FPs make their challenge for the Grade 1 title that much harder on Saturday as an uncharacteristic showing lead to a 24 run loss at Groats Road against Knightriders.
Bolstered by the return of the now sheared Morrison and fierce Lancastrian Steinson but with skipper Swiergon still enjoying the delights of the continent, Sam Knudson AWOL and Senthil also absent, FPs lined up Keith, Morrison, Steinson, Clelland (WK), Anand, Mapplebeck, Nattrass (C), D’Costa, Herd, ROLAND Knudson & Thomson against a well placed Knight Riders side.
Finally winning a toss, stand in Captain Nattrass chose to bowl first on a greasy pitch in the hope of good weather throughout the afternoon giving FPs the better of the conditions.
The bowling efforts started impressively as Mapplebeck first bowled a maiden followed by Anand having Mohan caught behind by Clelland. However, FPs were soon put to the sword as some monstrous swinging by Palaniyapan began regularly finding and clearing the rope with ease. Joined by Amirtharaj, the pair put on 88 runs in just short of 15 overs as FPs struggled to cope in the field.
The closest FPs came to stemming the flow was when Thomson almost had Palaniyapan caught in the deep off his first ball in the match, but Mapplebeck – keen to assist his fellow bowler – charged in too far, had the ball sail over his head and land in the space he’d made inside the boundary.
Having swapped the now wayward Anand for Knudson, skipper Nattrass was delighted that the tight overs finally brought a wicket from the Hazlehead lane end when Amirtharaj was bowled. Two overs later, Knudson struck again, as Thomson snaffled a steepling chance behind square after setting himself a diving effort for any keen photographers watching and Palaniyapan departed for 55.
Steinson, absent for the previous two weekends, now hoped to fire the FPs up but Knight Riders were in no mood to slow down – amassing a further 43 runs in the next 10 overs until Vadahganathan was clean bowled by Mapplebeck, back on to hurry the batsmen. Kumarasamy then kicked on towards 50, as Knudson replaced Mapplebeck in a change of ends and Herd operated from the other.
As Kumarasamy, after making 52, was done by a quick yorker from Herd – deceptively bowling slower flighted deliveries for the previous 6 overs – Knudson soon had Puniya trapped LBW for 14. Knight Riders continued to push the singles even after FPs finally managed a run-out that had been on the cards for the whole innings as Morrison make a diving stop, calmly recovered and tossed the ball to Anand to break to stumps after having some work to bring the ball down.
After 45 overs, Knight Riders had got to 222 for 7 as FPs struggled with the ball and in the field but hoped to fare better with the bat, as the sun continued to shine.
Back in the side, talismanic Morrison partnered Keith again at the top of the order but had only lasted 6 balls when Vijayaraj snuck one through and FPs were reduced to 9 for 1. Joined by Steinson, Keith began striking the ball in the same vein his recent form , until he was out caught at cover, to a ball that was hit so fiercely it would have normally knocked the fielder out instead, Maliready the bowler after a change of ends.
Clelland was soon bowled in similar fashion to Morrison and FPs were trapped at 57 for 3. Anand strode to the crease full of steady confidence only to have it shattered when a long hop on leg was offered up first ball. Hitting his next balls for a single then a six, FPs were stunned once and then again as he was caught off a mishit following a few singles.
As Mapplebeck headed to the crease with FPs 94 for 4 at the halfway stage, it was clear the chase would be a tense affair. With Steinson well in his stride and a keen runner with him, many watching expected a success. However, after jarring his knee taking a single, Steinson had to begin refusing quick runs until he too was out caught for 61. Nattrass headed out with the required rate at a run a ball – coping with Mapplebeck by pushing the ball out and taking advantage of the field being spread.
The budding partnership was then broken as Nattrass was dubiously given caught behind as he hit the pitch following a wider delivery from Vaduganathan, despite no initial appeal from behind the stumps. Things quickly got worse, as Mapplebeck was caught in two minds and was bowled, failing to come forward. At 145 for 7, a rescue was somewhat hoped for as D’Costa was joined by Herd – who had selflessly demoted himself down the order – with both more than capable of knocking off the runs.
Tight bowling forced them to play themselves in, which steadily increased the required rate, until both found the boundary; D’Costa with a 4 and Herd with a towering 6 back over the bowlers head. FPs had thought he may be caught on the boundary, but the strange fielding effort saw the ball sail beyond the boundary.
D’Costa attempted to hit out and was soon caught, and as Herd pushed on hoping to salvage victory, Knudson was quickly bowled and Thomson headed out with 51 required from 6 overs. Singles continued alongside a further boundary each for Herd and Thomson – whose casual sweep behind square effortlessly bounced just inside the rope – but FPs were soon confirmed as losers when Thomson was bowled.
FPs will feel that, apart from one or two performances, no one was at their best on a day when all aspects of the game had let down the efforts to win. Next weekend sees them take on Crescent and all will be keen to return to winning ways as the title challenge is renewed.