HEYWOOD played their full part in a gripping J W Lees Wood Cup semi-final against Littleborough.
The facts are that Heywood lost by five runs in a thrilling chase after the talented visitors had racked up a daunting 284-3 from their 50 overs.
But both sides deserve great credit for the spectacle they put on before a big crowd in excellent weather.
Few people gave Heywood much of a realistic chance after the visitors, led by a masterclass from professional Clinton Perren, had run riot on the perfect wicket.
The long-serving Australian gave the perfect illustration of how to construct an innings in his effort of 121, his fifth century in his last six knocks, sharing an opening stand of 125 with former Heywood favourite Gary Hulme until the latter fell to a brilliant running catch on the boundary edge by Andy Dawson.
That gave visiting skipper Chris Schofield, the former England Test player, licence to unleash his attacking talents in a belligerent 75, while Perren motored on serenely at the other end.
They took toll of the Heywood attack in a stand of 130 until Schofield skied a catch to Bobby Cross, and Perren only sacrificed his wicket three overs from the end when he came out of his impressive comfort zone trying to hit out.
That Heywood managed to contain their target under the 300 mark was a testament to their unflagging efforts, and it set up a second half of the game that had the crowd on the edge of their seats.
Cross and Dale Latham laid the foundation for the run chase with a stand of 52 until Latham fell to a slick gulley catch by Phil Deakin, and that brought in substitute professional Jamie How – whose regular job is with Kendal in the Northern League.
Cross and the New Zealander dovetailed perfectly, dominating the Littleborough attack with a mixture of sensible batting and calculated aggression.
So much so that, when the drinks break was taken at 147-1, Heywood needed only a further 138 from 24 overs. Then the match turned inexplicably on its head.
The first ball after the break saw How, who had been so impressive beforehand, loft a skier from the bowling of Schofield to Michael Burns at long-off, and Cross went to a neat return catch by the ex-England all-rounder next ball.
When 16-year-old Ben Thulborn went for three just four overs later, Heywood had tottered to 153-4 after losing three wickets for six runs.
End of story? Not a bit of it, as Dawson joined skipper Danny Pawson in taking up the mantle. Both kept the pressure on the Boro attack, particularly with their aggressive running between the wickets, and, at 233-4, Heywood needed not much more than seven an over to pull off a famous victory.
Dawson, however, was another victim of a skier to long-off after making 32, then skipper Pawson was an lbw victim for a second successive day after a typically fluent 48.
When Riley Paterson fell to a return catch by Matthew Hodson the game was almost up at 250-7. Humza Naeem fell 12 runs later, Chris Booth was run out by a direct throw from the boundary to make it 266-9, and Chris Kaye came in to join Joe Lovell for the last stand.
They needed 15 from the final two overs and fell just short on 279 when Lovell was run out frantically trying to get the strike from the last ball of the match.
So Heywood’s grip on the Wood Cup is over. But they can reflect with great pride on their spirited efforts against a fine Boro outfit.
C Perren b Naeem 121
G Hulme c Dawson b Lovell 58
C Schofield c Cross b Dawson 75
M Burns not out 11
C Rushton not out 3
Total (for 3 wkts, 50 overs) 284
Fall of wickets: 1-125, 2-255, 3-274
Bowling: Paterson 10-1-49-0, Naeem 10-0-69-1, Dawson 10-0-64-1, Lovell 10-0-52-1, Kaye 10-0-45-0
R Cross c and b Schofield 73
D Latham c Deakin b Bux 12
J How c Burns b Schofield 60
D Pawson lbw b Perren 48
B Thulborn c Perren b Schofield 3
A Dawson c Schofield b Hodson 32
J Lovell run out 15
R Paterson c and b Hodson 6
H Naeem c Bux b Hodson 4
C Booth run out 1
C Kaye not out 4
Total (49.5 overs) 279
Fall of wickets: 1-52, 2-147, 3-147, 4-153, 5-233, 6-240, 7-250, 8-262, 8-266, 10-279
Bowling: Bux 8-1-44-1, Burns 10-0-50-0, Deakin 8-0-34-0, Schofield 10-2-50-3, Hodson 9-0-54-3, Perren 4.5-0-36-1
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