Where will Anwar Ali be this Saturday? That is the question uppermost in the minds of cricketers across the Ribblesdale League today and particularly in the minds of Clitheroe (top of the league), Read (10 points behind in second place) and Oswaldtwistle Immanuel Church Cricket Club who welcome Clitheroe to their teetotal ground tomorrow with two matches left in the title chase.
Ali has been the successful professional for Colne in the Lancashire League winning the Worsley Cup for them last month with figures of 5 for 22 in his ten over spell against Ramsbottom, the run-away League leaders beaten ony by three other sides so far this season.
With most Lancashire League matches being played on a Sunday, Ali has been able to ‘sub-pro’ for Clitheroe twice already this season and, unless Yawar Saeed has been on the phone, is signed to play in their final two matches.
Ali reminds Third Man of Malcolm Marshall seen here on YouTube …
He has the now orthodox straight run rather than Marshall’s angled approach, but much else is hugely reminiscent: the rhythmic acceleration on that approach which makes you want to watch him side-on, the explosion in the delivery with the right arm almost brushing the ground on the follow through, the chest-on action and the devastating late in-swing that makes you wish you’d stayed behind the bowler’s arm to trace its mesmerising trajectory, the 90 mph ‘hurry up’ yorkers or the steep bounce that keeps a batsman wondering whether he is about to be hit under the arm, high on the shoulder or full in the grill.
Best of all there is the same infectious joy in being able to do something extreme in sport. Ali talks and jokes with mid-off, getting his team mate to set him challenges. “Fast enough or faster?” “Yorker or bouncer?” In that coaxing rapport we sneak a look into the fast bowlers camp where, working in packs, the best stir each other to wilder feats.
In the 2006 Under 19 World Cup final in Columbo , Ali destroyed India’s batting, with a match winning 5 for 35. He has since played 38 1st Class matches taking 137 wickets at an average of 27.71 with best bowling figures of 6 – 54 and best match figures of 12 – 138.
Cardiff or Clitheroe? Third Man thinks he knows how the batsman at Ossi Immanuel would wish that question answered.
UPDATE SATURDAY 7.00pm: Put in on a wicket anesthetized by local guile and where a hockey stick would have been more effective than a cricket bat, Clitheroe wasted a good start of 51 – 0 to fade to138 all out. Oswaldtwistle Immanuel appeared to be cruising to a comfortable victory at 104 – 3 when Anwar Ali returned for a final fling. Finding both the range of his yorker for the first time that day and some precious reverse swing from a slingy action, he proceeded to take the remaining 7 Ossi wickets for 5 runs. With figures of 9 – 40 he had brought their innings to a close twenty runs short. Clitheroe remain 10 points clear and need just three points from their final game next Saturday to make it impossible for Read to overtake them.
Those watching today will think Mohammad Irfan a giant indeed if he rates selection before Anwar Ali.