Experience proved to be crucial in Sheffield Collegiate’s narrow victory over derby rivals Sheffield United in the Yorkshire Premier League opener at Abbeydale as Nick Gaywood and Ed McKenna led the way to a three wicket win with just eight balls remaining.
New skipper Paul Cummins won the toss and elected to bat on an unusually firm pitch for late April. He opened the batting with Dave Rodgers and the pair added 29 before Rodgers fell to a brilliant diving catch in the gully by McKenna.
New Aussie Nick Beneke came in to face his South Adelaide teammate, left arm paceman Jason Fisher making his debut for Collegiate, and although he only arrived 48 hours before he showed undoubted talent, as did Fisher in a fiery opening spell. Beneke reached 19 when he fell to a quite outstanding catch at mid-off by Tom Hancock off the bowling of Will Street who, together with captain Matt Dixon, put the squeeze on United as they slipped from 76-1 to 85-4.
Asrar Qadoos, making his first appearance after breaking his ankle in a freak fielding accident in last season’s opening day, quickly showed it had not diminished his talent by hitting 54 and sharing a 65 run fifth wicket stand with James Schofield, 24. The innings petered out somewhat after their dismissals and United ended on 181-7, Street taking the honours with 4-41 and Dixon 2-43 off 16 overs.
Collegiate looked set for a comfortable victory as the score reached 102 before the second wicket fell. Cummins then removed Gaywood for 51, scored off 131 balls, and caught and bowled Yorkshire starlet Billy Root for 21 as Collegiate slumped to 126-5.
McKenna then took control and when he was seventh out for 31 only four runs were required and victory came in the penultimate over.
Cummins completed a good first match for United by taking 4-51 from 20 overs and was not disappointed by the performance: ”We were about 20 runs short,” he said. “Collegiate held on to three magnificent catches and we put one or two down. I don’t like losing but considering we were three players short due to niggly injuries there was a lot to take from it.”
United are at home to Driffield on Saturday, who surprisingly held champions York to a high scoring tie last week, followed by a Bank Holiday trip to Castleford. Due to the ravages of the rugby season Collegiate’s scheduled visit to Rotherham’s Clifton Lane ground is to be re-arranged but they face title favourites Barnsley at Shaw Lane on Monday.
Matches start at noon all through the season and are of 55 overs per side.