MacLeod mid-wicket acrobatics stump Dunfermline comeback

ONLY one Premiership fixture went the distance as the wretched summer weather struck with a vengeance on Saturday.

However, the meeting between Dunfermline Knights and Uddingston at McKane Park contained drama and talking points sufficient to compensate for the wash-outs elsewhere before the visitors claimed the points in the gathering gloom.

That this match went ahead at all was a story in itself given that Cricket Scotland's official website had declared it off in mid-morning.

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That innocent mis-understanding came when one of the umpires phoned the McKane Park groundsman - or so he thought - to inquire if the pitch was playable.

In fact, the groundsman listed in the SNCL handbook has subsequently moved to Stirling's Williamfield, where indeed the pitch was unfit for play.

Following several further frantic phone calls between umpires, captains, match secretaries, scorers, tea ladies et al, all the necessary participants for a game of cricket were deemed present and correct at McKane Park.

And what a thriller they served up.

It was Uddingston who eventually emerged triumphant to climb five places up the table from their lowly berth but not before this game this had taken numerous twists and turns.

There were few surprises when home skipper Gowtham Rai won the toss and invited Uddingston to bat in such damp conditions.

The tactic paid immediate dividends when Cammy Farrell bowled Paul Hoffmann with the first delivery of the match.

When Amir Gul followed soon after, the Lanarkshire side were in genuine difficulty on 8-2.

A solid stand between Bryan Clarke and Calum MacLeod, who top-scored with 49, took the total to 80 before three further wickets put Dunfermline back in control.

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Again, though, the visitors rallied through the efforts of overseas amateur Alecz Day and former GHK stalwart Mohammed Kamran, who posted the game's second half-century stand.

Kamran was dismissed for 36, but late hitting by Day (41no) and Josh Johnson saw Uddingston add 25 in the last two overs to post a challenging 174-8 from 44 overs.

That total looked more than enough when Hoffmann made early inroads to the Knights batting line-up before Raz Priyadarshana and MacLeod claimed three wickets apiece.

The game looked all over with Dunfermline staring down the abyss on 90-9.

However, a remarkable last-wicket partnership between Siva Jayahanthan and Yasir Arfat rekindled home hopes.Indeed, by the time the pair had added 79, only six runs were needed for victory, and it was Uddingston who looked the beaten side.

There was, though, one final remarkable and decisive twist as a brilliant piece of fielding from MacLeod dashed Dunfermline's comeback hopes.

With just five balls remaining, Jayahanthan, having hit 55, looked to have taken the home side closer to their target with a crashing shot which appeared to be heading for a crucial boundary.

However, MacLeod flung himself full length at deep mid-wicket, managed to clutch the ball and in one movement sent it hurtling towards wicket-keeper Clarke, who had time to throw down the stumps as a startled Jayahanthan, short of his ground, looked on in dismay.

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Winning skipper Ricky Bawa admitted: "I thought the game was gone when their last pair got them so close.

"To be honest, we didn't look like getting them out. Jayahanthan batted brilliantly, and Arfat did well to give his partner the strike.

"But Calum produced an awesome piece of fielding to give us the win. He has always been a natural athlete and that one moment was the difference between the sides."

Bawa added: "I think both teams deserve credit for playing the match - it would have been easy for either just to let the weather dictate.

"Conditions were never going to be ideal but the wicket was playable and I think we served up a great match.

"It is a really important win for us because we were sitting second bottom but hopefully this will get our season up and running."

Dunfermline player-coach Kevin McLaren said: "It was an unreal match. We were dead and buried so to get as close as we did was a great effort.

"Siva's shot in the last over would have been four to any other player on the park but Calum produced an unbelievable stop and throw and that was game over."

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Elsewhere, the eagerly anticipated clash between undefeated pair Carlton and Forfarshire was the only other match to make a start.

However, fewer than 13 overs were possible at Grange Loan before the weather claimed another victim with Carlton having reached 43-2.