Four Counties: Malik’s six makes for a thrilling finale

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New City ensured Division 1 leaders North Crawley wouldn’t have it all their own way in the season run-in, leaving it until the final over of the game to secure victory.

New City’s win brings the title race right back into the balance, with 15 points now separating the top three.

Rain on Friday threatened to put the game at risk, but Saturday’s sunshine allowed the entire Four Counties programme to go ahead.

New City skipper Kaival Patel won the toss and put in the reigning champions to bat, and after 22 overs, it appeared to be a bad choice.

The league’s top runs scorer Alex Walker had been dropped twice, and looked to be in good nick to go on to get a big score.

But the second half of the innings saw New City’s bowling attack suddenly burst into life.

Vishal Amratlal Valambhia bowled a tremendous spell to finish with figures of 4-18 as he tore through the Crawley middle order, while Amit Mulay’s persistence paid off as he ended with 3-32.

Walker’s 113 was undoubtedly the highlight of the innings, but with fellow opener Glenn Young adding 22, Crawley’s score of 165-9 was somewhat short of what they’d have expected at the halfway stage.

New City’s innings didn’t get off to an ideal start though. While both openers got decent starts, no-one took the game by the scruff of the neck until Mulay, batting at five.

But he was running out of partners, and the situation was made worse when Valambhia was bowled out by Carl Bryce, and Patel went LBW the next ball.

With overs running out, New City needed 26 runs from the final four overs, with just a wicket remaining.

After a couple of Mulay boundaries and some stout defending from Haroon Malik at the other end, the total became 18 from three overs.

But when Malik launched one into the sky, it looked for all the world that Crawley skipper Richard Bryce would take the catch. But while the ball nestled nicely into his hands, hit feet were over the boundary line, and a six was given.

It all came down to the final over, with New City needing seven to win. But when Mulay took a single off the first ball, many predicted City’s chances had gone.

After missing the second ball of the over, in an almost carbon copy of his previous six, Malik launched another into the skies, with Richard Bryce once again underneath it. This time though, there were no questions about it as it sailed over the boundary rope for six, sealing a sensational victory for New City, and a game skipper Patel described as ‘the best match I’ve ever been a part of.’

There was less drama for MK City though, as they cruised to victory over Eaton Bray by three wickets. Reducing the opposition for 122, John Iqbal’s 43 helped City to a relatively straight forward win (123-7) in 27 overs.

A fine batting display from Milton Keynes ensured Biddenham left with a 111 run defeat.

Nimesh Chavda hit 66 and Neil Gordon added 47 as MK cruised to 243-6 in the first innings.

After Biddenham made half starts at the top of the order, John Richardson’s fine 5-24 steam rolled through the lower batsmen, as the relegation battlers were reduced for 132.

Olney Town were hit hard by high-scoring Thurleigh, going down by 123 runs.

Chris Wood hit 98 at the top of the order for Thurleigh as they mounted a huge total, declaring four overs short of their allocation on 259-3 - David Livermore taking two catches and a wicket along the way for Olney.

It was always going to be an uphill task for the home side, but it wasn’t made any easier by some reckless batting. Wood added to his score by taking 4-12 as Olney fell apart at the seams.

But it appeared as though they might hold on, and they would’ve, had Thurleigh not given them an extra four overs to bat, as Olney were all out for 136.