Morecambe lose out in rain-affected thriller

Kelly Smuts starred with bat and ball for Morecambe at St Annes.
Kelly Smuts starred with bat and ball for Morecambe at St Annes.
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Morecambe played out yet another thrilling Northern League encounter on Saturday only to this time fall to a narrow two-wicket defeat at the hands of St Annes.

Tommy Clough’s side posted 160 with the Fylde-coast outfit chasing down a revised, rain-affected target of 148 for the loss of eight wickets.

Buoyed by their derby success on Bank Holiday Monday Morecambe were asked to have a bat at a damp and dreary Vernon Road.

The visitors lost Jordan Willoughby (1) early but looked to bounce back straight away as Josh Dixon (26) continued his return to form alongside the ever dependable Kelly Smuts.

The pair traded boundaries down the ground and took the Morecambe score forward at a rate of knots, not allowing the St Annes bowlers to settle.

The score was 60 when Matthew Grindley claimed Dixon as the first of his six victims that afternoon.

Despite the loss of Dixon, Smuts continued on his merry way timing the ball to all corners. Ryan Pearson (6) showed some resistance however Smuts found a partner in Lewis Edge (26) and the pair looked to put Morecambe in a strong position.

Smuts passed his 50 with consummate ease, however when nothing but three figures looked likely he struck a sweep from St Annes professional Toby Bulcock too well and only succeeded in finding the deep backward square fielder on the boundary rope, falling for a beautifully crafted 74.

The South African professional’s demise signalled that of Edge who fell shortly after to the superb Grindley who finished with figures of 6-42.

With significant changes to the Morecambe lower order continuity and confidence was an issue as other than skipper Tommy Clough (13 not out) they struggled to support each other as the visitors slipped from 134-4 to just 160 all out.

Despite this collapse Morecambe felt they had more than a chance and they struck instantly with Ayush Sharma removing Matthew Taffe for a duck.

Adam Holt (15) and ex-Preston professional Luckman Vahaluwala (58) had other ideas and began to move St Annes forward. Vahaluwala the aggressor nearly reaching 50 before rain began to fall and the players were forced from the field.

Morecambe looked to regroup on resumption of play and despite St Annes chasing a revised total of 148 and Vahaluwala passing 50, Clough’s men kept their tails up.

Their hopes were rewarded as Dixon took a smart diving catch to dismiss the St Annes talisman Vahaluwala as suddenly wickets began to tumble.

Excellent bowling from Smuts and Clough ensured St Annes slipped from 81-2 to 107-6 when Edge brilliantly ran out Thomas Bradley who didn’t trouble the scorers.

The scramble for pads in the St Annes dressing room was clearly evident when Nathan Bolus (12) was leg before to Clough and shortly after Mitchell Bolus (4) was clean bowled by Smuts and St Annes were in big trouble at 120-8, still needing 29 to win.

With the ball firmly back in Morecambe’s court they pressed hard for victory, however the experienced pair of David Watson (11 not out) and Michael Harling 14 not out) batted superbly well to see St Annes home despite the efforts of Smuts (5-84) and Clough (1-25) who beat the outside edge on umpteen occasions.