Sep 292012

Great Season: Bobby Cross

BOBBY Cross believes his Heywood team can reflect with pride and frustration after finishing runners-up in the 2012 Central Lancashire League title race.

The skipper’s prediction that Walsden would be the team to beat proved to be spot on, as Heywood finished eight points behind the Todmorden area club despite losing only four league games all season.

Heywood won their first seven matches, but, following a Wood Cup quarter-final defeat at Milnrow, then almost inexplicably went on a four-game losing league run in June and July to Norden, Monton and Weaste, Rochdale and Clifton.

That, coupled with seven abandonments, was to come back to haunt them despite winning their last 12 games, all five-point returns.

“I said in April that I firmly expected this team to challenge for the title,” says Cross, “and I also said that whoever finished above Walsden would probably win the league.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t quite manage to catch them and that was down in no small part to the fact they lost only twice all summer, a remarkable effort from a very good side. It was pleasing to see a team full of home-grown players achieve success.

“For our part I was immensely proud with how the team developed and how everyone contributed at different times.

“The summer was fragmented by the weather and it caused us to lose momentum at a vital time through lack of practice and the rhythm of playing regularly.

“Taking maximum points in each of the last 12 games meant that we finished the season really well, but that four-game blip clearly cost us.”

Cross himself had another fine season and his 912 runs at an average of 48.12 means that he has almost certainly won the Sir Frank Worrell Trophy, awarded to the league’s leading amateur run-scorer, for a remarkable sixth time in 11 years.

South African professional Travis Townsend, who has signed for a second successive season, scored 740 runs at an average of 46.25 and took 42 wickets at 11.81 each.

But it was the team ethic that pleased Cross, and he added: “I was particularly pleased with the fact we had good victories away at Middleton, Rochdale and Littleborough, and the bowling performance of the season to roll Milnrow over for 24 was outstanding.

“The seam bowlers led from the front, with Hamish Paterson showing great character to spearhead the attack each week, ably supported by Curtis Maguire, Travis and Humza Naeem.

“The spinners would probably look back with frustration at their lack of opportunity, but, when called upon, Chris Kaye, Rob Slawson and Joe Lovell all bowled telling spells in important games.

“In terms of batting, Ross Zelem had a great season scoring 600 runs at the top of the order. And although Danny Pawson was frustrated by lack of time at the crease in the second half of the summer, he wasn’t far behind.

“Fielding wise we were good for most of the season, with some exceptional catching at times to support the bowlers.

“Travis had a good first season overall. It was a dreadful summer to be a batsman and yet, at times, he played some top quality innings and his 42 wickets were a real bonus for the team.

“There are still areas to improve, however. Attendance at training was fairly poor for various reasons – among them the weather plus work and Lancashire commitments – but the practice ethic of those that regularly attended was good.

“And the new nets proved an instant success and their worth was reflected in the strong finish to the season.

“All in all it was ultimately a frustrating summer for senior cricket, but to finish second is no disgrace and to be disappointed with it reflects the progress we are making and the ambition within the club.”

Cross now believes that Heywood can go onwards and upwards both on and off the field, and concluded: “I would give a huge amount of credit to the volunteers and supporters of the club for all their efforts in the build-up to the summer as part of NatWest CricketForce.

“It was an absolute pleasure to walk out on to the field at Crimble, and the constant improvement in facilities does give the players a huge boost.

“There are more plans for development of facilities and renovation, and I would urge all players and supporters to get involved with this programme of work in order that the ground continues to improve.”

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