Cheers emanated from the Heywood CC pavilion as Wes Hunt hit the runs needed for Heywood to claim a point from the visit of Walsden to Crimble.
Whether they were ironic or sincere, it was hard to tell, perhaps different things to different people, but in a game where Heywood were outplayed by an on-song and powerful Walsden side, the bonus point won for reaching 75 per cent of the visitors’ total was perhaps not such a bad result.
In a match reduced to 32 overs because of problems with parts of the newly-laid Heywood square, Walsden batted well to set a target of 170 for Heywood, this in only 31 overs as Heywood had been deemed to have failed to bowl at the required over rate, meaning, too, that should Walsden win they would get five points even if they failed to bowl out Heywood.
Heywood were never in the chase after a slow start, and with the loss of Bobby Cross, pro-for-the-day Marty Walters and captain Danny Pawson with just 81 runs on the board and overs running out, it looked as though even the 127 runs needed for the point would be out of the home side’s reach.
However, Ray Baker – making his first-team debut after the late withdrawl of Liam Mason – hung in there as wickets fell and with 18 runs coming from the bat of Hunt, Heywood crawled to 128 and a bonus point and Baker was afforded a good reception for his battling, undefeated 36.
Walsden looked like scoring much more than their 169 after a good start from Jake Hooson and James Rawlinson saw off the new ball, despite decent opening spells from the brothers Dawson, Simon and Andy.
Joe Lovell took a bit of time to settle into his first spell of the season, but with Kate Cross at the other end again bowling accurately, they made life difficult for the Walsden batsman, Rawlinson being run out and Hooson being well taken by Dale Latham off Cross.
The runs did come at a steady rate, but Lovell in particular started bowled with more confidence and helped himself to four wickets, at one stage being on a hat-trick as he had Joe Gale well stumped by Pawson then trapped Nick Barker lbw first ball.
However, Matthew Dawson played particularly well for his 50, using the short boundary to good effect to hit a couple of sixes off Cross, until he was caught and bowled by Lovell.
Andy Dawson came back to bowl two accurate overs late on – claiming a deserved wicket in the process – and all-in-all, Walsden’s 169-8 seemed a very challenging, if not quite ungettable, target.
With Mason missing, Baker opened with Cross and the pair struggled to score against the accurate Walsden opening attack of Shackleton and Hooson, until Cross cut loose to hit Hooson out of the attack.
But Cross fell for 22, sharply taken by keeper Hanson off pro Karunaratne, and Heywood never recovered. Baker played solidly and did his best to rotate the strike, but Heywood were always behind the run rate and lost Walters to more good bowling from Shackleton, before Josh Gale bowled the spell that ripped the heart out of the Heywood batting.
It was left to Hunt and Baker – who had a couple of let-offs towards the end in an otherwise encouraging innings – to take Heywood to 128-7 and a bonus point.
Baker was undefeated on 36 off 31 overs and while some supporters questioned whether he had put some pressure on the rest of the batting line-up, others were just as impressed by his sticking power and technique in testing circumstances. Certainly, it was a determined and dogged effort, and an innings he should look back on with some pride.
It is hoped that pro Rob Nicol will finally arrive next week, something all supporters are looking forward to.
J Hooson c Latham b K Cross 39
J Rawlinson run out 30
U Karunaratne c Hunt b Lovell 9
M Dawson c and b Lovell 51
Joe Gale st Pawson b Lovell 10
N Barker lbw b Lovell 0
S Harkel b A Dawson 9
Josh Gale run out 3
S Barker not out 2
J Hanson not out 0
Total (for 8 wkts, 32 overs) 169
Fall of wickets: 1-60, 2-73, 3-122, 4-152, 5-152, 6-161, 7-163, 8-168
Bowling: S Dawson 5-1-25-0, A Dawson 10-0-40-1, J Lovell 11-0-58-4, K Cross 6-0-38-1
R Cross c Hanson b Karunaratne 22
R Baker not out 36
M Walters c Hanson b Shackleton 17
D Pawson b Josh Gale 13
A Dawson b Josh Gale 13
D Latham lbw b Karunaratne 1
S Dawson b Josh Gale 7
W Hunt b Josh Gale 18
C Booth not out 0
Total (for 7 wkts, 31 overs) 128
Fall of wickets: 1-32, 2-51, 3-73, 4-81, 5-82, 6-91, 7-128
Bowling: J Shackleton 9-2-26-1, J Hooson 3-0-19-0, U Karunaratne 12-1-41-2, Josh Gale 7-0-32-4
Heywood 1 point, Walsden 5 points.