Won by 4 wkts
New Mills 171-7
And so the big day came: the Bissenden Cup Final contested by Hayfield and local rivals New Mills. Both sides had overcome stiff opposition in their respective semi-finals to set up a mouth-watering clash at Newton CC who had been invited to host the event as part of their 150th anniversary.
The day for many of the team would begin as it ended - at the Kinder Lodge public house in Hayfield, where a magnificent breakfast was laid out to send the players on their way to meet their Tameside destiny. Unlike their opponents, Hayfield had eschewed formal dress code and most arrived as though showing off their particular preference of designer underwear or simply as if advertising that they don’t own a belt. Senior players sensibly opted for catalogue wear.
Fortunately, though, we were all just there to play cricket. After a quick change into shorts, a warm-up routine ensued consisting of catching, dropping, throwing and missing, and then a cricketing version of handball which was won by the team that didn’t include Messrs Burgess and Aldridge. No surprises there then.
The formality of the toss began official proceedings, a toss which New Mills won. Once again, Hayfield found themselves fielding first, though there were fewer protestations than the day before, especially when light rain arrived on cue at 2pm to delay the start for an hour.
But at 3pm the game finally got underway with a shortened game of 35 overs per side. Josh Unsworth shared the new ball with Gareth Davies who leaked two boundaries in his first over before providing his side with an early breakthrough, with Darren Coverley yorked with the scoreboard reading just ten.
New Mills key man Jon Duckworth came to the crease and played a watchful knock which saw the run rate stay below four an over for the first half of the innings. Matt Proctor had taken over from Unsworth in the seventh over and bowled an admirably tight spell before making way for Dave Aldridge.
Meanwhile, at the housing estate end, Dave Higginbottom replaced Davies hoping to repeat his early-season heroics which saw him claim eight wickets against Newton in the villagers’ league fixture at the same ground. Unfortunately, and perhaps surprisingly, Hayfield’s first-choice spinner struggled with his line and length and was a little expensive as Scott Mills and Duckworth sought to up the tempo with a cluster of hard-hit boundaries.
However, after an aggressive knock, Mills advanced down the track and was bowled by Aldridge who then was unfortunate not to claim Duckworth’s scalp when Davies spilled a straightforward chance at long-on.
Davies made amends, however, as he found Duckworth’s outside edge to wicketkeeper Sam Hudson just two balls into his second spell. At 77-3, Malc Strong was joined by Andy Holmes in a potentially key partnership for New Mills. Then, just as the innings looked to be blossoming, Holmes clipped Aldridge straight into the safe hands of Evans at midwicket, much to the delight of his ecstatic colleagues.
Aldridge bowled his seven overs straight through and was replaced by Proctor, who continued to bowl tightly at Strong and number six Mike Birchenall. When Birchenall fell to Gareth Davies for just 13, Hayfield were looking favourites to close down the innings for less than 140.
Stuart Whitchurch, though, had other ideas. In a typically aggressive knock of 37, including 22 off a single Unsworth over, he helped to hoist the total past 150. Though Whitchurch and Callum Firth fell in consecutive deliveries to Higginbottom, Strong saw his innings through to the last over when he finally fell to Unsworth for 38.
A victory target of 172 in 35 overs would normally hold no fears at a ground like Newton’s. The pitch remained true despite the rain, and although the outfield had slowed slightly, runs were there for the taking.
Russ Evans and Shane Furness made a cautious start against the New Mills attack which was spearheaded by canny medium-pacer Dave Ward and the steady off-spin of Strong. In a different game, Evans would have looked to maybe attack Ward a little more than he did and maybe the tension of a cup final curbed his natural flair. Nevertheless, the opening stand realised 46 before Evans, having moved on to 28, skied a catch to cover off Strong who was earlier unlucky not to have removed Furness after a chop to gully was spilled.
Hudson came in at number three and was soon purposefully into his stride before a rain break that had the players off the field for another half an hour. Breaks for drinks and rain can often prove decisive and so it was for Hudson who holed out to cover with the score on 64 to bring New Mills back into contention.
Gareth Davies made an immediate impact on the game with a brutal assault on James Stevens’ second over, the off-spinner having taken over from Ward. He drove straight and then through midwicket before scattering the spectators with a fierce pull for six as Stevens lost his length. However, Davies also was involved in the run-out of Furness who was looking until then untroubled. Davies drove to mid-on, looked to set off and Furness was run out for 29 by a direct hit from Hayden Marsh, although he was perhaps unlucky with the decision, having looked to have made his ground.
Davies, however, was looking in imposing form and it was therefore a shock when he carelessly gave his wicket away, driving Andy Holmes up in the air having made 31. This brought Aldridge to the crease to join skipper Burgess. Whilst there was a need to keep wickets intact, 70 runs were still required off 11 overs and the experienced pair knew that positive batting was still required to keep their side in the hunt.
Aldridge duly obliged, driving Holmes over cover for successive boundaries, and Burgess used his feet to prevent Stevens, the leading wicket taker in this year’s competition, from gaining a foothold in the game by drilling him for a six and a four in the same over.
Jon Duckworth continued to ring the changes with his bowlers, who were struggling to grip a wet ball. Aldridge hit fours off Birchenall as the batting onslaught saw the runs required fall to 18 off 5 overs.
Cal Firth was introduced for his first over of the innings but his first ball was clipped to the boundary by Burgess and when Aldridge straight drove him for six the game was effectively over, although the New Mills medium-pacer found Pyrrhic revenge when Aldridge miscued to mid-on having made 26 quick runs.
There was still time for another wicket as Ben Higginbottom fell for a duck, but five wides ended the game with nearly three overs still remaining and Hayfield had gained their first Bissenden silverware since 1986.
Julian Burgess ended a superb personal weekend on 34 not out to see his side home and was just one of a number of incredibly proud and relieved people associated with the club as he strode up to collect the trophy.
Special mention must go to those associated with Newton CC whose enthusiasm and hard work made for a fantastic day, albeit in difficult and at times frustrating weather conditions. The wicket, outfield, ground and facilities were a credit to the club, as was their hospitality throughout the day. Those at Hayfield CC wish Newton CC all the best for the rest of their 150th celebrations.
But the day belonged to Hayfield. This was a real team performance. Whilst the Man of the Match award went to Dave Aldridge, there were no stand-out players with everyone contributing to the victory. Decent bowling, decent batting and excellent fielding that culminated in a deserved victory and jubilation for both players and supporters alike.