THE visitors from the Country Music Capital played the right tunes with bat and ball in the veteran cricket 50s carnival in Gloucester.
Similar to the previous weekend's event for the 60s, the home side was joined by eventual winners Tamworth, a Mid North Coast North and a MNC South side - as they played over two days as a precursor of a new 50s competition, the Doug Walters Cup.
With Ken 'Swampy' Garland producing excellent cricket wickets, the town saw some more quality play from some very capable cricketers.
Day one saw MNC North face the inland visitors on Gloucester No 1 Oval and were knocked over for 162 off only 33 overs - a fine run rate but certainly not to plan, with batting the overs always the key at any level of cricket.
Tamworth were flayed in the early overs but fought back well and were pleased to have everyone make use of the ball. Gordon Scott (16) and Tony Bransdon (recycled 44no) batted aggressively but Tamworth skipper Steve Wilson (4/16) and spinner Andrew O'Halloran (1/17) strangled the middle order and took wickets steadily, assisted by their team mates who shared a wicket here and there.
Dom Ashe (26) and Warren Preston (19) added to the tally batting lower than usual but the Coasties had a big challenge ahead.
Despite an early breakthrough, Tamworth's highly respected Chris Paterson (37), playing on the turf he grew up on as a local, led the way - supported by Gavin Bickerstaff with 22. The Coast lads made an inroad here and there but former Country keeper/batsman, Dave Marshall (33 ret) - in his veterans' debut, made light of the attack with a fine display as he and skipper Wilson (36 ret) took the game away.
The tail limped its way to 6/163 in only 30 overs for a convincing win. The North squad tried eight bowlers with Glen O'Brien grabbing 2/14 as the pick.
The other match on Gloucester No 2 saw the home side take on MNC South and after being in dire straits at 4/44 and then 7/95, they rallied through a strong lower order and posted a respectable 9/166.
Mark Coombes (26) showed excellent calmness as he guided the fightback. He was supported by Doug Turnbull (15) before very well credentialled tail-enders Brian Holstein (22no) and Paul Rosenbaum (25) kicked the score along. All of the South bowlers posed questions of the bat, with Mick Simpson (2/11) and Wayne Turner (2/10) doing well in supporting their team mates who grabbed one a piece here and there.
The South side, with a few oldies from 60s filling some holes, made it a measured chase against some good bowling and reached the target in the 36th over.
Warren McWilliams (23), Greg Boyer (25ret), Mick Koukoulis (19 ret), Mick Simpson (26), along with a dominant and aggressive Mark Barratt (37ret) saw the side home and into the final. Paul Rosenbaum showed his class with ball in hand as well and nabbed 3/20 with Graham Westley the only other wicket taker.
Day two saw Mid North Coast hit back against the home side who again had a troubled innings, but hung in after struggling at 7/79. An aggressive 35 from Niel Burley, batting in an unaccustomed lower position, and recycling opener Graham Westley (51no), helped Gloucester to a more defendable 135.
The Coastal Northies bowling group shared the spoils with a number grabbing wickets - Tony Bransdon (2/22), Darren Hall (3/22) and O'Brien (2/10) being the best.
At 3/29, with Rosenbaum (2/9) repeating his excellence from the previous game, the North were in a spot of bother but a strong middle order saw the game slipping away from the home side.
Gordon Scott (21ret), Darren Hall (21) and Jamie Hall (35ret) set the match up to be looking at an early finish but losing 3/1 saw the visitors at 6/120 and shaky. Bransdon (12no) steadied the ride and the North limped home at 6/139 but with overs to spare. Brett Radford (1/21), Brian Holstein (2/13) and Rob Lamb (1/12) assisted Rosenbaum as the locals fought it out.
The final on Gloucester No 1 saw a contrasting match with Tamworth posting a large total on the back of some excellent aggressive batting on a superb cricket wicket and a fast outfield.
With the MNC South lads battling second day recuperation blues and in the face of an onslaught, it was some effort to restrict the inland crew to 5/227. With the complete top six retiring, it wasn't till 152 that the first wicket fell. Paterson (recycling for 45 no), Bickertsaff (22), Andrew Stevenson (30), Steve Allen (30), Marshall (35) and Wilson (35) all showed their class and ability to plunder the loose ball.
They kept the run rate going but the South stuck at it with Greg Boyer (3/26) grabbing wickets towards the end.
Despite what looked a mammoth chase, the MNC side started steadily as per the previous match and at 2/86 at the halfway mark, they were still in it. Merv Bourke (recycled for 40no), Dave Relf (19ret), Boyer (31ret), Alan May (34) and a late flurry from Mark Barratt (20) and Everingham (22) saw the Tamworth lads looking at being chased down.
Ultimately they held their nerve and the South finished on 7/219, a fine effort given the quality of the opposition bowling and what was a tough total to haul in with wounded soldiers here and there.
A highlight was the coastal side having a number of their players battle fatigue and help the visitors in the field, as they were two players down from part way through the chase. Rich Rowlings (1/27), Wilson (1/25), O'Halloran (2/23) and Allen (1/24) all stuck to the task, while Stevenson bowled a tight 'death' over and sealed the win.
Tamworth were deserved winners after two days of fantastic cricket and all sides are looking forward to taking part in the Walters Cup, as well as looking ahead to the State championships in Orange in February.
James Laurie and his Gloucester community helpers did a superb job over the two tournaments for both 60s and 50s.
A big shout out also goes to umpire Grant Galbraith, who stood for all four days of the two events and local president Matt Higgins and Bryan Lambert, who also helped out with umpiring.
The veterans' scene has certainly been enhanced by this early season action and, with matches also being held across other parts of the State, players from all areas are looking forward to a massive year of mateship and cricket as they channel their Peter Pan.
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