Lowerhouse have taken the initiative in the race for the Holland Cup after bringing Church’s 16 match unbeaten run to an end at Blackburn Road.
The penultimate fixture of the 2013 campaign proved somewhat of a cup final with both clubs well in the hunt for second spot alongside Ramsbottom and Burnley.
The hosts were in terrific form and had crafted a sequence which saw them last beaten in early June. Furthermore, Craig Fergusson’s side had also been buoyed by the signing of the Lancashire League’s outstanding professional Ashar Zaidi from champions Accrington for the 2014 season.
Lowerhouse won the toss and in what was probably a marginal decision decided to bat first. After 11 overs ‘House had slipped to 32-3 with Jonny Whitehead (9), Joe Martin (0) and Jack Edgar (18) all out. However, the visitors reacted well to the adversity with Ben Heap (19) and Matt Walker (29) both having productive partnerships with man of the match Francois Haasbroek (57), the game’s only half-centurion.
From 104-4 at the halfway point in their innings the West Enders spluttered a little because of the regular fall of wickets but in reaching 194 all out they had a competitive score.
Church weren’t helped by an injury to pro’ Kasun Bodhisha who bowled only a solitary over. His influence on the batting side of his game was also limited as he was out in the third over of Church’s reply.
At the 25 over mark the home side had reached a decent score of 99-3. Top scorer Levi Wolfenden (39) went soon after and although skipper Craig Fergusson (34) played a brave rearguard knock, he was left shaking his head at the rash shots of his teammates.
Fergusson was last out at 151 leaving the ‘House with a cosy 43 run victory. Haasbroek took 5-48 and Paddy Martin bowled well for 3-35. With the news of Ramsbottom’s loss at Accrington, Lowerhouse had inherited pole position for their second ever Holland Cup win.
Meanwhile, Burnley kept the pressure on their rivals ahead of the final game of the season with a crushing win over lowly Rawtenstall.
The home side won the toss and elected to bat on a dry wicket and despite the early loss of Dan Pickup for four, it was left to inform wicket keeper Chris Burton and Qasim Ali to take the partnership over 60.
Burnley then lost a couple of quick wickets with Ali out for 43 and skipper Bharat Tripathi (3) soon departing. Josh Whitehead (30) joined Burton and the pair put on a partnership of 51. Whitehead was the aggressor until Burton departed for a well made 64 with 12 overs left and in doing so passed 500 runs for the season.
A couple of quick wickets fell and it was left to Michael Kelly (19) and Steve Brunt (20) to formulate a very competitive total of 220.
In reply Burnley opened with Paul Mortimer (1-30 off 7 overs) and 14-year-old Tom Lawson who took 1-17 off six overs on his first bowling spell for the first team.
Then spin twins Adnan Rasool and Tripathi ripped through the remaining batsmen after Rawtenstall had got to 50-1 off 11 overs but soon slipped to 80 all out. Professional Rasool claimed amazing figures off 6-15 off only eight overs and Tripathi cleaned up with 2-14 off seven overs to claim the full 12 points and move Burnley up to third place, only seven points behind second place Lowerhouse with one game remaining, away at East Lancs on Sunday.
Elsewhere, Lowerhouse will entertain Todmorden at the Neville Gee (Recruitment) Ground, while Ramsbottom host Church at Acre Bottom.