Super Saturday proved to be just that as the 2023 Grade 1 season delivered one final twist.
The only match with nothing but pride at stake came to an unexpectedly early conclusion as the umpires called a halt at Allan Park as a heavily divoted pitch became less and less predictable as the Cults innings progressed. Inverurie did well to reduce Cults to 37 for 4 and then the confines of the ground came into play as the boundary hitting increased. Cults were 110 for 6 when the match was abandoned.
AberGreen had already secured the 10th spot in Grade 1 as they played Bon Accord at Harlaw. The first line of the Grades Playbook, before you even get to the bit on the spirit of cricket, states – ‘win the toss and put the opposition into bat’, the idea being that you maximise your chances of bonus points if you lose. Whilst many will have contemplated how to make the decision after winning the toss slightly less predictable, AberGreen won the toss and batted and were 44 for 7 as Aqdas Chattha took 5 for 14 from his 8 overs. Salman Bedaar has been the best of the AberGreen batters this season and he ran out of partners whilst on 21 as they were all out for 76. M K Ahmed retired on 39 as Bons cruised to a 7 wicket win in the 16th over. So Bon Accord had done their bit and had to wait for the results at Groats Road and Countesswells.
The relegation dogfight between Grampian and Crescent at Links meant the winner would move into a safe 8th position. Grampian batted first and only 2 of their batters made double figures as the Crescent bowlers only needed 18 overs to bowl them out. Rajeevan Sujaya took 4 for 11 and Kamal Reddy 3 for 12 as they set up a 10 wicket win with Crescent coasting to the required total in the 8th over. Sujaya and Shubham Sharma were both unbeaten on 33 for Crescent.
At Countesswells Gordonians needed to beat Mannofield and hope that Knight Riders could get a result against Master Blasters. It wasn’t a productive day for the Gordonians bowlers, but it didn’t have to be as Mannofield managed to have 5 run outs in their innings including Varinder Sood for 41 and John Dickinson for 31. Mannofield were all out for 139, 4 wickets falling on that figure, and Gordonians bucking the trend on bowling large amounts of wides by only bowling 4 in the 38 overs of the Mannofield innings. Gordonians lost skipper Indy Pandit early, but Muhammad Ayaz and Ravi Mahajan were in no hurry and put on a partnership of 74 in 20 overs to calm any batting nerves that may have existed. Mahajan made a near faultless 70 to level up the scores before being dismissed and Gordonians won by 7 wickets to hold up their part of the title challenge.
Master Blasters had won the reverse fixture against Knight Riders in early July, but the latter have been in solid form ever since, beating Gordonians in the Aberdeenshire Cup Final last Sunday. No Bhatia or Malireddy for Knight Riders this time around so on paper Master Blasters chances of winning were better than in July. Knight Riders batted first and 26 for 2 moved on to 115 for 5 with the hint of a decent total, but then the wickets started to fall and they were all out for 148 with 16 balls unused. Siva Palaniappan top scored with 31 and Vijay Vijapur and Safeer Peedikayil both took 3 wickets for Master Blasters as they set up a very manageable run chase. At 74 for 3 it looked like Master Blasters had broken the back of the chase but 2 wickets in 3 balls from Somu Kumarasamy changed the complexion of the innings. Palaniappan picked up 3 late wickets as Master Blasters were bowled out for 125 with Vijapur their top scorer on 28.
Heartbreak for Master Blasters, and Bon Accord finished 6 points behind in 2nd place as the Grade 1 title went to Gordonians for the first time since they did the league and cup double in 1945.
GRADE 1 WINNERS 2023 – GORDONIANS
Grade 2 has felt like it has been settled for months and AGSFPs signed off on their immediate return to Grade 1 with a 38 run win over Portcullis at Duthie Park. Alex Keith and Geoff Morrison put on 61 for the first wicket but they slumped to 105 for 7 as Jason Brandsma took 4 for 12. Rob Swiergon top scored with 45, and an unbeaten 22 from their number 11 Prasanth Poosappadi gave them a respectable total of 160 for 9. Portcullis recovered from 10 for 3 but a rare bowling outing for Alex Keith with 2 for 14 cleared out the stubborn Portcullis middle order of Param Azhakath and Kier Paterson. Leston D’Costa took 4 for 31 as Portcullis were all out for 122.
Fraser Grant took 3 for 18 as Methlick made the Banchory batting look unusually ordinary. A 92 run partnership between Ben Wiles and Mausam Thapa with 44 apiece, were the only batting contributions above 5 as Banchory were all out for 151. 62 from Tom Acton kept Methlick in touch, but Sam Rotheram picked up 4 for 20 as 90 for 3 turned into 117 all out. Banchory jumped into 2nd spot in Grade 2.
Very close behind them are Fraserburgh who had a 3 wicket win over 2nd Grampian. Arafat Ferdous top scored for Grampian with 62 as they were bowled out for 149 with Omar Rohani taking 4 for 23. A 65 run opening partnership between Rohani and Nick Gray set up the Broch win, but a rapid 28 not out from Usman Shirzad finished off the game when Grampian had started getting amongst the wickets.
It was a fairly pedestrian effort by Ellon with the bat against 2nd AberGreen at Inverdee. Alex Starling led the way with 25 as Tanweer Khan took 4 wickets to bowl them out for 112. Not the total that Ellon would have hoped for, but it was nearly enough as they worked their way through the 10 AberGreen batters. It needed a stubborn last wicket partnership for AberGreen and an unbeaten 30 from Abdul Saboor to give them the win, and a surprise 1 point advantage over 2nd Grampian who finished 9th and Ellon 10th.
The final match in Grade 3 was a low scoring affair at Lairds as 2nd Methlick bowled out 2nd Mannofield for 68, Lewis Crutchfield taking 4 for 6 off his 10 overs. Methlick lost 4 wickets in overhauling the Mannofield total.
You should note that all of the above references to league positions are subject to no rule breaches being reported, and we have had a few of those in 2023!
The Eastern Premier League play off between Arbroath and Edinburgh South highlighted the recent gulf between the top team in the SPCU North East Championship and the ESCA Championship. Arbroath batted first and set their stall out to preserve wickets and bat the 50 overs. The Edinburgh South bowlers didn’t give them much to hit, and Darryl Sinclair top scored with 53 for Arbroath, although he did survive a top edged paddle off a full toss that looped up between 3 Edinburgh South fielders, the keeper somehow putting it down with Sinclair just into double figures. It wasn’t entertaining stuff, at least until Chris Robb came in at number 11 and battered 31 to give Arbroath a defendable 216. Keegan Crawford had been the forgotten overseas player at Arbroath with only 9 league wickets all season, but he was too hot for the Edinburgh side as his 5 for 24 hastened the demise of the opposition as they were all out for 117, giving Arbroath an instant return to the Eastern Premier League.