By Jamie Harrison
Broad Oak thwarted Moorlands’ bid to become the third team to win three consecutive Sykes Cups after pulling off a terrific run chase led by Australian all-rounder Cameron Todd.
The Linthwaite-based side lifted their first Sykes Cup in 38 years in front of a fixated crowd at Armitage Bridge as the score ended Moorlands 195-5, Broad Oak 197-2.
Todd composed an immaculate masterpiece with bat and ball to fire underdogs Broad Oak to a memorable Sykes Cup final success.
Only one member of the team was born when Oak last experienced a Sykes final success. Tom McCreadie was born just ten months before and it seemed fitting that father Craig, part of the 1985 team, was present to savour another unforgettable chapter of their club’s history.
This year’s showpiece final was threatened by a lunchtime downpour that quickly made way for bright sunshine, leaving a 40-over match.
Eddie Walmsley’s stellar outfit, so dominant over the course of this season, went into the occasion as hefty favourites but were never allowed to impose themselves by a disciplined Broad Oak side who lost the toss and were thrust into the field under the warm early afternoon sun.
Having lost only one match so far this term, Moorlands arrived at the final in searing form. They made a bright start with opening batsmen Marcus Walmsley and Shoukat Ali, the two highest run-scorers for Moorlands, looking untroubled.
Ali, however, fell first on the eight over mark for 35, attempting a brutal straight slog over new bowler Cameron Todd’s head sending the ball sailing nicely into Alex Slack at long-on. Indian Amogh Bhatkal showed some graceful touches but was snared by an edge behind to Alex Kaye with the score on 72.
James Rawlinson, a Sykes Cup man of the match for Moorlands two years before, never got going either and succumbed for 9 runs, carelessly drifting out of his crease only to be undone by a quick retrieval by Daniel Rushworth. However the arrival of Siraj Sajid lifted the scoring rate for Moorlands.
He busily added 22 and pushed the score along but his stumps were knocked over by Fletcher Coutts.
Eddie Walmsley’s arrival at the crease added the impetus his team required. With Marcus content at the other end, the skipper batted with brutal intent, punishing Oak’s tired attack.
He was out in the final over for 42 from 29 balls, pouched by an impressive running catch by Todd galloping in from long-off for Slack’s second wicket. Marcus Walmsley finished unbeaten on 65; a diligent effort which helped set a solid, if unspectacular, 195-5.
Dominic Finn and Connor Dimech started the pursuit well by neutralising the threat from leading wicket-taker Jon Rudge and opening partner Shoukat Ali.
The loss of Dimech (12) who misjudged Rudge’s delivery, one which nipped slightly to lose his middle stump, stymied their start as new batsman Todd took his time to see off the openers and set up a fascinating chess match with Moorlands’ bowling attack.
Marcus Walmsley and Nadim Hussain took turns to try and make the breakthrough but Finn’s patience and Todd’s wristy strokes combined well to frustrate Moorlands, who gradually lost their composure.
Leg spinner Sajid struggled with consistent length which the Oak pair began to take advantage of. However Finn carelessly drove at a ball that was dropped short and his shot was sharply grabbed head-height by the leg-spinner.
The loss of Finn only spurred Oak on to up the ante and take the game to their higher-ranked opponents.
The slightly built Todd claimed centre stage to lead a winning partnership with his captain Fletcher Coutts. The skipper was afforded time to get himself up with the pace whilst Todd pounced on anything wide to keep the scoreboard ticking.
Walmsley eventually brought himself on, replacing his brother, but conceded ten runs in his first over.
Bhaktal was also introduced and although he bowled tighter, never looked like picking up a wicket. Curiously, Shoukat Ali was preferred to leading wicket-taker Rudge and was promptly clattered out of the attack by a confident Todd who cruised past his fifty in menacing fashion. Their partnership passed hundred and the game was firmly in control of Broad Oak.
Coutts reached his half-century during a flurry of singles as the two batsmen cranked into a higher gear. A desperate last throw of the dice for Moorlands came in the eventual introduction of Rudge, slung on with Oak requiring just twelve to win from five overs.
He went for seven runs, mostly singles, and it was left for Todd to smash a boundary back over bowler Eddie Walmsley to bring forth jubilant scenes, not dissimilar to the conclusion of Moorlands’ thrilling victory two years ago.
Match adjudicator Paul Cummins, director of recreational cricket at the YCB, rightly gave the Roger France Trophy for man of the match to Western Australian Todd, whose fluent 83no, along with a wicket and catch in the first innings, proved to be the standout performance.