Mawdesley Cricket Club first team’s rollercoaster ride of a season took another twist on Saturday following a 22 run victory over a strong Hoghton side in the fading light and drizzle.
The day started well for the home side, as the opening attack made use of some seam-friendly conditions to make early inroads after Mawdesley were asked to bat first.
Chris Gibirdi, Nick Marsden, Matt Watkinson and Darren Lemarinel all found themselves back in the hutch with the score not having reached 30.
It was courtesy of some robust rearguard action from Dave Whiteley, and impressive striking skills of Dave Wilson, that the Mawdesley score began to turn respectable.
With Whiteley’s dismissal for 27 before drinks and Wilson (39) shortly after, the jitters were back among the West Lancashire men.
However, with some fantastic lower order resilience from Nathan Trengove (44) and Huyton (28) in particular, the score continued to tick over.
With a handful of overs to go, the Rectory Field men found themselves passing 150.
Neil O’Malley was the final man to fall in the last over with the score at 170 – an excellent recovery, and a very competitive target set.
The Hoghton reply started with an over of cricket followed by a period of frustration for both sides, as the players were forced off by rain.
At the restart, Lemarinel kept it tight from one end, and it was Trengove who made the first breakthrough, Watkinson taking a good catch at the second attempt to dismiss opener Abdulaziz Patel.
The early success set the tone for Mawdesley, and wickets were taken at regular intervals.
Hoghton found themselves not many more than 60-4, with their skipper Phil Hurst seemingly on a one-man mission to save his side, reaching a flamboyant half-ton.
Unfortunately for the home team, he was frequently left stranded by some poor shots and decision making at the other end, as O’Malley was rewarded with a pair of wickets, Gibirdi helped himself to a couple of catches, and Huyton claimed a smart run out to dismiss Tousif Patel.
With the final hour called by the umpires, Mawdesley were in sight of victory, and with Hurst the eighth man to fall for 89, the game was heading one way.
Watkinson and O’Malley rattled through a number of quick sets of six to up the over rate, but the tailenders were valiant in gloomy conditions.
The final wicket took a while to come, but in the final 20 minutes available, Gibirdi struck with his third ball, and a very smart catch by Marsden at mid-on to end Calum Roberts-Aldridge’s innings at 29, confirmed an excellent victory as Hoghton were all out for 148.
Promotion to the top tier of the Palace Shield is not yet out of the question for Matt Watkinson’s men. The top two spots in Division One are currently occupied by the respective second XIs from Vernons and Longridge but league rules dictate that they cannot join their first XI counterparts in the Premier Division.
That then opens up an opportunity for the next two eligible teams, of which Croston have already claimed one of the spaces.
That leaves one further seat at the top table for 2015 and the bun fight is still on for five clubs.
Such has been the competitive nature of the league this year, just 18 points separate Hoghton, currently in the box seat in fourth, and White Coppice in eighth position.
Mawdesley, Torrisholme and Eccleston make up the quintet of teams all battling it out for the remaining 24 points available in the final two games.
Mawdesley's second XI were left frustrated by the elements in their game against promotion rivals Wyre CC at Rectory Field.
A positive result could have secured the necessary points required to guarantee elevation into Division Five for next season but they will have to wait a little longer for that honour.
Play did manage to get underway and the hosts were well placed after 36 overs to amass a strong total.
Martin Lewis provided the backbone to the innings with 53 not out, skipper Jay Bethell chipped in with 37 and Kelvin Gibbons (15 not out) was just getting going as the rain brought the players off the field.
The home side had reached 125-4 at the stage but unfortunately that was the end of proceedings as no further play was possible and the points were shared.
They travel to neighbours Rufford this weekend in search of the three points required to make promotion mathematically certain. However, with Ingol still hot on their tails in the chase for the title, a maximum points win is still the necessity. That would then leave an intriguing final game of the season against Ingol, in a potentially ‘winner takes all’ clash for the Division Six crown.