Perhaps not unexpectedly the 70 degree temperatures of the previous few days gave way to cold and blustery weather as the Northern Premier League cricket season opened on Saturday. But this did not prevent some exciting cricket around the league and none more so than at Chorley's Windsor Park ground.
Chorley batted first and made an impressive 240-5 to which Lancashire Academy new boy Tom Smith contributed a magnificent 139 not out, an innings that contained 14 fours and five sixes. Skipper Jim Fazackerley chipped in with 57 and, despite Pieter Strydom's 3-50, Netherfield faced a daunting task. They got off to a good start and Craig Walmsley hit up a quick half century and then, arguably the best professional in the league, Pieter Strydom, set about the Chorley attack. He finished with 105 not out as Netherfield reached their target and secured 12 points at 243-4. It was sad not to see David Wheatman in the Netherfield attack and everyone connected with the League wishes him well for a speedy and full recovery.
Four of the other five games also ended with victory to the side batting second with the match at Leyland Motors probably the closest. Motors batted first and made a respectable 195-9 with Peter Cummings making a top score of 49 not out and wicketkeeper Phil Iddon making 30. Preston's stand-in professional Pierre Jobert took 5-59 and then he made 50 and with Pravel Shah making 49 Preston made 197-7 to win by three wickets with just one over to spare.
Darwen visited Kendal and made short work of the home side who at one time were only in the 80s with eight wickets down as only Simon Little, 35, showed any real resistance. Resistance by the last pair, Alan Fawcett, 15, and Richard Ellwood, 18, took them to a final 135 all out but this was not enough to prevent the Darwen juggernaut from posting 136-5 and a five-wicket win. Highlights of the Kendal innings were four wickets for Jeff Hacking, 4-11, and 3-43 for Keith Semple while Michael Horsfield took a splendid catch to dismiss the dangerous Terry Hunte for 16. Semple showed his all-round worth with 45 in the Darwen reply and Kendal's stand-in professional Ar Rehman took 3-43.
Fleetwood looked like starting well against Morecambe and were well into the eighties with only three wickets down but then last season's malaise, a late order collapse, struck again and suddenly it was 127 all out. New professional Lloyd Ferreira made a top score of 41, John Wright made 33 but only Steven Whiteside, 13, of the rest reached double figures. Morecambe's stand-in professional Nameen Khan took 5-32. Mark Woodhead then started the season well, as he so often does, and his 54 not out was the backbone of Morecambe's reply of 130-3 and 12 points. Phil Dennison made 30 in a fruitful opening partnership and David Fish took 3-49 for Fleetwood.
Geoff Love of St Annes showed that he has lost nothing of his guile from last season as he restricted Leyland to a modest 147-9 from their 57 overs with Vahawalla top scoring with 34. Love took 6-53 and then hit 43 in the St Annes reply. Stephen Twist made 62 not out and St Annes cruised home at 150-3.
The only game that did not produce a definite result was at Blackpool's Stanley Park where a drab affair petered out into a draw. Blackpool won the toss, batted and made 199 all out with Mark Lomas making a top score of 67 and Ian Dawson finishing the innings with a splendid hat-trick. Lancaster made no attempt to go for the runs and when time was called they had not even managed a batting bonus point at 139-5. Professional Renier Munnik made 40 not out and Tom Battarbee made a more enterprising 58 not out.
Scores in brief (home team in bold):
Blackpool 199 (Dawson 4-38), Lancaster 139-5 (Battarbee 55, Munnik 40*)
Blackpool 9 points, Lancaster 5 points
Chorley 240-5 (Tom Smith 139*, Fazackerley 57), Netherfield 243-4 (Strydom 105*,
Chorley 4 points, Netherfield 12 points
Kendal 135 (Hacking 4-11), Darwen 136-5 (Semple 45)
Kendal 2 points, Darwen 12 points
Leyland 147-9 (Love 6-53), St Annes 150-3 (Twist 62*, Love 43)
Leyland 2 points, St Annes 12 points
Leyland Motors 195-9 (Cummings 49*, Jobert 5-59), Preston 197-7 (Jobert 50,
Pravel Shah 49)
Leyland Motors 6 points, Preston 12 points
Fleetwood 127 (Ferreira 41, Khan 5-32), Morecambe 130-3 (Woodhead 54*)
Fleetwood 1 point, Morecambe 12 points
Second Division Scores in brief (home team in bold):
Darwen 189-7 (Heys 67, Bonner 48*, Potts 4-56), Kendal 94
Darwen 15 points, Kendal 3 points
Fleetwood 182-6 (Clarke 80, Singleton 46), Morecambe 176 (Gates 58*, Cupit 51)
Fleetwood 15 points, Morecambe 4 points
Lancaster (with 10 men) 195 (Sparks 108), Blackpool 196-7 (Bullen 70, Cragg 52*)
Lancaster 6 points, Blackpool 12 points
Netherfield 87 (Demming 4-32), Chorley 88-8 (Catterall, D 47*)
Netherfield 2 points, Chorley 12 points
Preston 133-9 (Bhaiji 45, Starkir 4-22), Leyland Motors 134-7 (Cartwright 87*)
Preston 3 points, Leyland Motors 12 points
St Annes 252-4 dec (Boucher 107*, Ashworth 87, Uphill 4-44),
Leyland 257-9 (Slater 75, Mercer 64, Mansoor 44*, Booth 5-69)
St Annes 7 points, Leyland 12 points