What a fabulous game of cricket this was at Towncroft!
First, Heywood’s top order made hay on a perfect pitch against a laboured Middleton attack to rack up an imposing total of 292-7 off their 50 overs. Ross Zelem made a marvellous 96 and Travis Townsend pulled out his full array of strokes in an exciting 77.
But then both were upstaged by Middleton’s young professional Grant Edmeades, who, I must confess, played one of the finest innings I have seen at league level. He dominated a partnership of 123 with Scott Stanworth and then, with more than 100 needed and the run rate over 10 an over, the South African cut loose in devastating fashion after he’d brought up his hundred.
At this stage, he’d barely hit the ball in the air but now, with a century in the bag and some derogatory comments about his abilities from the Middleton supporters firmly stuffed back down their throats, Edmeades launched into the Heywood attack. He savaged the previously excellent Joe Lovell for 30 off one over – three fours and three big straight sixes – and treated the otherwise tight Chris Kaye to some punishment too as he moved from 100 to 150 in the blink of an eye.
It looked as though Edmeades was going to take his side to the most unlikely of victories as, in desperation, Heywood skipper Bobby Cross turned to Humza Naeem to try to stem the tide. And although Edmeades got hold of the young opening bowler for another big six, Naeem held his nerve, tossed in a slower ball, and Edmeades hit one straight up in the air and straight to Cross at extra cover.
At 241-6 with five overs left, it was now beyond Middleton and Heywood secured four points in the end by a comfortable 23-run margin. But no fans from Heywood would have been unduly upset had Edmeades carried on his assault and led Middleton home, such was the quality of the innings. The standing ovation from everyone in the crowd – a bride and groom included – showed how much everyone had enjoyed the 20-year-old’s masterclass.
Although this was the headline-making innings, the knocks of Zelem, in particular, Townsend, Cross and – lastly – Andy Dawson – should not be forgotten, nor should the spell bowled by Kaye. Nor should the five victims, including three stumpings, for Danny Pawson that proved crucial to disrupting the run chase.
Zelem had come so close to scoring a century in the first match at Middleton, scoring 94 in April, but looked destined to score his first century for Heywood here.
He enjoyed the pace in the wicket and scored runs fluently off both front and back foot, and a couple of times unleashed the pull shot to the slower bowlers, moving back quickly and purposefully to play the sort of stroke that sets apart the very best players.
He put on 96 for the first wicket with Cross, who was also powerful all around the wicket, before his skipper was well caught by Middleton captain Steve Davey at first slip. Townsend then joined Zelem and they upped the scoring rate with Townsend happy to use his feet to Foden’s left-armers and Edmeades’ leg-spin, as well as sweeping and reverse sweeping with abandon.
They put on 126 before Townsend went, and then tragedy for Zelem as he was run out going for a tough second. He fell just short of his century on 96, but the runs came easily on the eye and those three figures will come up soon in the league for Heywood. Why not in the Wood Cup final?
Momentum was maintained, and Andy Dawson entertained at the end in his unbeaten 27 to lift Heywood to a total that everyone thought was well out of Middleton’s reach.
That it was so close was purely down to Edmeades, who was simply brilliant. Kaye picked up four more wickets in 19 overs for 77 runs and was the best bowler on display again as he kept some control while runs were flowing freely from the other end.
But, ultimately, it was another example of what league cricket, if played properly is all about. It is now inevitable that Middleton will go down to the second tier of the CLL, which is a massive shame as a club as good as this with such great facilities should only always be at the forefront of Lancashire cricket.
Let’s hope their players stick with them and bring them straight back up for more games like this.
R Cross c Davey b Edmeades 48
R Zelem run out 96
T Townsend c Bennett b Edmeades 77
D Pawson c Shadid b Edmeades 15
A Dawson not out 27
W Hunt b Mahmood 1
R Paterson b Mahmood 11
J Lovell b Mahmood 0
A Fawcett not out 1
Total (for 7 wkts, 50 overs) 292
Fall of wickets: 1-96, 2-223, 3-242, 4-252, 5-254, 6-278, 7-278
Bowling: Mahmood 11-1-43-3, Holmes 3-1-18-0, Edmeades 22-1-147-3, Walker 4-0-21-0, Foden 10-0-63-0
S Stanworth st Pawson b Lovell 44
G Walker c Kaye b Naeem 4
G Edmeades c Cross b Naeem 160
G Jones st Pawson b Kaye 20
P Bennett c Pawson b Kaye 2
S Davey st Pawson b Kaye 1
M Shadid run out 3
S Mahmood b Kaye 10
M Foden c Pawson b Naeem 1
S Holmes not out 8
C Higginson not out 6
Total (for 9 wkts, 50 overs) 269
Fall of wickets: 1-8, 2-131, 3-173, 4-179, 5-211, 6-241, 7-244, 8-251, 9-256
Bowling: Naeem 10-0-63-3, Paterson 7-0-32-0, Kaye 19-1-77-4, Lovell 13-0-85-1, Townsend 1-0-7-0
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- Pawson Sets Tone For Heywood CC’s Fourth Win In A Row
- Tip-Top Heywood Start Wood Cup Defence In Style
- Zelem Finds Top Form To Overhaul Clifton
- Kaye And Slawson Hold Nerve As Heywood Win Thriller With Scorecard (Full Report And Pics On Monday)
- Jennings’ Late Burst Leaves Heywood Stunned
- Townsend Knocks Over Littleborough, Before Zelem, Cross And Pawson See Heywood To Five-Point Victory
- Cross Back To Top Form To Help Heywood Crush Middleton