”.

Todmorden made 225 all out in reply, losing their last five wickets for 18 runs in the quest for quick runs at the end.

Kristian Garland made a career best 72, Ben Sutcliffe hit 47, Andrew Sutcliffe 37 and Neser 26 but the damage had been done by Azmat.

Sutcliffe said: “The chase was always on but we just could not get over the line.

“ It was great to see Kristian Garland taking his opportunity at number five to make his highest score since moving to Tod.

“He showed he has got the ability to score runs at first team level, he now just needs to do it on a consistent basis and I am sure he will.”

Sutcliffe added: “It was disappointing to start with a loss but we have two chances next weekend.

“We host Burnley on Saturday and travel to Ramsbottom on Sunday. Both sides are tipped to push for the title so it will be a tough weekend.”