Always the bridesmaid but never the bride for Read CC

Read professional Matt Walker
Read professional Matt Walker
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Read might be starting to develop a bit of a complex in the Ribblesdale Cricket League.

The 10-time champions, who haven’t secured the title since winning it for a third time in succession in 2004, have always seemed to be the bridesmaid but never the bride in recent campaigns.

In 2012 the club finished as runners up in the division for a third time on the bounce and they’ve rounded off the campaign as second best twice since.

Three years ago they played second fiddle to recently usurped Lancashire League supremos Clitheroe and on this occasion they were pipped to the post by Oswaldtwistle Immanuel.

And it’s been a similar tale of events for Whalley Road professional Matthew Walker who, after an outstanding season with the bat, couldn’t eclipse the return of Ossy paid man Shubham Khajuria.

The former Lowerhouse amateur closed the term with 814 league runs from 17 innings, compared to the Indian’s 1,075 run total.

However, nobody could touch Walker in the batting averages and high score department. Perhaps a sign that the tables are turning in Read’s favour ahead of the 2019 season.

For the second time in as many seasons, the talismanic pro hit in excess of 200 runs in a single match.

The all-rounder finished up with 210 against Cherry Tree last term, but inflicted even more damage on Feniscowles in the penultimate fixture of this campaign, closing the innings unbeaten on 251.

Though that didn’t top the overall charts - as Salesbury’s former Sri Lankan pro Amal Athulathmudali made 275 against Brinscall in 2014 - it is the best figure on record for an unbroken knock, beating Baxenden’s Babaar Naeem’s 226 not out.

His seasonal average of 74 also trumped that of Khajuria, who finished the season on 67.19.

“I got 200 last year but I think the record is 270-odd,” he said. “It’s not a league record but stuff like that doesn’t really bother me. It’s nice though.

“My 210 against Cherry Tree last year was the highest ever score for a first team player at Read in the Ribblesdale Cricket League. This one usurps that.

“I never dreamed this would happen, I never thought I’d reach 200 again. I thought that was a freak accident so I can’t believe that I’ve done it twice.”

After confirming that he’ll be staying on at Read, Walker said: “The club has been really good to me. I like playing my cricket there. Andy Turner, the chairman, has really looked after me. The ground is one of the nicest around as well so I’m really happy here.

“I’ve signed on for next season but beyond that it all depends what the club wants. I can’t see myself moving anywhere. I’ve taken on an under 11s side as well so it will be nice to see how far I can take some of the juniors. It will be good to try and develop these younger players.

“I spend 95% of my life at the club. Whether it’s practising, coaching or just being a general nuisance. My life has revolved around cricket since the age of six. It’s something I can’t live without. I don’t enjoy moving around, I’m settled here and I enjoy it.

“We have to be happy with a runners up trophy this year and we’ll have to try and push for one better next season. It would be nice to win a cup or reach a Twenty20 Finals Day.”

Walker wasn’t quite as prominent with the ball but he still featured in the list of the league’s top 15 wicket takers.

The 25-year-old claimed 39 scalps in total, at an average of 17.05, with a high score of 5-5 which came in victory over Senior League B champions Salesbury at Ribchester Road in May.

There’s also a mention for former skipper Kyle O’Connor in the order of merit.

The wicket-keeper contributed to 13 dismissals, made up of nine catches and four stumpings, to push him into the top 10.

It won’t come as any surprise to see a selection of Salesbury’s squad up in lights following a sensational season.

Stephen Brown’s side didn’t only finish top of the pack in the bottom tier but they registered the highest points total of all 14 teams housed in the Ribblesdale Cricket League.

They’ve raised the bar collectively while also giving themselves a tough act to follow on an individual level too.

Professional Hashen Ramanayake had a tough act to follow in Neil Hornbuckle but the Sri Lankan cricketer stood up to the challenge.

The 23-year-old First Class performer posted 517 league runs during the campaign, the 10th best total in the division, with an average of 36.93, the seventh most impressive return on show.

Ramanayake also featured in the bowling rankings with 38 but it was team-mate Sam Bristol who ended up as one of the headline acts.

The club’s amateur closed the campaign with 44 wickets, tied with Padiham’s Siviwe Gidana and Oswaldtwistle Immanuel’s Andreas Sudnik.

His average of 13.02 was the third best in the league, behind Baxenden’s Gary Sudworth and Ribblesdale Wanderers’ Primosh Perera, and his figures of 7-39, taken at home to Earby in June, were just off the mark for the podium.

And Tom Stones also influenced Salesbury’s success. He had his say from behind the stumps, taking 17 scalps. The wicket-keeper’s contribution, which included 15 catches and two stumpings, was the fifth best in the league.

Elsewhere, after finishing runners up last season and winning the Ramsbottom Cup, Whalley were brought back down to earth with a bump.

The Station Road outfit survived in the top flight by the skin of their teeth this term but that certainly wasn’t reflected in the statistics of their top performers.

Declan Bailey was the league’s third most prolific batsman of the campaign having posted 703 runs from 18 innings while his unbeaten high score of 118, posted against Brinscall at the beginning of September, also entered the charts at number three.

Bailey’s average of 43.94 didn’t fare too badly in the standings either with only Walker, Khajuria, Seehan Weerasinghe (Brinscall) and Daniel Metcalf (Oswaldtwistle Immanuel) bettering him.

His expertise wasn’t just limited to the bat, either. As wicket-keeper Bailey took 19 scalps, the third best figures in the league, which included 13 catches and six stumpings.

In the bowling department there weren’t many players that trumped Whalley duo Joel Blain and Sam Sweeney.

The pair took 99 wickets between them as the Australian overseas amateur took 51 of those at a 14.8 average. His 7-59 against Settle in mid-July was the fifth best return.

Sweeney’s haul was taken at an average of 17.35 and it was Baxenden who were on the receiving end of his personal best 6-37 in June.

Last, but not least, there’s the Ribblesdale Cricket League contingent from Church Meadow.

Wanderers professional Perera, a Sri-Lankan First Class cricketer, was the eighth best batsman on record after plundering 547 runs at an average of 28.79.

The 29-year-old’s high score of 98, the sixth highest of the season, was scored in defeat to Read in June. Team-mate Mack Spencer’s top score of 98 in victory over Euxton during the summer was eighth highest.

Perera wasn’t too far away from being the greatest showman with the ball. His 59-wicket collection was the third most valuable in the division, just behind Barnoldswick’s Chalana De Silva (67) and Weerasinghe (62).

With an average of 12.56 from 224.4 overs there was only Sudworth who out-performed him on that front as well. Captain Jordan Britcliffe also played his part, taking 44 wickets to finish just outside the top 10.

Wicket-keeper Andrew Needham proved to be untouchable in the fielding stakes. He contributed to 25 wickets in total, adding five catches to his 20 stumpings to culminate the season as top dog.