BY STEVE McHUGH: HEYWOOD were challenged to make an impact on the Central Lancashire Cricket League title race before the current season began.
And the Crimble boys have responded in style with a 100 per cent record from their first three games unaffected by the weather.
Their latest victories over Royton and Middleton, two sides also expected to be among the leading lights, were built on the back of impressive batting performances.
Heywood amassed 243-6 from their 50 overs at home to Royton, only for the visitors to attempt a brave and at times alarming run chase before falling 18 runs short.
They should have easily topped that total at Towncroft the following day before ending up with 236, featuring a sizzling third-wicket stand of 151 between professional Travis Townsend – who blitzed his way to an exciting century – and Danny Pawson, only to then canter to victory by demolishing Middleton for 125.
The constant feature of both games was the 21-year-old Pawson, whose attacking stroke play brought successive half-centuries and underlined his undoubted talent.
Heywood were given an excellent start by openers Bobby Cross and Ross Zelem after being put in by Royton.
Cross galloped to 36 out of 57 until pulling a long hop from left-arm spinner Alan Durose straight to Matthew Hodson on the mid-wicket boundary. Then Townsend went for 29 with the total 106 when he somehow top-edged a pull down to the fielder on the third man boundary.
That brought in Pawson and, despite losing Zelem also for 29 four runs later, he made sure that Heywood would have a solid total to defend in a key fourth-wicket partnership with Dale Latham.
The 19-year-old Latham, brought back into the side following the surprise retirement of Steve Wallwork, provided the anchor while the elegant, left-handed Pawson took on the Royton attack at the other end.
So it was a surprise when, after a stand of 89, Pawson went for an exciting 61, dancing down the wicket to young left-arm spinner Callum Porteus and being stumped.
Latham went on to an impressive 30 before being run out going for a second run, and Lee Grogan added an unbeaten 22 as Heywood posted a total of 243-6 that not many visiting sides get near. But Royton had different ideas.
Despite losing opener Liam Mason bowled by Hamish Paterson for nine with the score 23, Royton never lost faith that they could make a game of it.
Chris McDonnell, the former inter-league captain who has joined The Paddock club from Oldham, benefited from a couple of dropped catches and threatened in a second wicket stand of 38 with Mohammed Zaman Khan.
The Pakistan professional eventually fell for 20 to a brilliant slip catch by Cross off Townsend, only for McDonnell to ride his luck and find another ally in skipper Durose.
At the halfway drinks break, Royton were well poised on 121-2. But two balls after the resumption McDonnell slapped Townsend to cover, where Joe Lovell took a neat overhead catch to send the opener packing for 51.
Durose and Tony Walsh carried on the fight with a stand of 45, only for Durose to swat left-arm spinner Chris Kaye towards mid-wicket boundary, where Townsend took another overhead catch.
Walsh continued to attack as Royton went for it, with skipper Cross dangling the victory carrot by keeping his spinners going.
That allowed 18-year-old new boy Lovell to cash in with a 4-44 return with his off-spinners by claiming the wickets of Walsh for 34, Good, Denny Hulme and finally Hodson for a brave 20 as the visitors finally fell just 18 runs short with 13 balls still left.
Townsend has been a revelation with the ball to date but it was his batting that really impressed at Middleton the following day.
Heywood, having decided to bat first on a ground where they have struggled in recent years, again looked under pressure when Cross and Zelem were sent packing with only 32 on the board in just short of the first 10 overs.
That, however, brought in Pawson to join the professional and the duo set about the home attack.
Townsend in particular got after left-arm spinner Dale Highton, the key to the Middleton attack, and reached his 50 off 49 balls in 50 minutes and his century from 99 balls in 109 minutes.
Pawson, meanwhile, stroked his way to 63, carrying on his impressive form of the previous day, as the partnership made the home attack look ragged.
So it was something of a surprise when, after they had put on 151, Pawson sliced a drive to point. And when Townsend was caught on the long-off boundary for 125, the rest of the innings subsided alarmingly.
The last eight wickets went for just 53 runs and, while Heywood would have gladly settled for a total of 236 before they set out, they had visions of getting towards the 300 mark at one stage.
The total certainly did not look unsurmountable in the eyes of the home supporters with an excellent batting track, a quick outfield and a run-scoring machine in South African professional Michael Smith. But Heywood rocked them back instantly.
Humza Naeem bowled Scott Stanworth with his third delivery, then Townsend – given the new ball in front of Paterson – cleaned up skipper Steve Davey and highly-rated youngster Grant Jones to leave Middleton struggling on 12-3.
While Smith was there, however, Middleton always had expectations. So it was a massive blow when Kaye came into the attack and lured the South African into a return catch in his first over.
There was no way back from 45-4 and Heywood kept the pressure on. Paterson produced an impressive first change spell to account for Matt Lee and Reece Jones, Cross brilliantly ran out George Walker and Lovell again cashed in at the death with a three-wicket haul as Middleton fell tamely for 125.
R Cross c Stanworth b Zaman 2
R Zelem lbw b Highton 13
T Townsend c Buckley b Core 125
D Pawson c Buckley b Highton 63
D Latham c G Jones b Core 9
L Grogan b Core 7
H Naeem lbw b Highton 0
J Lovell lbw b Core 4
H Paterson c Core b Highton 1
R Slawson not out 5
C Kaye lbw b Core 1
Total (48.5 overs) 236
Fall of wickets: 1-2, 2-32, 3-183, 4-215, 5-217, 6-217, 7-224, 8-229, 9-230, 10-236
Bowling: Zaman 8-35-1, Highton 22-2-94-4, Buckley 5-0-40-0, Core 13.5-0-64-5
S Stanworth b Naeem 0
S Davey b Townsend 8
M Smith c and b Kaye 19
G Jones b Townsend 2
G Walker run out 35
M Lee c Cross b Paterson 16
R Jones c Pawson b Paterson 1
D Core c Grogan b Lovell 18
M Buckley c Naeem b Lovell 1
D Highton c Cross b Lovell 17
Z Zaman not out 1
Total (37.4 overs) 125
Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-10, 3-12, 4-45, 5-76, 6-78, 7-91, 8-96, 9-124, 10-125
Bowling: Naeem 7-0-19-1, Townsend 6-1-21-2, Paterson 9-1-25-2, Kaye 10-1-29-1, Lovell 3.4-0-23-3, Slawson 2-0-8-0.
Heywood won by 111 runs
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- Travis Turns On The Style As Middleton Are Humbled
- Bowlers And Zelem Usher In Crushing Nine-Wicket Royton Victory
- Heywood Crush Werneth To Confirm Gulf In Class
- Heywood Struggle Again As Rochdale Ease To Second Win In 24 Hours
- Pawson Sets Tone For Heywood CC’s Fourth Win In A Row
- Heywood Ruthless In Demolition Of Ailing Moonrakers
- Pitch-Perfect Cross Makes Another Piece Of Crimble History (I Think)
- Senior Teams For The Weekend