HEYWOOD are back in the Greater Manchester Premier League.
They overcame a scare at the start of their 93-run chase to eventually complete a routine seven-wicket victory at Stretford.
Now they have their sights set on lifting the Division One championship when they entertain leaders Greenmount in a final game showdown at Crimble on Saturday (12.30pm).
Considering they have had to field a series of below-strength teams in the second half of the season, Heywood can rightly feel proud of regaining their top flight status at the first time of asking.
And for long-serving left-arm spinner Chris Kaye, his decision to answer a call to come out of first team retirement could hardly have gone better.
Another four-wicket haul, this time producing figures of 4-12 from 27 balls, made it 13 victims in the three games of his comeback.
It also takes his record total for the Club past the 900 mark – 901 to be exact.
Stretford were always struggling to post a competitive total in the face of a threatening Heywood pace attack of Simon Dawson, Danny Pawson and Travis Townsend, who reduced the home side to 69-5 before Kaye was introduced to administer the last rites.
The tailend of the home batting line-up just could not cope with him – No 10 Mark Stamper the exception with two fours over long-off – as he wove a web which produced more impressive figures.
Jack Morley chipped in with a wicket at the other end to send Stretford packing for just 92 with more than 21 overs left to set what seemed a conventional victory target for the visitors. But we were in for a rude awakening!
Andy Kerr went to his second ball from 15-year-old debutant Kamran Hussain, clipping the ball firmly and sweetly but straight and low to square leg.
And when Morley and Pawson soon followed to the youngster in successive balls it was 15-3, and a sizeable Heywood travelling support contingent were left wondering if the promotion celebrations would have to be put on hold.
But Bobby Cross, who came out to open the innings despite a sore hand sustained to a Townsend delivery while keeping wicket, was joined by the skipper to alleviate any underlying nerves.
Cross showed why he has scored a mountain of runs for the club as he steadied the ship, smacking Hussain for a glorious straight six and expertly sweeping Bradley Holmes for two fierce legside boundaries.
Townsend, meanwhile, overcame a sticky start to lend valuable support and produced a straight six of his own back over the head of Alex Grant in the gallop towards the finishing line.
It was a pity that Cross did not reach a deserved half-century as Townsend swatted the winning boundary, but his unbeaten 49 from just 58 balls was just another day at the office.
And Townsend stayed with him until the end to make 27 from 44 balls, and set up that appetising title decider with Greenmount. Don’t miss it!
A Harman c Cross b Townsend 27
S Chamberlain c Pawson b S Dawson 2
A Holmes lbw b Pawson 6
B Holmes b S Dawson 7
O Rankine b Townsend 14
O O’Malley b Kaye 4
A Grant c Pawson b Morley 3
A Muhammad c Kerr b Kaye 0
T Coulson c Morley b Kaye 2
M Stamper not out 11
K Hussain st Cross b Kaye 1
Total (28.3 overs) 92
Fall of wickets: 1-4, 2-22, 3-50, 4-50, 5-69, 6-75, 7-76, 8-78, 9-88, 10-92
Bowling: S Dawson 10-2-37-2, D Pawson 5-1-13-1, T Townsend 6-3-19-2, C Kaye 4.3-1-12-4, J Morley 3-0-4-1
R Cross not out 49
A Kerr c Stamper b Hussain 0
J Morley lbw b Hussain 6
D Pawson b Hussain 0
T Townsend not out 27
Total (for 3 wkts, 18 overs) 94
Fall of wickets: 1-4, 2-15, 3-15
O Rankine 6-0-26-0, K Hussain 5-1-23-3, A Muhammad 2-0-16-0, B Holmes 3-1-14-0, A Grant 2-1-14-0
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