Win keeps Forres focused on title
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In the penultimate game of the senior season, Forres hosted Northern Counties knowing that they needed to win to keep their title hopes alive.
Challengers Highland had already knew they had a walk over against Fochabers who were unable to raise a team. Having no game next weekend, Highland can now only sit and wait to see what Forres do.
Northern Counties won the toss and asked Forres to bat first. Derek Ross opened with Pal Dhami and the aim was to bat long, to build a platform for a big score. It was hard work with a long outfield which was damp after the weeks rain but despite this the Forres batsmen kept up the scoring rate with 44 on the board after the first ten overs. A change of bowling applied some pressure though, pressure which brought the wicket of Dhami who on 33 played a loose shot which was taken by Dugdale at slip off the bowling of Thomas. Steve Ryder replaced his skipper and there followed a slow period of play as both batsmen struggled to get the ball away. Northern Counties bowled well and kept Forres to only 13 runs off the next ten overs but the batsmen kept their heads and eventually the pressure was lifted as Ryder found his touch, getting off the mark with a boundary followed by a six. But Ross was getting bogged down and eventually it was a mercy when he was bowled by Dugdale for a solid 24. Gus Farr came in at four and immediately lifted things with his running between the wickets but after looking like he was up for runs he prodded at a delivery and was caught behind for 11. With 109 on the board and 33 overs used up, the home side needed to build on this start. Steve Barron was quickly into his stride, running the ball for singles to keep the score ticking over while Ryder consolidated but he took a chance which was gratefully taken by Lean at gully giving Dugdale his third wicket and missing out on his half century with 47.Fraser Merricks has seen his batting form return in the last few weeks and he didn’t disappoint again this week. He built a partnership with Barron at just the right time, taking Forres from a mediocre score to one which more reflected their dominance. With 150 passed, the Invernessians heads went down but Forres had more to add. In the final few overs there was a flurry of wickets, firstly Barron was bowled by Thomas for 17 and then in the final over Al Farr (8) and Jon Benn (0) came and went but Merricks kept things going as the innings came to a close with 188 on the board. A good effort from Merricks who finished with 32 not out and a good team effort from all the batsmen as Forres finished with a total which would be hard to beat. Dugdale took 3 for 49.
The Northern Counties reply was weak. Evans and Dugdale opened for the visitors with Derek Ross and Fraser Merricks taking the new ball for Forres. By the fourth over the only runs on the board were from wides and then Ross struck when Dugdale went for a shot which was caught by Merricks at gully: the ball was almost past him as he stretched out his hand to snatch the ball. Sean Thomas replaced the opener with three runs on the board. Thomas made little attempt to play a scoring shot and by the tenth over there were only eleven runs on the board. Then Evans played an uncharacteristically rash shot which popped up and hung in the air over point long enough for Jon Benn to eventually see it and pouch the catch. Nuwan Eshwara was next man in, a batsman who has given Forres problems in the past but when Thomas was trapped LBW by Barron it wasn’t long before Eshwara followed too, caught behind off Ross with the score on 30. Then the batting collapsed as Barron and Ross cleaned up the middle order. Then Adam Ferguson was asked to turn his arm over with astonishing effect. In his first over he took one for one , Donald bowled for 2, his second over was a double wicket maiden and then he polished things off with the first ball of his next over, finishing with 4 for 1 as Northern Counties closed on 40 all out. Derek Ross took 4 for 16, and how Forres have missed his bowling performances over the last few years.
This Saturday Forres host Nairn. A win will clinch the league title for Forres, something which looked unlikely only 5 games ago.
Sunday saw the Reserve side beat Fochabers by 150 runs with Tony Farr making 50, Jon Benn 89 and Gavin Ross 52. This Sunday they will be hosting Nairn Reserves in the Reserve Knock Out Cup Final, starting at 1pm.