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Phuket’s All Stars bowled over at ACG opener



Phuket’s All Stars bowled over at ACG opener | Thaiger

PHUKET: The eagerly anticipated opening of the Alan Cooke Ground (ACG) was launched in thrilling style recently when the Phuket Cricket Group (PCG) “All Stars” took on the oldest cricket club in Asia, Singapore CC, at Thailand’s newest cricket facility.

Heavy downpours the night before meant the new synthetic surface was still damp, making batting a treacherous task. Singapore won the toss and wisely gave Phuket the honor of testing the crease first.

However, before the game began in earnest, Alan Cooke MBE took to the crease and turned his arm over to deliver the first ball at the ACG.

Dave Thomas and Anthony Van Blerk opened the batting and made for the center, applauded from the pavilion by the faithful few to welcome a bright new era for Phuket cricket.

A lively pitch did not deter Van Blerk from opening in his usual aggressive manner, but he was soon ruing his strategy when caught out after skying a ball in an attempt to hit the first boundary.

Sameer Khan, 2011 PCG cricketer of the year, replaced Van Blerk and found the middle of his bat early to record the first boundary scored at the ground. Khan seemed to have found the measure of the pitch, just as he was bowled by a T Larbey for 20 runs.

Deepak Mehra and Thomas averted a potential collapse, but consistent line and length bowling from the Singaporeans combined with a slow outfield made runs difficult to score.

Thomas was eventually dismissed for 19 runs and after the drinks break Richard Folds and Mehra returned to the middle, determined to boost the run rate. However, Folds couldn’t make an impact on the scoreboard and was out soon after with Phuket struggling at 68 runs for five wickets.

Phuket’s remaining batsmen all failed to reach double figures, and the “All Stars” went in for an early lunch all out for 103 runs off 33 overs. Best bowlers for Singapore were S Bird with 3 wickets for 9 runs and A Moorthy with 2 wickets for 18 runs.

After lunch, Phuket took to the field knowing that such a low target to defend meant they needed to bowl out Singapore.

Prospects of such a lofty task took a positive turn when Diwan Mydeen cartwheeled B Hammond’s middle stump with his second delivery. Hammond returned to the pavilion to be forever remembered as the first player to score a duck at the ACG.

A fantastic Richie Desmond diving catch in the second over dismissed K Patel off Richard Folds’ bowling. With Singapore two wickets down for just 15 runs, an extraordinary win for Phuket seemed possible.

Khan was introduced into the attack to stem the flow of runs. He trapped V Jeyaratnam for lbw on 17 runs, followed by the lbw dismissal of M Byfield by Folds.

Kahn then struck with a direct hit and Singapore were five wickets for 43 runs.

R Frere-Smith and Larbey then scored the innings’ biggest partnership of 25 runs, until Larbey was caught by Stuart Reading off Khan’s bowling. Roly Cooper was introduced into the attack and his first ball sent P Salt back to the clubhouse seeing his team teetering on the edge of defeat at seven wickets for 74 runs.

M Seabright then joined Frere-Smith and nervously pushed the score along to 99 before being bowled by Dave Thomas, who followed this up with another great ball, bowling A Mahtani for a duck.

Singapore were now 99 for 9 needing just four runs for victory. Moorthy came to the crease and faced a cordon of fielders close to the bat baying for a final catch.

After another tense over, Singapore finally clinched victory off a wide ball down the leg side.

Best bowlers for Phuket were Dave Thomas with 2 wickets for 9 runs, Sameer Khan with 2 wickets for 15 runs and Richard Folds with 2 wickets for 18 runs.

On Sunday, another select Phuket team faced Singapore in a 20-over challenge match that was slightly more one-sided.

Singapore batted first and posted 224 runs for just four wickets. Phuket could manage only 112 before being bowled out.

Bill Stahmer, Phuket’s oldest player at 62 years, was the team’s top scorer with 25 runs.

After the match, Mr Cooke took the opportunity to show his appreciation for Singapore CC and all those involved with developing the ACG’s facilities.

“On behalf of the ACG and my construction team, I welcome Singapore CC. We are especially pleased to welcome our distinguished visitors for these first games on the ACG and our first international matches.

“I must take this opportunity to thank those members of the PCG who have worked hard to contribute to this day. I must recognize those individuals and companies who have provided services and expertise for the development of the ground,” said Mr Cooke.


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