|Accrington Cricket Club|
Brian Heywood previews Sunday's Worsley Cup Final between Todmorden and Accrington at Centre Vale. Having been one of the few men to play for both clubs, Brian provides a unique insight into Sunday's match.
The competition was into its second decade before the first cup-tie between the clubs, the final of 1935, which Todmorden won comfortably. Accrington, 78 all out, failed to cope with the late in-swing of visiting professional Fred Root who took 8 for 32. Scorecard
Thirty four years elapsed before the next meeting when Accrington, inspired by professional Peter Swart and a half century from Russ Cuddihy, won by 116 runs at Thorneyholme Road in the first round of 1969. Scorecard
The same venue witnessed one of the great innings of the competition’s rich history in 1978. On a virtually unplayable, rain-affected pitch, Todmorden professional Brian Close produced his best performance for the club, hitting 100 of Todmorden’s 150 all out before Accrington were dismissed for 70. Scorecard
Accrington won the second cup final between the teams in 1986, the last trophy won by the club, in a match that produced then record gate receipts of £1760. Tight bowling by Alan Worsick and David Lloyd restricted Todmorden to 121 all out, and Accrington survived a middle order collapse to scramble home by two wickets. Two survivors from this match, Accrington’s Graham Lloyd and Todmorden’s Stuart Priestley, are expected to play in this Sunday’s final, 22 years on. Scorecard
The next two meetings, both at Centre Vale, came in consecutive years and produced one win apiece. Accrington survived a fearsome onslaught from Todmorden’s substitute professional Ian Bishop to win by 51 runs in 1989, and twelve months later Todmorden won a low-key affair by 6 wickets. 1989 Scorecard 1990 Scorecard
The most recent meeting between the sides was at Accrington in the first round last season when Todmorden beat the injury-ravaged home team by three wickets. Scorecard
On current form Accrington, league leaders with fifteen wins and three defeats in all matches this season are favourites. Todmorden began the season brightly but have struggled to field a settled side in recent weeks and have been particularly hit by a hamstring injury to captain John Henderson. Three wins in their last ten matches is not a true reflection of the team’s ability, and on Sunday they are likely to field their strongest eleven of the season. Todmorden can also take confidence from the form of their batsmen, having topped 200 in each of their last two matches.
Last weekend the teams bucked the trend, Accrington losing at Nelson whilst Todmorden won at Church.
For Accrington it is less important that they lost - the best of teams come up against exceptional individual performances sooner or later - than how they respond to it. They have bounced back from their previous defeats well this season, and won from difficult positions several times. Individuals have stepped up and performed when it matters, and the team collectively has played strong cricket at key moments.
Todmorden have enjoyed some spectacular individual performances, notably from professional Bodi with the bat, and John Campbell’s eight wicket performance at Enfield, but the plethora of changes has unsettled their team pattern.
In overcast conditions or with moisture around towards the end of the week, which is often the case, the quicker Centre Vale pitches favour the team with the quicker bowlers, particularly if they get to bowl first. Swing bowlers who enjoy nip off the pitch and good carry to the keeper have thrived there. When Enfield played there earlier this season they profited from having the three fastest bowlers in the match in Hiini, Barker and Dowling. They picked up vital early wickets including that of Bodi, and Todmorden were playing catch-up for the rest of the game.
With the exception of swing bowler John Campbell, Todmorden’s attack is better suited to slower pitches where the ball grips more. Their three main regular bowlers, Mo Bux, James Morgan and professional Ghulam Bodi have taken three or more wickets on 15 occasions this season, 12 of these away from home. This perhaps partly explains why Todmorden have performed better away from home - won 7 lost 4 – than they have at home – won 3 lost 5, a difference that would probably have been even starker had rain not curtailed home matches when Bacup and Rishton were on top.
In the absence of Jimmy Hayhurst, Accrington’s advantage in the pace department is marginal, and disappears if Jon Henderson has recovered sufficiently to bowl his full allocation.
Accrington, in their first final for 22 years, will be well-supported, and hopefully the Todmorden public can turn out in the sort of numbers last seen on the ground for the 2000 final. Their support on that occasion made Haslingden very aware that they were the away team.
With six bowlers all bowling regularly, Accrington appear to have the edge in the bowling department, spearheaded by captain David Ormerod who has taken over 50 wickets this season. The three spinners complement each other, left-armer Damien Clarke concentrating on nagging accuracy whilst off-spinner Paul Carroll and left-armer Toby Bulcock look to achieve more turn. Professional Roy Silva and Zahir Afzal are the quicker bowlers, whilst Ormerod’s medium-slow swing and cut is notoriously difficult to get away.
Todmorden will rely on the accurate and experienced Mo Bux and James Morgan in the seam department and professional Bodi’s mix of chinamen and googlies. Bodi’s style can be both dangerous and expensive and his are not ten overs that Todmorden can bank as ‘given’. Jon Henderson’s bowling form and fitness is unknown, but at his best he would expect to bowl his ten over allocation. Playing against a side with a full and quite balanced attack, Henderson’s ability to contribute with the ball will determine whether Todmorden can match up in this department.
