The week started badly for Richmondshire Cricket Club with the devastating news that after a visa had been obtained, flights booked and accommodation arranged and paid for Shafiqullah Ghafari’s move had been blocked by the Afghanistan Cricket Board.
His return to the UK was vetoed until the completion of the Asia Cup Emerging Teams competition in July as they expect Shaf to be playing for the Afghanistan A team in that tournament.
This would mean that he wouldn’t be able to travel to the UK before the first half of this season is complete, missing 11 league matches, and numerous cup games and national cup competition ties. The club are now seeking an alternative overseas professional which will be difficult at this late stage.
The 1st team were finally able to get some cricket on Saturday with the visit of Middlesbrough, who had taken the league title from Richmondshire by one point last season. Rain delayed the start but not sufficiently to cause a reduction in the number of overs.
After winning the toss Richmondshire asked Middlesbrough to bat first. There was a wicket in the third over for Josh Dowson and the run rate was kept down effectively. Gary Pratt took on more of the spin bowling duties in the absence of Shafi and picked up a couple of wickets to finish with figures of two for 15.
By the 25 over stage Middlesbrough had been restricted to 72 for 4 and as the score then progressed to 133 for 7 in the 41st over things looked pretty much under control. Then a late stand for the eighth wicket, with Sam Harper scoring 47 and professional Mohammad Asghar added 27 in 33 balls.
In the final few overs Richmondshire’s normally reliable fielding let them down with two straightforward catches going down allowing Middlesbrough to reach 178 for 7.
Richmondshire captain Bob Carr remained confident that their strong batting line up could match this total The reply got off to a good start with openers Bob Carr and Gary Pratt putting on 48 before Gary was trapped leg before for 24. Bob was joined by Mike Layfield and the score had progressed to 99 when the introduction of Asghar to the attack turned the game.
Bob was out stumped on 48, Sam Winter went leg before in the same over and in Asghar’s next over Dan Hodgson was caught for seven. Asghar finishing with four for 22, emphasising just how much the spin of Shafi was missed. Two more wickets fell to spin from James Lowe (three for 18) before the attack switched back to pace when Harry Williams took two wickets in two balls. Richmondshire’s innings ended at 132, to lose by 46 and claim only five points.
The 2nd team made a long journey to Whitby. Having won the toss Richmondshire put Whitby in and with wickets from Dale Marshall (two for 28), Shaun Charlton (four for 35) and Tom Stockton (four for 41) Whitby were dismissed for 127.
Sadly Richmondshire’s batsmen found life even more difficult collapsing to 29 for seven before 22 from Dale Marshall added a little respectability, getting the total to 66. A defeat by 666 runs gave them six points.
The 4ths game at Thornaby was rained off so after three weeks they haven’t yet played even an over. The 5ths had a tough fixture against Spennymoor at Richmond School. Put in Spennymoor made 182 for four in their 40 overs but Richmondshire could only manage 121 for six in their 40 overs gaining five points.
On Sunday the 3rds game at Darlington was called off giving the six points enough to keep them third in the table.
There was brighter news on Monday morning when it was announced that Richmondshire had secured the signing of Australian Connor Blaxall-Hill as an overseas amateur. An off-spinning, all-rounder, Connor was contacted through last year’s overseas amateur Tom Brooks who had played with him for Western Suburbs in Sydney. For the last two seasons Connor has played for Perth in the Western Australia 1st Grade scoring 1,013 runs at an average of 29.79 and taking 81 wickets at an average of 24.04.
Connor should arrive on Friday, hopefully in time for next Saturday’s fixture at Thornaby.