HEYWOOD are building up to a weekend that could define their Central Lancashire Cricket League season.
The side that swept all before them in the first third of the campaign have got stuck in the mud left by the summer monsoons, and lost their last four games.
So that adds extra importance to Friday’s Lees Bitter Twenty20 Cup quarter-final at home to Monton and Weaste (6.15), and Saturday’s Crimble league clash with Rochdale (1.30).
Heywood will not only be looking for revenge against a Monton side which sent them sliding to their second successive CLL defeat last Saturday, but the chance to make the July 22 finals day of the shortest form of the game.
They won the Twenty20 Cup in 2009 and showed in topping the tough North West Group from Middleton, Norden and Rochdale that they are capable of an encore.
Home advantage against Monton is also a big plus, but Heywood will certainly need to step up on their recent batting displays.
The clash with Rochdale probably takes on even more significance at the official start to the second half of the season, even though two rescheduled abandonments from the beginning of the campaign mean that there are still 17 matches to go.
Heywood are now four points behind leaders Walsden, who they still have to play twice, and two behind Milnrow, and will not want to give themselves much more ground to make up in the title chase.
But Rochdale, led by Sri Lankan professional Malinda Warnapura, are themselves only four points behind Heywood and will be a tough nut to crack.
Heywood easily won the reverse fixture at Redbrook on May 12, but Rochdale have settled into a determined unit since then and a win at Crimble would underline their title credentials.
Skipper Bobby Cross said: “The weather throughout June has had a big effect on our results.
“Before that, we were doing well with the bat, the bowlers were bowling nicely and everyone was really enthusiastic.
“Then we got all this rain. We keep turning up for training and it’s off, then turning up for matches and they’re off. I know other teams have suffered, too, but it’s certainly done us no favours.
“The disappointing thing for me at Monton was dropping four catches and letting them get between 15 and 20 more runs than they should have.
“It was a still, however, a game we should have won with a bit more nous and application with the bat.
“The Twenty20 match is not one we should take lightly, particularly with us being out of the Wood Cup. It’s an important part of the game these days and we are looking forward to it.
“The Rochdale game is just as vital. They are well up there in the league, so if we could beat them it would do us a lot of good.”
It’s a key time, too, for Heywood’s Second X1, who go to Redbrook on Saturday (1.30) for a clash of the top two teams in the table.
Heywood hold a nine-point lead in the Second Division so victory over their second-placed rivals, who have a game in hand, will put them in a commanding position going into the second half of the season.
Last Saturday’s clash with Monton and Weaste was washed out with the visitors 34-3 after 17 overs.
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