Crimble has witnessed many, many magic moments in its 94 year history, but it’s hard to see how anything can have topped what the venerable old ground saw at home to Unsworth on Sunday.
Kate Cross, home-grown, an England star and the first woman to play in the top flight of the Central Lancashire, plotted and toiled her way to a barely believable eight-wicket haul to blow away Unsworth. She bowled an unchanged spell of 15.5 overs, rarely dished up a bad ball and thoroughly deserved the standing ovation she received from a delighted home support as she walked off with Unsworth dismissed for just 121.
The day was made even better for the youngest Cross as brother Bobby again proved he has no peer as a CLL amateur, hitting 63 to see his side home to a superb six-wicket, five-point victory.
But the day belonged to Kate, and it will remain in the memory of every Heywood fan who was there to see it. At a time when cricket participation is dropping, Cross jnr’s rise to prominence is a massive boost to the game, breaking down barriers and showing the increasing strength of the women’s game.
She has earned her place in the Heywood side on merit and hard work, and whether she likes it or not, is and should be a massive role model for any aspiring young female cricketer. We want a fair and equitable society where gender makes no difference, and we need to embrace fully the talents of Cross and her fellow women cricketers and show that cricket is a progressive and open sport and can lead the way.
The reaction of the Unsworth players to Cross’ eight for was fantastic to behold, standing to applaud her up the steps as she led Heywood off the field. No more will it be considered a ‘slight’ to be dismissed by a woman player, not that it ever should have been. Let’s hope Heywood are, at some stage, on the receiving end of a similar performance to show how far the game has come.
Back to the game, and it must be stressed that although Cross will, rightly, take the plaudits for her 8-47, there were significant contributions from the other bowlers and in the field.
Simon and Andy Dawson again bowled well and with little luck, Andy the only one to make a breakthrough thanks to a low catch from pro Rob Nicol at slip. The pair are beginning to look good with the new ball, and it can’t be long before they really rip through a team.
But Unsworth saw them off, if at a slow pace, before Cross struck. She picked up two wickets in the same over – a caught and bowled then a sharp catch by Wes Hunt – and with Joe Lovell bowling beautifully at the other end, she started to get on top of the visiting batting.
Lovell as usual bowled with control and accuracy on a good pitch for someone with his high action, and how he only ended with one wicket for his efforts, it’s hard to tell.
But bowling in tandem with Cross, he was able to create the pressure that Cross capitalised on.
She had some good fielding to thank for some of her dismissals, but she earned the wickets as she bowled a superb line and length and never gave the visiting batsmen any respite.
It looked as though skipper Danny Pawson – who gave the gloves to Dale Latham – was ready to take her off after four wickets and with Unsworth mounting a fightback, but Cross struck with the score on 104 to pick up her fifth, and from there she seemed to be full of vigour again.
Her seventh wicket was lbw, before the otherwise impressive Keyt swung at a short one and was brilliantly taken by Hunt on the square leg boundary.
It was a fantastic performance from Cross, backed up by a superb effort in the field, from the likes of Liam Mason and Hunt in particular. Special mention should also go to Latham, who was neat in general stood up to Cross, and Pawson for his increasingly thoughtful captaincy.
In reply, Mason fell cheaply before Bobby Cross and Nicol made the game look easy on a difficult wicket. Pro Chris Williams bowled really well and all the visiting attack nipped the ball around, but the pair played some great shots when settled.
Nicol showed some signs of how destructive he will be with a superb straight six and smash to long on for a maximum, before he got too adventurous and was bowled.
However, despite losing Pawson, Cross and Latham kept the board ticking over. Cross looked especially fluent, so it was a shock when he was trapped lbw for 63 just five runs short of victory.
This was a brilliant day for an excited Heywood crowd. Nothing is better than seeing your home-grown players do well, and in both Crosses, the Dawsons, Pawsons, Lathams and Hunts of this world, there is no shortage of local talent at the club.
But the final word has to be about Kate Cross. She looked tired at the end of the game, and long after the game ended she was seen strolling through the pavilion unchanged but with a well-deserved bottle of lager in hand. Where else can you see an England star act so un self-consciously? A lovely end to a fantastic day.
J Wiggans c Hunt b K Cross 16
A Gregoriou c Nicol b A Dawson 14
C Long c and b K Cross 9
J Keyt c Hunt b K Cross 38
C Williams b Lovell 5
A Arora c Hunt b K Cross 7
A Blake c Mason b K Cross 0
M Jehangir c Lovell b K Cross 10
A Taylor c Mason b K Cross 0
J O’Brien lbw b K Cross 2
L Richards not out 1
Total (44.5 overs) 121
Fall of wickets: 1-22, 2-43, 3-44, 4-59, 5-72, 6-72, 7-104, 8-109, 9-120, 10-121
Bowling: A Dawson 7-2-13-1, S Dawson 8-1-21-0, K Cross 15.5-2-47-8, J Lovell 14-3-35-1
R Cross lbw b Wiggans 63
L Mason b O’Brien 2
R Nicol b Williams 25
D Pawson c O’Brien b Richards 4
D Latham not out 18
W Hunt not out 0
Total (for 4 wkts, 32.2 overs) 122
Fall of wickets: 1-9, 2-62, 3-66, 4-117
Bowling: C Williams 13-2-42-1, J O’Brien 7-2-23-1, L Richards 7-1-28-1, J Wiggans 3.2-0-14-1, A Blake 2-0-4-0
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