In weeks and months to come, Heywood seconds’ victory at Middleton could be the seminal moment of the season.
If, and it’s a big if still, Roger Smethurst’s side become the first Heywood second team to win the title since 1984, a win against the odds against one of their biggest rivals may be the result that gave them the belief they needed.
Chasing Heywood’s total of 209, Middleton were well placed at the 25 over mark on 110 for one, needing just 100 to win with wickets in the shack.
But Heywood dug deep and excellent bowling from Sam Byrne, Lee Grogan, Rick Purser and – crucially – Adam Fawcett panicked the home batsmen and Heywood turned things around for a massive victory.
Smethurst admitted he had feared the worst on a good batting pitch, but never doubted that his side had the spirit to turn things around.
He said: “At the drinks break I thought things were looking bleak.
“But Sam Byrne and Lee Grogan really bowled well for us. They kept things tight and this meant that Middleton were always having to push.
“The key wicket was when Richard Fitton hit Rick to long-on and Phil Dawson took the catch. That was the turning point.
“The run-rate went up to seven an over, then Mark Buckley was run out and the belief was there.
“Adam Fawcett then bowled really well, his was the spell which really turned things around, and from then our spirit kicked in and we showed what we are made off.
“This was a massive win for us. We stuck with it, applied the pressure and did what good teams do – win against the odds.
“The lads were made up afterwards, and who can blame them?”
Heywood’s total – 20 or 30 less than Smethurst would really have liked – was built on an excellent partnership from himself and Wes Hunt. Smethurst has been in fine form for a while, but it’s only of late that Hunt has rediscovered his mojo.
Smethurst was eventually out for a fine 58 after the pair had shared a 108-run partnership for the fourth wicket, and Hunt fell soon after for an excellent 67.
Overs were running out and only Lee Grogan of the late middle order and tail really shaped up as the pressure of having to score runs quickly told.
As Smethurst admitted, on the usual brilliant Towncroft deck, 209 was always going to be difficult to defend.
Although he picked up three wickets eventually, Purser couldn’t find the early accuracy of the previous day, and Smethurst lost Maguire to a twisted ankle.
But with Grogan and Byrne in tandem Middleton could never quite accelerate and as soon as the inevitable wickets fell Heywood smelled blood and closed the game out in fine style.
P Dawson lbw b Valentine 26
S Dawson c Buckley b Valentine 18
C Maguire run out 5
R Smethurst c Foden b Bennett 58
W Hunt b Hughes 67
L Grogan b Hughes 12
A Fawcett b Buckley 3
C Booth c Ashley b Buckley 0
S Jones not out 1
S Byrne b Buckley 5
R Purser run out 1
Total (50 overs) 209
Fall of wickets: 1-28, 2-41, 3-58, 4-166, 5-190, 6-197, 7-197, 8-203, 9-208
Bowling: Buckley 15-1-53-3, Valentine 15-3-47-2, Hughes 13-3-60-2, Foden 4-0-26-0, Bennett 3-0-21-1
M Lee lbw b Purser 66
M Shahid c Grogan b Byrne 26
S Fitton c P Dawson b Purser 58
R Bennett c Smethurst b Fawcett 8
M Buckley run out 4
G Hughes not out 14
A Deakin lbw b Fawcett 0
P Baxter lbw b Purser 3
R Valentine c Booth b Fawcett 2
T Ashley not out 5
Total (for 8 wkts, 50 overs) 202
Fall of wickets: 1-66, 2-152, 3-173, 4-176, 5-179, 6-180, 7-185, 8-190
Bowling: Purser 13-1-47-3, Maguire 4-0-24-0, Grogan 13-2-55-0, Byrne 15-3-44-1, Fawcett 5-0-24-3
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