The host’s went into the contest in confident mood having won the previous year’s three-match series 2-1 although it was the visitors who struck first in the opening game on Tuesday (Dec 28) with an impressive 31 run victory before the home side, buoyed by the addition of new players, ensured honours were shared the following day with a 2 wicket win.
With a strong bowling lineup at his disposal, PCG captain Curt Livermore elected to bowl first after winning the toss. Following some loose opening bowling it would have been the tourists who were the happier of the two teams before Waseem Mir found his range to reduce the visitors to 40/1 after 5 overs.
The following 10 overs saw PCG utilise their quality attack. Whilst Sami Pir began a tight spell to dry up the runs at one end, his bowling partner Dom Judge capitalised on the pressure by picking up 3 wickets in an excellent first spell as the score read 91/4 at the scheduled 15 over drinks break.
A change up in pace was applied following drinks to try and remove the tourist’s captain Asif Butt (63) who was quietly building a nice innings. Whilst the bowling of spin duo Livermore and Simon Wetherell made sure the run rate stayed under control and wickets continued to fall, the hosts would have to wait until the final delivery of the innings to get their man as Livermore held onto a catch at long-off to remove his opposite number from the bowling of Sajal Gaur. The visitors posting 192-all out.
Chasing a healthy, yet achievable 193 for a victory, openers Guddu Manoj and Stuart Hamilton looked to get ahead early. Unfortunately for the pair, however, they were soon back in the shed for just 2 runs-a-piece as the visitors demonstrated their class early in both the bowling and fielding departments.
Michael Rhys Thomas (10) and Michael Flowers (37) combined for some stubborn resistance before the former was bowled in the 11th over. Wetherell (0) was next to go in the same manner, undone just four balls later from a clever change up from standout bowler Saajidh. The host’s reeling at 59/4 by the end of the 12th.
Requiring a much-needed partnership to bring the home side back into the contest, Andrew McMillan (39) joined Flowers at the crease and the pair began to rebuild the innings with minimal risk as they capitalised on their speed and understanding in running between the wickets. The pair were looking good to see their side home before a timely wicket from Asif Khan in the 21st over triggered a batting collapse in which 6 wickets tumbled for a mere 33 runs, seeing the away side take a 1-0 lead.
Asif Butt’s captains knock of 63 from 62 balls earned him a clear man of the match whilst he was backed up by his bowers in particular paceman Muhammed Bilal who’s returns of 2-14 from his 4.4 over ensured he was pick of the bowlers.
Other performances of note included Hani Kahn’s 3-36 from 6 overs as well as Asif Kahn’s 3-32 from 5 whilst youngster Dom Judge made a nice return to Phuket cricket with a solid display of 3-34 from 6 overs in a losing cause.
With little time to lick their wounds, the PCG side returned to the ground in the morning looking to salvage a series draw whilst Pakistan Academy looked to finish the year strong with a 2-0 win.
This time it was Butt victorious at the toss with the Pakistan Academy skipper electing to try repeat the previous days performance in electing to bat first.
On this occasion PCG were much improved early on as Mir’s tight opening over allowed Seemant Raju to take advantage of the early pressure in the following over with a well taking caught and bowled. Mir would also get rewarded for his persistence in the 9th over, linking up with Rhys-Thomas at gully for a well-taken catch before Flowers would also link up with his namesake the following over leaving the visitors struggling on 69/4 at the 10 over mark.
After Flowers picked up his second of match, in trapping Azeem Butt (27) LBW in the 14th over, it would fall onto skipper Asif Butt (18). The batsman was looking good to repeat his heroics from the first match before Paddy Ledeboer took a smart catch at deep mid-wicket off the bowling of Livermore leaving the tourists 123/5 after 22 overs.
The following 6 overs would see the remaining 5 wickets fall for an addition of 51 runs as the tourists’ innings came to an early close once more, this time in the penultimate over.
Boosted by some big-hitting players in the middle order, the hosts would have been hopeful of chasing the 181-run target. However, it appeared to be a case of deja-vu as PCG batsmen Anthony Van Blerk (9) and Rhys-Thomas (2), perhaps channelling their inner Englishness, both fell cheaply leaving the home side in a precarious position at the 10 over mark with the score reading 39/2.
Opener Raju (41) was joined by Ledeboer (30) at the crease and pair immediately looked to rebuild in their own aggressive manner with the duo crashing 6 boundaries before the latter skied one into the hands of Zakir Kahn off the bowling of Saajid.
There was still time for Raju to strike one more blow before he too was bowled, this time by Hani Kahn. The home side will have still felt confident in securing the win as in-form Craig Morgan (32) looked to build a game-winning partnership with Simon Bailey (12).
The pair combined for a 56-run stand that brought the team total to 147/4 when Morgan was bowled by big-man Muhammad Bilal in the 23rd before Bailey was unfortunately forced to retire.
Sensing another collapse was on the horizon, the visitors pushed hard for more wickets and were rewarded when Jamie Robinson (2) and Richard Clarke (7) were both run out in the 26th over after a useful partnership, thus leaving the door open for an unlikely Pakistan Academy victory.
Fortunately for the hosts however, Flowers (3*) and Livermore (9*) combined for the remaining runs to ensure the hosts were able to rescue a series draw.
Man of the match went to Raju for his contribution of 41 from 41 balls as well as removing both openers with the ball.
Morgan’s 32 from 22 and Ledeboer’s 30 from 23 were crucial innings with the bat whilst Flowers seemed to have the Pakistan Academy firmly in his pocket with his spell of 2-29 from 5 overs bowled.
Michael Rhys-Thomas was the standout performer in the field with 3 catches to his name with a special mention to Sajal Gaurs pair of direct hit run outs.
Asif Butt was the tourist’s clear standout performer with the bat over the two games with his 81 from 83 balls faced whilst Saajid’s figures of 3-51 from 9 overs just edged out Bilal’s 3-40 from his 10 overs in the bowling department.
Sajal Gaur and Livermore were the pick of Phuket’s bowlers over the two matches with returns of 3-55 from 9 overs and 5-69 from 10 overs respectively.
Phuket cricket would like to thank everyone who made the effort to ensure the series went ahead and look forward to welcoming the Pakistan Academy back to our shores next year for another good-spirited tour.
This Sunday (Jan 9) sees the ACG host the Alan Cooke ‘MBE’ Memorial Match in what will hopefully become an annual event following the sad passing of Alan last month. If anyone would wish to get involved, please feel free to contact the ACG for details.