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As good as it gets

Todmorden v Accrington FOR Accrington's faithful band of supporters Sunday's win at Centre Vale is about as good as it gets.

ACTION-packed match... Tama Canning at the crease.
ACTION-packed match... Tama Canning at the crease.

Todmorden v Accrington

FOR Accrington's faithful band of supporters Sunday's win at Centre Vale is about as good as it gets.

To the casual supporter, Todmorden is the place to go with the sun out, runs aplenty and the match played with the sound of the visiting brass band performing a Sunday concert in the adjoining park.

In recent years the only thing Accrington's travelling supporters have had to show from the visit is a slight sun tan but this Accrington side is made of sterner stuff.

Professional Tama Canning and all- rounder Zahir Afzal were the architects of a hard-earned four-wicket win with both players picking up four wickets and hitting half centuries in impressive all-round performances.

The home side raced from the blocks with 34 runs coming from the first four overs as openers Simon Newbitt and skipper Stuart Priestley sent the ball racing across the freshly-cut, lightning-fast outfield eight times.

The rate slowed but the 50 still came up in the 11th over when Accrington made the breakthrough as Priestley was caught at gully by Damian Clarke for 30.

Zahir Afzal then had an uncomfortable looking Richard Baigent caught at slip by Canning for one and Clarke picked up his second catch to remove Newbitt for 36 off Afzal. The former skipper picked up two more catches and could well have had five with a bit more luck.

The one black mark in an impressive fielding display by Matt Wilson's men was a dropped catch in the final over by Mohsin Ahmed which denied Afzal a well- deserved collection as Todmorden closed on 201-8 with professional Gyan Pandey unbeaten on 68.

The amateur finished with 4-95 off 21 overs with Canning taking 4-62.

Accrington needed a solid start and they got one with Mohsin and Adam Wilson taking the score to 40 before Mohsin was bowled by Pandey for 27. Wilson followed for 17 and at the halfway mark Accrington were 64 with Canning and Stuart Crabtree at the crease.

The left arm spin of Pandey was proving difficult to score off with just six runs coming from his first half-dozen overs. On the one occasion that he departed from his normal style to give the ball some air, Canning responded by rocketing the ball over the roof at the School End for the first six of the match.

The Accrington professional played with restraint until he had passed his half century when he went into overdrive and hit four more huge sixes. Canning made a mess of Pandey's figures, with 18 coming from his 21st over including a six that bounced through the open window of the scorebox.

The match turned in Pandey's next over with Canning taking one risk too many and getting stumped by Paul Brierley for 79 made off just 65 balls. At 164-4, Accrington still needed 38 off six overs with Afzal batting well but a new batsman at the crease.

Skipper Matt Wilson followed in the next over, well caught on the long-on boundary by Baigent off the bowling of Priestley after Afzal had been badly and crucially missed by Ben Sutcliffe at cover. The new man, Jimmy Hayhurst, took a wild swing at the first ball of Pandey's next over and was comprehensively bowled.

With four overs left 30 runs were needed but young Graeme Sneddon kept his cool and hit 18 of the runs himself as Accrington passed their target with one over to spare. Afzal played his best innings for Accrington, hitting an unbeaten 52 to at last earn that elusive collection.

As a measure of Accrington's progress this match was a carbon copy of last season's encounter when the club narrowly lost in the last over - a view endorsed by first team manager Ian Wilson who commented: "We have a really good team ethic."

"Tama has come in and made a big difference in the mental attitude of the players. We have been there or thereabouts in every game, we haven't had any hammerings this year, which is something you couldn't have said for the past couple of seasons."

"Tama has been a breath of fresh air. His performances with both bat and ball have been excellent and I doubt if there is a better professional in the league this year."

"He is a genuine all rounder who bowls with pace and his batting performances have been exceptional. We have also been able to field the same side on a regular basis which makes a big difference."


Stuart Pike
Deputy editor specialising in politics
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