HEYWOOD revealed another side to their character as they ground out a third consecutive Greater Manchester League victory.
A five-wicket defeat of Brooksbottom at Crimble might seem a stroll at face value, but it was achieved with just eight balls to spare as the visiting bowlers stuck stoically to their task.
Heywood, led by a five-wicket haul for Jack Morley, had toppled the visitors for 138 after Moshin Iqbal and Paul Hopton had put together a first-wicket stand of 63.
And a victory target of less than three-per-over looked eminently gettable.
But the Heywood batting line-up found it tough to break free from the shackles imposed by the Brooksbottom attack, particularly impressive opening bowlers Moshin and Sam Emberton.
It was clearly a track where, generally, scoring runs fluently was not routine and wickets could easily have fallen in a cluster, so credit must go to Heywood for digging in.
Opener James Kettleborough followed his sparkling 98 in the previous night’s T20 win with 33 from 71 balls, and 17-year-old Mikey Witts – promoted in the order to bat at No 3 – impressed with 28 from 86 balls.
Professional Faisal Iqbal contributed 18 off 47 balls, but the Heywood batsmen were forced to tough it out and not give their wickets away in frustration.
Morley, however, was to make his second key contribution of the match with an unbeaten 19 off 37 balls, leaving Dominik Fawcett to smack a straight boundary over bowler David Brown to clinch the victory and finish unbeaten himself with 13.
Earlier, the Heywood attack had shown great resolve after Moshin and Hopton got the visitors off to a rapid start.
Moshin chanced his arm to anything pitched up and, helped by a couple of dropped catches, played the major role as Brooksbottom raced to 46-0 after just 10 overs.
The picture changed dramatically, however, once skipper Bobby Cross called up an all-spin attack of Morley and Faisal Iqbal.
They initially quietened the scoring rate before going through the visitors’ top order batting line-up, Moshin the first to go to the Heywood professional for 39 via a smart stumping by Witts – standing in as wicketkeeper for the unavailable Wes Hunt.
Morley then cleaned up Muhammad Rao and visiting professional Ash Gowers in the space of three balls as the complexion of the match changed dramatically, and when opener Paul Hopton was caught behind off Faisal Iqbal for a battling 24 it was 88-4.
Wickets continued to tumble to the spin duo and at 91-7 Heywood had visions of toppling Brooksbottom for around the 100 mark.
But Dom Gowers, brother of the Brooksbottom professional, kept his composure to share a 42-run eighth-wicket partnership with Richard Ernill until the latter became Morley’s final victim, concluding an excellent spell of 5-35 from his maximum 15 overs and being well supported by the professional’s 3-40 haul.
All that was left was for Simon Dawson to return to the attack to claim the final two wickets, Dom Gowers going for an invaluable 37, and Heywood looked to have a reasonably routine victory target. Or so they may have thought.
The pumped-up Brooksbottom side never let their heads drop and sensed they were always in with a chance of taking wickets as long as they kept control of the scoring rate.
The victory now puts Heywood on the heels of the Division 1A leaders with several key clashes on the horizon in coming weeks.
M Iqbal st Witts b F Iqbal 39
P Hopton c Witts b F Iqbal 24
M Rao b Morley 6
A Gowers b Morley 0
D Gowers c Kaye b S Dawson 37
K Ogden c S Dawson b F Iqbal 1
S Emberton b Morley 1
O Laker lbw b Morley 0
R Ernill lbw b Morley 10
D Brown not out 0
D Lyon c F Iqbal b S Dawson 0
Total (41.4 overs) 138
Fall of wickets: 1-63, 2-70, 3-70, 4-88, 5-90, 6-91, 7-91, 8-133, 9-138, 10-138
Bowling: S Dawson 8.4-2-29-2, C Hilton 5-0-30-0, J Morley 15-4-35-5, F Iqbal 13-4-40-3
J Kettleborough st D Gowers b Brown 33
R Cross c D Gowers b M Iqbal 9
M Witts b M Iqbal 28
F Iqbal b M Iqbal 18
J Morley not out 19
J Kaye lbw b Brown 4
D Fawcett not out 13
Total (for 5 wkts, 48.4 overs) 140
Fall of wickets: 1-22, 2-64, 3-97, 4-104, 5-118
Bowling: M Iqbal 15-2-44-3, S Emberton 11-4-17-0, A Gowers 8-0-27-0, D Brown 14.4-1-46-2
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