Despite a strong showing with bat and ball, an already relegated FPs eventually closed out a disappointing Grade One season with a narrow loss away to Cults.
Inspired by a sterling 71 from Rob Swiergon in his last game as skipper, FPs mustered a competitive 205 all out, aided by an uncharacteristically playable Allan Park wicket and the impartiality of having a qualified umpire.
Good opening spells from all-rounders Poosappadi and Sood kept a lid on Cults’ batting, and at the half way stage they were well behind the eight ball.
But a quick-fire 53 from Singh put the home side back on track, before Ajazi and Shehman finished the job with three overs remaining.
While the game marked the end of a disappointing season for FPs – who finished bottom of Grade 1 – there were a number of positives to take, and the prospect of a 2023 season with more decisions and less animosity is an appealing one.
The day started badly for FPs when Swiergon feared he would have to pull out last minute after his wife’s back malfunctioned. Arrangements were quickly put in place though and the skipper treated his young son to a day at the cricket, something he was overjoyed with.
With Swiergon playing under the proviso he would return home toot sweet, FPs won the toss and opted to bat. Nattrass and Swiergon, channelling their inner twins from the Shining, opened up and put on 35 for the first wicket before the former fell for 15, c. Ali, b. Shehman.
Swiergon was joined by Poosappadi, who was still feeling the mild effects of altitude sickness after opening the batting against Crescent last week. It proved a fruitful partnership, and the two pushed the score along nicely, Swiergon finding the boundary regularly and with consummate ease, his son screaming on his every run.
Poosappadi was then caught behind for 17 off the bowling of Khan, his not out count for the season taking a battering, which brought Penman to the crease.
He picked up from where Poosappadi left off, and the scoreboard continued to tick over nicely, each batsman rotating the strike frequently and putting away the bad balls.
The pressure was beginning to mount on Cults, illustrated by the umpire issuing a warning for over appealing, much to the ire of their fan on the boundary.
It was all going as planned for FPs, until of course, it wasn’t.
Swiergon, looking good for a ton, was bowled for a fine 71. A few balls later, Haider, who had replaced him, demonstrated a rare willingness for a single, barbequing Penman in the process; run out for 21.
With FPs 136-4, Haider played sensibly, and passed the three runs he needed to claim the batting trophy for the season. He was then trapped in front of all three and departed for 9.
Javaid and Youles steadied the ship somewhat, the latter playing one of the most beautiful cover drives for four that Grade cricket has ever seen. Honestly, a video of it would be banished to the top shelf of a newsagents.
The departure of Javaid for 24 signalled something of a collapse, and FPs were eventually bowled out for 205, some good hitting from Youles at the end ensuring they passed the key milestone.
On such a small ground, around 200 seemed par, and FPs knew they’d have to bowl with guile and control to restrict Cults. And bizarrely, so it was, with Sood and Poosappadi keeping a tight line.
It was Haider that took the first wicket though, Penman covering ground to comfortably catch Kahn for 15 – Cults 30-1. Abassi soon followed, LBW (yes! a real life LBW! In Grades cricket! In Aberdeen!), to Javaid for 7.
FPs were daring to dream, but Singh, who scored 53 from 30, quickly put Cults in the driving seat, before being unceremoniously skittled by a chuntering Nattrass, bowling right arm around the wicket. Singh was ably supported by Ali, who notched up a good 31 before being bowled by Sood.
Quick wickets for Haider and Sood followed and the game was in the balance. But a strong and relatively chanceless partnership from Ajazi, 33*, and Shehman, 29*, took Cults home with three overs to spare, the Allan Park-side finishing a very respectable 5th in Grade 1.
The game brought an end to FPs stay in Grade 1, after a tough winter in which they lost four front line players. Though disappointing, especially given 2021’s successes, relegation may be a blessing in disguise and allow the club time to rebuild and members to enjoy their cricket, something that has been worryingly absent at times this season.
Huge thanks and acknowledgement must go to Rob Swiergon, who announced before the game that he would be stepping down as skipper after a brilliant six years at the helm. During his time in charge, FPs won two league titles and the Aberdeenshire Cup, all while playing in a fair and exciting manner. Champagne cricket will no longer be the same, but his successor will inherit a team determined to get back to where it belongs.
Man of the Match – Swiergon for a superb 71, and more generally for his commitment and success as captain in recent years
Champagne moment – Youles’ cover drive for four. Words simply don’t do it justice.