A TREMENDOUS double century stand between professional Rob Nicol and Bobby Cross set up an ultimately tense Heywood victory over Walsden at Crimble.
Walsden looked in the box seat when they posted a challenging 236-5 from their 50 overs, but Nicol and Cross – coming together at 7-1 – tamed the visiting attack to such an extent that at 226-1 with three overs left the result looked a formality.
But Nicol clipped another sweet shot off his legs only to send a catch to mid-wicket and went for a brilliant 111, which sparked a collapse that had the home supporters on the edge of their seats.
Danny Pawson and Dominic Humphreys perished for ducks, and when Cross was bowled by Joe Gale for another supreme contribution of 92 it left Heywood needing five off the last over.
A dot from the first ball by Walsden professional Umesh Karunaratne was followed by a Joe Lovell run-out off the second delivery.
Three legside byes came from the third ball, Shaun Burrill pushed back a dot ball and then took a single to bring the scores level, then Dale Latham kept his cool from the last ball – dancing down the wicket to hit the winning run back over the bowler’s head.
It climaxed a run feast on the day, with 473 runs being scored for the loss of just 11 wickets.
For Nicol, it was vindication of the batting talent that his CV spells out, and his jubilant celebration on reaching three figures underlined his relief at showing the Heywood followers what he is really made of.
He was positive from the off, dominating the visiting pace attack of Jamie Shackleton and Stevie Barker with the support of the irrepressible Cross at the other end.
When Karunaratne came into the attack to bowl his off-spinners, the New Zealander was both watchful and positive when necessary. And the partnership blossomed to such an extent that Walsden turned to seven bowlers in an attempt to stem the tide.
So the only negative for Nicol was when he just failed to see the job through, although the standing ovations from the patio and pavilion faithfuls for both himself and Cross underlined their appreciation.
Earlier, Walsden’s long batting line-up had set up what seemed, in most people’s minds, a winning target on the back of contributions by Shubham Harkal, Jake Hooson, Matt Dawson and Karunaratne.
Harkal rode his luck – John Keyworth thought he had him caught behind early on – with 39 out of an opening standing of 63 with Hooson before being bowled by Pawson.
Dawson and Hooson carried on the good work until a fine Pawson catch got rid of the latter, only for Karunaratne to come to the crease and inject real impetus to the innings.
He got after young Jack Morley in one over, although the 14-year-old’s figures of 0-49 from his 12 overs were still creditable, and with Dawson threatened to post an even bigger total.
But Nicol came into the attack late on to get rid of Dawson for 59 and Joe Gale, Nick Barker went to Pawson, and it was left to Karunaratne to complete an aggressive, unbeaten 82 – which included one amazing switch-hit for six over mid-wicket.
J Hooson c Pawson b Lovell 29
S Harkal b Pawson 39
M Dawson c Latham b Nicol 59
U Karunaratne not out 82
Joe Gale b Nicol 3
N Barker c C Humphreys b Pawson 6
C Rushton not out 1
Total (for 5 wkts, 50 overs) 236
Fall of wickets: 63-1, 91-2, 195-3, 207-4, 228-5
Bowling: C Humphreys 11-1-49-0, J Keyworth 7-1-29-0, D Pawson 10-0-52-2, J Morley 12-2-49-0, J Lovell 6-3-23-1, R Nicol 4-0-29-2
R Cross b Joe Gale 92
W Hunt b S Barker 2
R Nicol c Josh Gale b Joe Gale 111
D Pawson b Karunaratne 0
D Humphreys b Karunaratne 0
D Latham not out 2
J Lovell run out 1
S Burrill not out 1
Total (for 6 wkts, 50 overs) 237
Fall of wickets: 7-1, 226-2, 227-3, 227-4, 231-5, 232-6
Bowling: J Shackleton 5-0-19-0, S Barker 6-0-39-1, U Karunaratne 20-1-73-2, J Hooson 11-2-50-0, Josh Gale 3-0-16-0, N Barker 2-0-18-0, Joe Gale 3-0-15-2
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