A sunlit Mineralwell park hosted the first match of the Grade 1 season when Stonehaven Thistle 1st XI welcomed Mannofield.
Despite being asked to bat on a very green wicket the STCC openers Milroy and Donald had 37 on the board after only 4 overs as the Mannofield opening attack struggled to settle. However with the score on 42 Donald left an innocuously wide ball only to see Shearer’s delivery rip from the seam and take off stump.
Keith joined Milroy and the pair pushed the score on until Milroy was caught for 32 trying another expansive shot, the skipper departing at 68 for 2. The Mannofield bowling was now tightening and saw Andy Wilson caught behind for 0, giving Shearer his second wicket.
Swapnil commenced a spell of tidy spin bowling which saw the departure of Keith for 13, the promising looking debutant McElarney for 10, Balisillie for 5 and Brian Campbell for 11.
The game was now swinging in Mannofield’s favour with STCC on 114 for 7. However the 8th wicket pair of Calum Findlay and debutant Damian Wathern made an impressive 40 run partnership before Swapnil claimed his 5th wicket when he caught and bowled Wathern, departing for the 1st innings top score of 34. Clive Hinchcliffe failed before last man Sives saw through the 45 overs with 2 no, leaving Findlay also unbeaten on 15. The STCC innings concluded at a respectable 162 for 9.
The sun continued to shine as Mannofield openers Johnston and Mitchell took to the field. However STCC pair Hinchcliffe and Findlay were immediately on their mark and skipper Johnston had his middle stump uprooted by Hinchcliffe for 5 with the score a mere 8.
This brought ex Scotland international Colin Smith to the square and from here the game took a change of complexion. After early scares on an inconsistent wicket Smith started to show his class, quickly replenishing the previous low run rate whilst partner Mitchell continued to cling onto his wicket.
Smith dominance then showed as change bowlers Wilson, McElarney and Keith were abruptly torn from the bowling attack, the 5 overs between the 3 going for 64 runs. Only Balisillie looked likely to make the break through but fortune deserted and Hinchcliffe and Findlay were once more paired in a last throw of the dice.
However Smith’s innings, whilst not faultless was powerful, decisive and dominant and of a bold style well deserving of an opening day ton, finishing unbeaten on 103.
His partner Mitchell finally found his timing and concluded the game on 39no with a 6. Mannofield clear winners, passing the STCC total in a mere 33 overs.
Stonehaven’s silver lining was a number of solid individual performances, as well as the warm sunny day, however the distinctive class of Smith shone brighter still. Stonehaven 1st XI are again at home next Saturday, entertaining Ellon, whom to best knowledge haven’t obtained any recent ex-internationals.
Match Sponsor : The Station Hotel