Rain forces final to a replay
Kibworth 9 for 2 v Malden Wanderers 144 (Cope 47, Mahmood 5-25) - Match abandoned
An intriguingly poised Cockspur Cup final between Malden Wanderers from Surrey and Kibworth from Leicestershire ended in frustration as, so typically this summer, rain forced its abandonment with Kibworth wobbling on 9 for 2 chasing a modest target of 144. The match will now be replayed on September 22 at Chelmsford.
That we got as much cricket as we did was in defiance of the forecast which had been for rain around noon. The Malden innings was completed in Stygian gloom, and Kibworth's stuttering reply had hardly got out of the blocks before drizzle sent the players from the middle twice in as many overs.
The shame was that two early strikes had threatened to undermine an excellent performance in the field from last year's beaten finalists. Former Pakistan first-class player Aamer Mahmood grabbed 5 for 25 to put Kibworth in the driving seat. He took three early wickets to reduce Malden to 19 for 4 and then returned to polish off the tail after Alan Cope had led a determined fightback with 47.
Mahmood, who spent two seasons playing for Peshawar as well as attending Pakistan training camps, bowled with great hostility after Kibworth had inserted Malden in ideal conditions for seam bowling. He had Daniel Euston caught behind in his second over, removed Laurie Evans' off stump in his third and then had John Hess, who had briefly looked threatening, well caught low to his right by wicketkeeper Tim Mason in his fourth. In between Simon Renshaw sent Jonathan Albert's off and middle stumps cartwheeling.
Cope, whose form this season has been patchy but who led Loughborough to victory in the universities final here two months ago, survived a rasping first-ball leg-before shout from Renshaw to lead a recovery, dominating a fifth-wicket stand of 67 with David Gorrod. He was strong off his legs, although Kibworth's bowlers never relaxed a tight grip on the innings.
Dan Broughton broke the stand, Cope inside edging an expansive drive into his stumps, and Kibworth's spinners then kept the stranglehold in place. Richard Jackson did for Giles Puckle with a well-flighted ball and then Russell Spiers' third ball was edged by Gorrod to Renshaw who held a low catch falling to his right at slip.
James Bond chanced his arm to good effect, surviving one chance when Jackson, running in from long-off, spilt a towering drive, but his reprieve was short-lived as four runs later he took on Jackson, by now at point, and was well beaten by a direct hit.
Mahmood returned in failing light to polish things off with two in two. Jackson made amends for his earlier drop by holding a steepler from Simon Crampton, and then Mahmood proved far too quick for Michael Cottrell.
At that stage Kibworth looked in a good position to regain a title they won in 2004, but it was growing darker by the minute.
Malden struck in the first over when Cottrell, bowling a decent pace in light that would have long since sent first-class players heading back to the pavilion, clipped Sunny Patel's off stump, and then John Hanger was brilliantly run-out by a direct hit from Cope as he took an unnecessary risk at such an early stage. His annoyance would hardly have been eased as the players left the field moments later because of drizzle. The delay was short but no sooner had they returned than heavier and more set shower started to fall.
It was not only a sad end to the match, but also to Cockspur's sponsorship of the competition. The company's attention and patronage has switched to a club Twenty20 tournament, and there are rumblings that the ECB might use that as an opportunity to call time on the longer-format tournament.
Martin Williamson is executive editor of Cricinfo