IT was only by a nerve-tingling three-run margin in a truncated match played in difficult conditions, but rarely can a victory have been so welcome at Crimble.
Heywood’s three-run defeat of Unsworth was only their second Greater Manchester Premier League victory of the season, but the crucial five points lifts them off the bottom of the table – and gives hope for the rest of the season.
And it was a display of never-say-die team spirit in the face of adversity that got them over the line when the visitors looked favourites for much of their run chase.
Heywood’s total of 114-8 from their 29 overs, after the ground crew had worked tirelessly to get the ground something like fit for a 3.30pm start, looked short of ideal.
Indeed, the visitors looked clear favourites at 90-3, with 25 needed off four overs, when skipper Chris Humphreys came back into the attack alongside his fellow opening bowler Simon Dawson. And then the drama really unfolded.
Humphreys’ first ball on his return clean bowled Jon Wiggans and his next delivery saw a brilliant stumping by Jayden Borg account for the dangerous Alex Blake.
But with West Indian Kevin Ramsay still at the helm Unsworth still looked in control until Humphreys stuck again, forcing the overseas player – then on 42 with the total 99-5 – into a skied shot which brought a fine catch by Andy Dawson sprinting in from long-off.
Panic then set in among the Unsworth tail as Jacob Ramsay and Steve McGuinness were run out in the last over bowled by Simon Dawson, with eight runs needed.
Only four were forthcoming and Heywood scraped through, a reward for never allowing Unsworth to dominate the run rate.
Jack Morley’s nine-over contribution of 1-14 from his nine overs was crucial in that respect, as was another run-out of visiting professional Christian Williams.
Earlier, Heywood had looked set to post a much healthier target when Borg and Bobby Cross got their side off to a brisk start.
But once the Australian went caught at mid-on off a leading edge for 22, and Cross was the victim of a ball that reared off a good length and he edged to the wicketkeeper in the same Ben Eckton over for 18, it was a constant struggle.
Professional Danny Pawson, Dominic Humphreys and Andy Dawson also made double figure contributions to give Heywood something to defend.
And defend it they did in gritty style!
R Cross c Judge b Eckton 18
J Borg c Williams b Eckton 22
D Pawson c Judge b Hall 12
D Humphreys c Williams b Wiggans 13
A Dawson c Eckton b Wiggans 19
J Lovell run out 3
S Dawson c Long b Wiggans 7
S Burrill st Judge b Wiggans 7
C Humphreys not out 2
Total (for 8 wkts, 29 overs) 114
Fall of wickets: 1-36, 2-40, 3-59, 4-85, 5-94, 6-100, 7-106, 8-114
Bowling: C Williams 7-3-11-0, B Eckton 8-2-42-2, J Wiggans 8-0-32-4, I Hall 6-0-28-1
C Long c Pawson b Morley 30
J Green c Lovell b S Dawson 8
K Ramsay c A Dawson c C Humphreys 42
C Williams run out 10
J Wiggans b C Humphreys 3
A Blake st Borg b C Humphreys 0
S McGuinness run out 10
J Ramsay run out 1
I Hall not out 1
B Eckton not out 0
Total (for 8 wkts, 29 overs) 111
Fall of wickets: 1-25, 2-60, 3-75, 4-90, 5-90, 6-99, 7-108, 8-108
Bowling: S Dawson 9-0-31-1, C Humphreys 5-0-22-3, J Morley 9-4-14-1, J Lovell 6-0-31-0
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