ANOTHER highly impressive display from stand-in professional Tom Cullen took Heywood to the brink of a ridiculous victory at Norden.
The facts are that the Central Lancashire League champions elect eventually won by just six runs in a match regularly interrupted by rain on a squally day at Woodhouse Lane.
But it was a game that the home side dominated until the final moments, in fading light turning to almost darkness, and with the grey skies threatening to wash out the game at any time.
Norden cruised to 219-5 in an innings reduced to 43 overs thanks to half-centuries by their professional Danny Salpietro, skipper Simon North and Nick Brierley.
And Heywood did not even remotely look like even salvaging a point from their chase when they slumped to 76-6 with a series of insipid dismissals, including a pointless run-out of skipper Danny Pawson after a cavalier 28.
But the tide started to turn when Chris Booth joined Cullen, who had battled to hold the innings together, following two rain breaks which meant losing a further seven overs. The victory target came down to an impossible looking 191, and even a target of 143 for a point seemed highly unlikely.
Yet Booth played sensibly and impressively to support Cullen, the young Australian who grew in authority throughout. And at 122 with five overs left the salvaging of a point looked within reach.
However, another brief flurry of rain sent the players scurrying from the field again only for the weather to immediately subside. The brief break was to prove fatal for Booth, however, and he was run out on the first ball after the resumption for a creditable 19.
Simon Dawson came and went quickly for seven, including a first ball six, and when Adam Fawcett joined Cullen another 14 were needed for the salvaging of a point.
The Heywood duo managed to achieve that and things seemed done and dusted. Four points to a dominant Norden; a salvage act by Heywood. But Cullen had other ideas.
The Australian went after Norden bowlers Hashum Malik and Oliver Makin, although at 161-8 another 30 runs were needed from the final over.
Out of the question? Not in Cullen’s mindset! He smashed Malik for two big sixes from the first two balls, a couple to the cover boundary then another four through mid-wicket.
Now, at 179-8, it was 12 needed from two balls, and Norden breathed a collective sigh of relief when Cullen could manage only a single off the fifth.
Fawcett joined the party with a boundary from the last ball, making it 23 off the final over, and Heywood had fallen just short.
Norden, however, were in truth in control for most of the match and showed why they will probably add the title to make it a clean-sweep of honours this season.
Cullen, however, following-on from his unbeaten half-century the previous day to lead a victory chase against Walsden, underlined his talent and almost pulled off the unthinkable.
S Harman c Cullen b Paterson 7
D Salpietro c S Dawson b Kaye 66
S North c Cullen b A Dawson 52
N Brierley not out 53
O Makin lbw b A Dawson 3
S Pimm run out 13
M Williams not out 16
Total (for 5 wkts, 43 overs) 219
Fall of wickets: 1-12, 2-118, 3-137, 4-146, 5-173
Bowling: Paterson 8-2-23-1, S Dawson 12-0-49-0, Naeem 10-0-69-0, Kaye 4-0-23-1, A Dawson 9-1-51-2
R Cross c Harman b Malik 8
A Dawson c Pimm b Malik 5
D Pawson run out 28
T Cullen not out 77
D Latham lbw b Salpietro 2
H Naeem lbw b Salpietro 13
R Paterson b Malik 1
C Booth run out 19
S Dawson c Pimm b Malik 7
A Fawcett not out 9
Total (for 8 wkts, 36 overs) 184
Fall of wickets: 1-9, 2-14, 3-46, 4-52, 5-74, 6-76, 7-122, 8-131
Bowling: Humphreys 5-0-32-0, Malik 18-3-82-4, Salpietro 8-0-18-2, Makin 5-0-44-0
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