Heywood warmed up for the JW Lees Wood Cup final with a well-deserved four-wicket victory at Hare Hill
On a difficult wicket for the batsmen, pro Travis Townsend was the headliner with the ball against the talented Littleborough batting line-up, taking 6-29 off 15.5 accurate overs.
Then, faced with some fine slow bowling from Chris Schofield, Phil Deakin and old-stager Mo Bux, Ross Zelem followed up his 96 against Middleton with a mature 37 that set his side up for a welcome five points over one of the favourites for the CLL title.
It was always going to be a good toss to win on a frankly sub-standard pitch, and Humza Naeem showed he is getting better and better with a great opening spell.
He got a wicket off the first ball of his first over, trapping Joe Smith-Butler lbw, then had veteran Jon Henderson caught off a skier, with Andy Dawson taking an excellent running catch over his head at mid-on to make it 12-2.
Naeem finished with 2-18 off seven hostile overs, before Townsend took over.
He bowled towards the park end of the ground, where water had seeped on to the wicket, and made the ball jump from a length.
He accounted for the dangerous Clinton Perren, caught at slip by Zelem for 13, and then trapped leading amateur Schofield lbw when on 30. Schofield had survived a more blatant-looking appeal the over before.
Wickets fell steadily, with Townsend getting Phil Deakin, J Barnes, John Stimpson and Mo Bux, while Joe Lovell and Chris Kaye picked up a wicket apiece as Boro were all out for 121.
It was obvious it was going to be hard work for Heywood, and so it proved as Zelem and Cross dug in against an accurate home attack that is taylor-made for sticky wickets and slow outfields.
Schofield was a particular thorn in the side of the Heywood batsmen, but Cross played an aggressive innings in the context of the match, as usual using the crease to full effect.
He was eventually adjuged lbw to Schofield for 37 with the score on 44, and when he went Zelem took up the role of major run scorer.
The young opener picked up line and length well, and one particular shot off Schofield – when he rocked back and pulled him through midwicket for four – was indicative of his control of the conditions.
He looked set to lead Heywood to victory until he unfortunately clipped one straight to Barnes at short leg on 37, and when he went a little bit of a panic set in.
Townsend had already gone, bowled trying to hit Schofield off a length, and while Danny Pawson set himself for the long haul, Heywood lost Andy Dawson, Wes Hunt and Dom Fawcett as the experienced Boro attack smelled blood.
But Pawson and Riley Paterson stayed calm, playing back a few maidens until Pawson received the balls to hit that took Heywood over the line and to 122-6 with four overs remaining. It was a wholly responsible knock from Pawson, and one which showed growing maturity.
This really was an excellent all-round performance from Heywood against a team who could not have picked a better pitch for their experienced side to play on.
J Henderson c Dawson b Naeem 5
J Smith-Butler lbw b Naeem 1
C Perren c Zelem b Townsend 13
C Schofield lbw b Townsend 30
C McDonnell c Pawson b Kaye 6
P Deakin c Kaye b Townsend 2
C Rushton c Hunt b Lovell 25
J Barnes c Lovell b Townsend 0
J Stimpson c Hunt b Townsend 3
J Roche not out 15
M Bux c Hunt b Townsend 4
Total (42.5 overs) 121
Fall of wickets: 1-2, 2-12, 3-46, 4-64, 5-68, 6-72, 7-76, 8-98, 9-102, 10-121
Bowling: Paterson 6-0-16-0, Naeem 7-1-18-2, Townsend 15.5-6-29-6, Kaye 9-0-42-1, Lovell 5-1-14-1
R Cross lbw b Schofield 37
R Zelem c Barnes b Schofield 37
T Townsend b Schofield 5
D Pawson not out 25
A Dawson c Schofield b Bux 8
W Hunt c Perren b Schofield 0
D Fawcett c and b Bux 0
R Paterson not out 0
Total (for 6 wkts, 46 overs) 122
Fall of wickets: 1-44, 2-73, 3-90, 4-103, 5-105, 6-107
Bowling: Bux 11-3-28-2, Stimpson 6-0-19-0, Schofield 19-4-47-4, Deakin 10-3-24-0
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