In the 42 year history of the BBS Primary Club Cup, there have been few finals as dramatic as the 2021 edition. On Saturday 4th September at the Northamptonshire County Cricket Ground first time finalists Northants Steelbacks faced cup holders London Metro, who had already lifted this historic trophy on 17 occasions as well as securing the 2021 BCEW National League title.
After choosing to bat first Northants got off to a bad start with Mo Ghalib dismissing both David Howells & Mark Turnham with the score on 18. Brothers Hassan & Asif Ali set about rebuilding the innings, but Metro struck again with the score on 47 as Justin Hollingsworth dismissed Hassan for 18. With Northants in serious need of a big partnership, Asif was joined by Gerald Porter.
The pair batted superbly together, Asif went on the attack, launching the ball to all corners of the ground as he found the boundary a dozen times, whilst Gerald calmly accumulated runs at the other end. Halfway through the 21st over their stand of 90 finally ended with Hassan Khan claiming his second catch to give the excellent Mo Ghalib (3-11) his third wicket & send Gerald back to the pavilion for 22.
Asif was dismissed soon after, for a career-best 82, it was Damion Corrigan who finally removed him as Mo Ghalib took a superb low catch. Dave Keeling was next in and hit a rapid 17 as part of a very important 28 run partnership with Dave Gavrilovic. When Keeling was out hit wicket off Rory Field’s bowling it was left to Gavrilovic, who had come to the crease with the score on 137/4, to add a few late runs as Northants finished on 187/7. Rory Field claimed his second wicket in the final over by dismissing Ben Stingmore, whilst Hugh Spence was left as the other not out batsman after surviving some testing deliveries.
At the halfway stage the smart money was on Metro, Northants knew they had managed a reasonable score, but probably not one that would be enough against a Metro lineup containing 6 England internationals & a soon to be Blind Cricket Hall Of Famer.
When Matt Dean, the top run-scorer in blind cricket this season, smashed the first ball of the innings for 4 Metro cheers rang around the ground, but two balls later it was Northants who were celebrating as their captain Dave Keeling deceived Dean with a turning delivery & Asif Ali took a very good catch.
This was the start of a phenomenal spell from Keeling, bowling from the Hugh Spence end of the ground, as he dismissed Justin Hollingsworth in his second over & Hassan Khan in his third, to leave Metro wobbling on 13/3 after 5 overs.
Despite Northants continuing to bowl well, including a very good over from Chris Ross, with Damion Corrigan & Nick Ebbeck together Metro rebuilt well & got ahead of the required run rate thanks to a mixture of power & precision, but then Dave Keeling returned! In his fifth over the Northants skipper removed Ebbeck for 22, before bowling Mark Russell in his sixth & final over. This meant Keeling finished with 5-22, the second-best cup final bowling figures in the history of the competition.
Halfway through their innings, Metro were 89/5, but from this point onwards Corrigan took a lot of the strike & rapidly accelerated Metro’s scoring rate. With the score on 108 Hassan Ali had Mo Ghalib well caught by Mark Turnham, before Metro seemed to pull clear as they reached 148/6, meaning they needed just 40 more to win with around 10 overs remaining.
The 21st over, bowled by Asif Ali, was a dramatic one, Mark Bond fell to David Howells’s third catch of the game & the very next ball saw Amit Amin dismissed as wicketkeeper Gerald Porter took his second catch despite a leg injury that had seen him replaced on the field for several overs by 12th player Claire Norman.
With Metro now 8 wickets down Damion Corrigan was joined by his captain Rory Field, they seemed to be steering Metro to victory when Eddy Claridge came on to bowl the 24th over before disaster struck for the Londoners. What looked like a routine single turned into confusion as Field turned for the second & found himself run out by Asif Ali. New batsman Ahmed Alesow survived two testing deliveries from Claridge to leave Metro on 164/9 with 6 overs to go.
With Damion Corrigan still at the crease, now 90 not out, Metro knew they still had a strong chance of victory, whilst Asif Ali was preparing to bowl his final over & the last over any of Northants’s frontline bowlers had left.
The tension was palpable as Asif ran in to bowl the first ball of the 25th over, it was a full-length delivery which took the edge of Corrigan’s bat before reaching the safe hands of Gerald Porter to seal one of the most unlikely wins in the competition's history. The reactions as Porter held the catch were a combination of delight & astonishment from the Northants players, a mixture of cheers & tears, the realisation that they had achieved something that most had never thought possible.
For his extraordinary bowling performance, Dave Keeling was awarded Partially Sighted Man of the Match, whilst Dave Gavrilovic was named Totally Blind Man of the Match. This was especially fitting as both Dave’s have played for Northants since the team’s first-ever season in 2005 & between them they’ve captained all but three of the side’s matches.
British Blind Sport Vice Chairman & Cricket Competitions Secretary Dave Gavrilovic Said:
“Everyone involved would like to thank The Primary Club for their continued support of this competition & of blind cricket in general, without them blind cricket wouldn’t be the fantastic game that it is. We would also like to thank Derek Styman & his team at Northamptonshire County Cricket Club for the brilliant job they’ve done hosting the final in this most challenging of years.”.