On another beautiful day at the Racecourse – a stunning ground when the sun shines – the Yellows set off in search of the 280 runs required to gain the first innings win and necessary bonus points to overhaul Loughborough and join Cardiff in the MCCU Challenge Final at Lord’s.
Steve Bullen and Henry Thompson began the reply in style, with their first century stand of the season and arguably the team’s best session of the campaign as they walked off at lunch with the score on 135 for 0, Bullen on 65 and Thompson on 59. The stew and mash must have caused a few digestive problems though, as the next hour saw 4 wickets fall for the addition of only 40 runs with all wickets going to the left-arm spin of JJ Dewes. Bullen was the first to go, driving at one that turned and edging to slip, without adding to his lunchtime score. Billy Root looked comfortable until he turned a ball into the hands of short leg after scoring 18, Christian Davis was adjudged LBW trying to sweep for only 1 and Logan Weston was caught for 3. Having fallen from 135-0 to 175-4 and with the Durham boys keen not to register their 5th 2-day defeat of the season, Lord’s was looking a long way off.
It was left to two guys in their 3rd year at University to use their experience and steady the ship. Thompson had remained solid at the other end as he lost his partners and was now joined by Mr Consistent, Harry Rouse.
Last year Thompson was dismissed in the Challenge Final 3 runs short of a Lord’s century. As he entered the 90s he must have had his eye on helping the team reach another Challenge Final by scoring his first ton in a Leeds Bradford shirt. That was until, when on 92, he turned a ball to backward square, set off for an easy single but then inexplicably decided to return for a suicidal second and despite a desperate dive the lanky Lancastrian was a foot short of his ground when the bails were removed. He trudged off with 93 to his name but, more importantly, with his team needing only another 71 for victory.
Meanwhile Rouse was going steadily at the other end. The Bath-based all-rounder entered the game needing 42 runs to become only the 5th ever Leeds Bradford player to reach the career double of 500 runs and 50 wickets, despite having only scored one half-century. A second one looked very much on the cards though. George Scott helped him add 35 before the Middlesex man was caught behind for 20 with the total on 244 – and 36 still required. Liam Watkinson them came in and batted confidently. In a half-century stand with Rouse he helped take the team past the required target for the first innings win that was needed. At 298 for 6 a 4th and final batting point to put the icing on the cake looked a formality and a 50 for Rouse looked nailed on. Funny old game though. Watkinson was then bowled by Phillips for 36, Rouse skied one to cover and fell 3 runs short of his personal milestone and then Archie Ogden was yorker first ball to leave Phillips on a hat-trick and 1 round needed for the extra point. However, the flurry and wickets had left last man Harwood still in his shorts and t-shirt – let alone padded-up – so with the clock on 5.20 pm, Davis declared and hands were shaken.
Second spot secured although disappointment all round that Cardiff had pipped us to the title. Still, the table doesn’t lie and a place at Lord’s will ensure a fantastic day out for the team on Tuesday 23rd June.