Otherwise, Todmorden will need to find a few overs from a combination of Andrew Sutcliffe’s flat off-rollers, Mark Clayton’s medium pace, Simon Newbitt’s slingy and quite pacy left-arm and Stuart Priestley’s maverick mixture of top-spinners and in-drifters which earned him a career best 7 for 60 against East Lancs last time out. Priestley too has been injured recently and three weeks out is likely to have affected his bowling more than his batting.
Todmorden’s main strength is their early batting, although, with all their best players available for the first time this season, they may have a ticklish selection dilemma.
The immense power of opener Simon Newbitt makes him a potential match-winner. He scores a high percentage of his runs in boundaries and hits the ball harder than most pros, partly why he is dropped more often than most. He is particularly strong square on the off-side, but Accrington have a couple of strategies against him that have been effective recently.
Professional Ghulam Bodi showed in the first round at Rawtenstall that he can take the game way from any team. His strength in hitting to mid-wicket is particularly dangerous at Todmorden where the left-hander’s mid-wicket boundary is quite short at both ends.
The experienced Stuart Priestley and Jon Henderson, who returned with a rapid 60 last weekend, have both performed well in big matches previously. Tom Marsh, recently returned from Cambridge University, is another strong leg side player and will add quality to both the upper order and the fielding. Mark Clayton, whose unbeaten 79 took Todmorden to the final, and Mo Bux, both hit hard in the middle.
Cousins Ben and Andrew Sutcliffe are ever-present this season and both have started to contribute more consistently, Ben as an opening batsman whilst Andrew was captain in Henderson’s recent absence. At the bottom of the order, wicketkeeper Danny Brown and James Morgan can both handle a bat.
One of Accrington’s strengths this season has been the depth of their batting, and at some point every player, from one to eleven, has contributed crucial runs. The last pair, Clarke and Ormerod added a vital 30 in their victory at Todmorden three weeks ago whilst Graeme Sneddon hit 50 batting at number nine as the last three wickets doubled the score in victory over Colne.
At the top of the order the talented Matt Wilson is enjoying his best ever season and the progress and additional runs from Stuart Crabtree at number three is one of the key improvements from 2007.
Professional Roy Silva, Graham Lloyd and the effervescent Toby Bulcock provide a powerful middle-order. Batting Lloyd as low as five looks curious, but it allows him to play exactly the role he played for many years in Lancashire’s one-day side, and has contributed to the strong and decisive finish Accrington have made to a number of innings and matches this season. Effectively, he is able to captain the batting half of the match, and he has clearly made an impact both as Ormerod’s lieutenant and to Accrington’s competitiveness.
The left-handed Simon Hanson is one of the league’s best young batsmen and, along with Zahir Afzal, who has batted effectively at Todmorden before, capable of useful runs down the order.
Who will win? I think if these teams met under Worsley Cup rules over a series of games, Accrington would win more often, with their depth in bowling and middle-order batting decisive. But Todmorden’s powerful early batting would have its days. Will Sunday be one of them?
The skippers views
David Ormerod: "So the Worsley Cup Final is almost upon us and I would like to thank and congratulate everyone at the club for their continued support. All season and mainly through the last few weeks the players have been fantastic, their commitment to the cause and the support they have offered me on and off the field has been superb. I say the last few weeks mainly because it would have been quite easy to become distracted by the impending cup final and lose our league form, but we have remained focused and continued to impress in the league. I believe the defeat by Nelson last weekend will only strengthen our resolve as a team and we will take the positives and learn from the mistakes made.
"We are no strangers to our final opponents Todmorden having played them twice recently in the league. Although we have beaten them on both occasions a cup final is something totally different. We have not played Tod at their strongest, and I expect them to come at us with all guns blazing. Captain, good mate and fine all rounder Jon Henderson will be back from injury and so to will league legend Stuart Priestley with the dangerous Simon Newbitt opening up and the batting prowess of pro Gulam Bodi they have a fine top order. Experience runs right through the Tod side with Mark Clayton, Mo Bux and Ted Whitehead all dangerous cricketers (and no Mark I won't swap the bottle of champagne you presented me with for the Worsley Cup!). They have a fine bowling attack with the pace and swing of Campbell and 'Swifty' backing up the guile and experience of Bux and the captain.
"We couldn't wish for a better venue for the final than Tod. It is in my opinion the finest ground and best wicket in the league. The Tod team are a great bunch of lads who we have a good rapport with so expect the final to a be keenly contested affair played in the best of spirits befitting of two clubs with such proud histories.
"I feel our team for the final is well equipped for most playing situations. We have seven bowlers to call upon with three spinning options for variety. Upto writing this we have no injury concerns and will go into the game in buoyant mood.
"Finally let me congratulate Jon and his team for making it through to the final. After such a tough draw in the first two rounds and an epic semi-final win against Ramsbottom they really deserve their final berth and hosting of the game. So here's to a great day, win or lose, and a beer or two afterwards."
Team: Jon Henderson (capt), Stuart Priestley, Simon Newbitt, Mo Bux, Ben Sutcliffe, Andrew Sutcliffe, Tom Marsh, Mark Clayton, James Morgan, Danny Brown (wk), Gulam Bodi (Pro).
Team: David Ormerod (capt), Matt Wilson (wk), Graham Lloyd, Stuart Crabtree, Paul Carroll, Graeme Sneddon, Toby Bulcock, Damian Clarke, Simon Hanson, Zahir Afzal, Roy Silva (Pro)