Top-flight lift-off for Birchy’s boys

Derbyshire County Cricket club team head and shoulders 2009/2010 Dan Birch

Derbyshire County Cricket club team head and shoulders 2009/2010 Dan Birch

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Cynics who might have had a quiet chuckle to themselves when John Birch said ROLLS-ROYCE LEISURE were capable of winning the Notts Premier League (NPL) at their first attempt are laughing on the other side of their faces now.

For Rolls gained lift-off to the new NPL season by defeating local rivals, Kimberley.

What’s more, they did it without either of their two newly-signed professionals, Notts CCC bowlers Luke Fletcher and Ben Phillips, who were unavailable.

A cluster of fresh signings did figure in the three-wicket victory, however, with the most content among them skipper Dan Birch, son of club manager John, who made his predictions in last week’s Dispatch.

Big-hitting batsman Dan (32), who had a spell in first-class cricket with Derbyshire, has been persuaded to take over the reins as part of his dad’s Rolls revolution.

And he responded to the challenge with a fine knock of 51 (eight fours) from 58 balls that pointed the Hucknall side towards to their target of 206.

Adding satisfaction to his innings was the fact that it came against a Kimberley side he was plying his trade for last summer. Indeed he fired 619 runs for them at an average of just under 40.

Birch helped Rolls overcome the cheap, early loss of two other new recruits, Adeel Shafique and Liam Andrews.

The outcome remained in the balance as the visitors slipped to 94 for four and 123 for five. But then a polished partnership of 73 for the sixth wicket between Michael Millwood and Wasim Karim put Rolls in the driving seat.

Millwood, who has been snapped up from former champions West Indian Cavaliers, hit 42 (one six and four fours), while Wasim made 43 (two sixes and five fours).

The pair steered Rolls to within a dozen runs of their target, which was reached with more than 11 overs to spare.

Earlier, the Hucknall side had made an explosive start to their NPL debut by removing two of Kimberley’s frontline batsmen, Jon Terry and Bharat Popli, for ducks.

However, a third, Paldip Sidhu, was in mood to roll over and embarked on a thoroughly professional knock that carried his team’s innings.

Sidhu stroked 17 boundaries and ended up with 112 from 155 balls before he became a first catch for Rolls’s new, young wicketkeeper Shafique.

Support came from Dominic Brown (42), who shared a stand worth 131 runs for the fourth wicket that lifted Kimberley from 38 for three to 169 for four.

Of the Rolls bowlers, two more new faces formed an exciting new-ball duo, with Tom Lungley taking two for 33 from 14 overs and paceman Adam Shepherd two for 59 in 13.

Now the locals are ready for their first home match in the top flight tomorrow (Saturday) -- against Clifton Village, who were champions three times on the trot between 2009 and 2011.