REPORT BY STEVE MCHUGH: HEYWOOD can reflect on their conclusive defeat by Walsden in the quarter-final of the Lancashire Cricket Board KO Cup as a missed opportunity.
Walsden struggled to 148-6 from their 45 overs, a target that looked well within reach of the home side.
Yet Heywood, after losing Bobby Cross and professional Rob Nicol cheaply, never really got to terms with the chase and eventually subsided for 117.
The scores suggest that it was not a difficult wicket to survive on but certainly tricky for the batsmen to score fluently, evidenced by the top individual score of the match being 37 by Walsden opener Josh Gale.
But the bright spot for the home side and an enthusiastic Crimble crowd was the performance of Jack Morley, believed to be the youngest ever player to make his first team debut for Heywood.
The 14-year-old, who celebrated his birthday only on June 25, is marginally younger than Cross and Tom Hardman when they made their senior bows. And if he was nervous it certainly didn’t show!
He was brought into the attack in the 20th over with Walsden openers Jake Hooson and Gale progressing comfortably, but brought his side back into the game with a mature display of left-arm spin that deeply impressed the home crowd.
He claimed the first three wickets – Hooson lbw sweeping, Nick Barker well caught by Shaun Burrill at long-on then Gale brilliantly taken by Liam Mason running in from the boundary edge – to finish with 3-25 from nine impressive overs and swing the mood of the innings.
Fellow spinners Joe Lovell, even though he did not claim a wicket, and Nicol backed him up to such an extent that the visitors dwindled from 98-1 with 15 overs left – and a total of 180-plus looking likely – to their 148-6.
It raised high expectations that Heywood could chase down an eminently gettable target, despite the nature of the wicket with the ball not coming on to the bat evident for all to see.
But Walsden are not such a winning machine for no reason. Their bowlers and fielders maintained their belief throughout, and opening bowler Jamie Shackleton struck two early if slightly fortuitous blows that were to prove vital.
When Cross attacked a full delivery outside the off-stump it looked certainly to be a boundary after the ball whistled over the infield. But instead it flew towards Joe Gale on the cover boundary and he took a fine, low catch lunging forward.
Then Nicol, after starting confidently, checked a straight drive and lofted the ball to Stevie Barker at a deepish mid-off to leave Heywood 21-2.
Wes Hunt and Danny Pawson repaired the damage to some extent, taking the total to 60, although the run rate struggled to get above three an over.
But Hunt, after battling so hard for so long, tried an ambitious sweep off visiting pro Umesh Karunaratne only to be clean bowled. And when the classy Pawson was yorked by Josh Gale for 20 to make it 72-4, most home supporters feared the worst.
So it proved. Only Burrill of the lower order batsmen reached double figures, his 21 containing a stunning straight six, and two panic run-outs of Lovell and Simon Dawson underlined the nature of the collapse.
Not Heywood’s finest hour overall, but one that may prove to be the first step on a long and successful career for a young left-arm spinner with so much potential. And he can bat, too!
J Hooson lbw b Morley 28
Josh Gale c Mason b Morley 37
N Barker c Burrill b Morley 20
U Karunaratne b Pawson 7
M Dawson c Mason b Nicol 19
Joe Gale c Lovell b Nicol 0
C Rushton not out 9
J Shackleton not out 1
Total (for 6 wkts, 45 overs) 148
Fall of wickets: 1-65, 2-103, 3-110, 4-125, 5-128, 6-144
Bowling: S Dawson 9-2-27-0, D Pawson 9-1-27-1, A Dawson 4-0-14-0, J Lovell 9-1-28-0, J Morley 9-1-25-3, R Nicol 5-0-18-2
R Cross c Joe Gale b Shackleton 4
W Hunt b Karunaratne 12
R Nicol c S Barker b Shackleton 8
D Pawson b Josh Gale 20
L Mason c Josh Gale b S Barker 13
D Latham b N Barker 1
S Burrill lbw b Karunaratne 21
A Dawson st Holley b N Barker 0
J Lovell run out 1
S Dawson run out 0
J Morley not out 4
Total (42.1 overs) 117
Fall of wickets: 1-9, 2-21, 3-60, 4-72, 5-83, 6-96, 7-98, 8-102, 9-102, 10-117
Bowling: J Shackleton 8-0-22-2, S Barker 9-0-27-1, J Hooson 3-0-10-0, Josh Gale 9-5-14-1, U Karunaratne 8-1-1-25-2, N Barker 5-1-14-2
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