HEYWOOD suffered a chastening nine-wicket home defeat at home to Prestwich as they came to terms with life in the Premier Division season of the new Greater Manchester League.
The home side limped to 117 from just four balls short of their allotted 50 overs on what looked a difficult wicket to score fluently.
But the highly impressive visitors, who will surely one of the favourites for the inaugural title, put that theory to bed as they raced to their target with half their overs to spare!
Prestwich looked a well-drilled outfit. Their bowlers produced tight lines and were backed up by sharp fielding and slick catching.
And their batsmen, led by South African professional Marty Walters and opener James Wharmby, dealt with the Heywood attack with ease.
It underlined that Heywood, who were admittedly without key opening batsman Bobby Cross, have lessons to learn in the new set-up.
The first is to try to post competitive totals with the bat. In two completed matches to date, they have just about scrambled past the 100 mark. They got away with it at Denton West – Prestwich were not in such a benevolent mood.
The two Heywood batsman to emerge with credit were in particular 18-year-old Dominic Humphreys and Chris Thomas, the close season signing ironically from Prestwich.
Thomas was promoted to opener in the absence of Cross and Liam Mason and showed that he could well be worth a run in the slot.
After Andy Dawson had fallen to the fifth ball of the match, he was joined by Humphreys Jnr and the pair battled hard to lay a foundation, even though the journey to 40-1 after 20 overs had been a struggle.
But once Thomas went for a promising 19 the rot set in and the now familiar middle order batting collapse surfaced again. Only Humphreys Jnr, showing admirable grit, managed to hang in there as pro Danny Pawson, overseas amateur Jayden Borg, debutant Rob Bennett, Wes Hunt and Mikey Grogan went cheaply to leave the home side on 87-7.
Chief destroyer was Prestwich captain Andy Bradley with an impressive 15-over off-spin spell producing tremendous figures of 5-20, and it was left to Humphreys Jnr to complete a meritorious first half-century for the club as the carnage developed around him.
He eked out what looked possibly as if they might be vital runs in late partnerships with Jack Morley, his father Chris and Simon Dawson to at least get Heywood into three figures.
It made Humphreys Jnr’s contribution of 52 all the more worthy, and he deservedly earned a big reception from the Heywood supporters when ninth out at 104.
Heywood needed quick wickets when Prestwich replied, but openers Ryan Stanbury – who grew up in South Africa but is now a UK resident – and Jason Wharmby soon quashed those hopes.
Stanbury, also impressive with the ball when he opened the Prestwich bowling, tore into the Heywood attack and one tremendous straight six – which threatened the safety of the packed patio area – was a thrilling stroke.
Heywood did remove him for 18 on 30-0 in the sixth over, but only through injury. Stanbury fell to the ground as he attempted another big hit off Pawson yet only edged the ball to slip, where Thomas just failed to hold on to a difficult chance.
The batsman faced one more ball before retiring hurt with an apparent knee injury. But if Heywood thought that would give themselves a glimmer of a chance, they were wrong.
Walters, who has been a stand-in professional for Heywood in the past, joined the impressive Wharmby and the duo gave the bowlers no respite.
They coasted to 85 before Wharmby gave a catch off Pawson to West Hunt at mid-on. That, however, was scant consolation as Sam Holden joined the dominating Walters, the latter reaching his half-century just before victory was assured.
Heywood’s fielding was not unblemished, either, with a couple of sharp slip chances going down and a routine stumping missed off Morley.
One swallow certainly does not make a summer, but Heywood certainly need to find an answer to their batting woes if they are not to turn the season into a struggle.
C Thomas b Holden 19
A Dawson c Hudson b Stanbury 0
D Humphreys c Hudson b Holden 52
D Pawson c Wharmby b Holden 6
J Borg st Wharmby b Bradley 0
R Bennett lbw b Bradley 0
W Hunt c Gibson b Bradley 2
M Grogan lbw b Bradley 0
J Morley c Stanbury b Bradley 3
C Humphreys not out 6
S Dawson b Stanbury 5
Total (49.2 overs) 117
Fall of wickets: 1-3, 2-42, 3-60, 4-61, 5-63, 6-80, 7-87, 8-104, 9-104, 10-117
Bowling: R Stanbury 9.2-2-20-2, W Reeve 8-2-14-0, S Holden 10-1-26-3, A Bradley 15-3-20-5, Q Memon 7-0-29-0
J Wharmby c Hunt b Pawson 35
R Stanbury ret hurt 18
M Walters not out 55
S Holden not out 6
Total (for 1 wkt, 25.1 overs) 121
Fall of wicket: 1-85
Bowling: S Dawson 6-2-21-0, C Humphreys 2-0-17-0, D Pawson 8.1-1-28-1, J Morley 4-0-24-0, A Dawson 3-0-10-0, D Humphreys 2-0-15-0
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