LOWERHOUSE suffered a hat-trick of defeats over the weekend.
On Friday night they lost their first Twenty20 tie at home to Nelson, before crashing out of the Worsley Cup to the same opponents the following day.
And on Sunday they lost top spot in the league after conspiring to grab defeat from the jaws of victory against Rawtenstall.
On Saturday, Nelson deservedly progressed to the semi-finals of the Worsley Cup, where they will play Church after a four-wicket win over Lowerhouse.
A fighting performance in the second part of the game was not quite enough after finding themselves in a seemingly dire position of 43-5 with Jon Finch, Jonny Whitehead, Chris Bleazard, Joe Martin and professional Francois Haasbroek back in the dressing room.
A sparse crowd greeted the players after the money, money, money of the previous Twenty 20 evening, Lowerhouse batted first and struggled against Richard Meade and Neil Thompson in particular. Thompson is not used much in league matches, but is having success in the cup competitions where five bowlers are required.
Using the old adage of good line and length bowling, he claimed figures of 3-15 from his allotted 10 overs.
Charlie Cottam and Fergus Bailey began to play some attractive strokes and added 83 for the sixth wicket. Joe Beneduce and Matty Walker continued to support Bailey, who finished with a deserved half century, and 169-8 represented a good recovery, but Nelson were still the hot favourites.
The visitors were circumspect in their response with Stuart Lemon and Peter Dibb happy to pick up the quick single and put any bad ball away. After being the most expensive of the bowlers, Nelson professional Luke Woodcock was the mainstay of the innings with an unbeaten 68, despite the aggressive bowling of his opposite number Haasbroek, who finished with 4-21. Woodcock was dropped with Nelson requiring 15 from four overs for victory, and the last chance of a complete Lowerhouse recovery was dashed.
On Sunday at Rawtenstall, Lowerhouse managed to lose a game where the Lancashire League rules for rain-affected reduced over matches gave them every advantage. Needing 95 runs from 30 overs, Lowerhouse crawled to 76 all out.
Rawtenstall were asked to bat in front of a worryingly sparse attendance. Even allowing for the cool weather conditions, it is a huge concern that only the social elements of Twenty20 cricket seem to attract any decent crowds to Lancashire League grounds these days. Most clubs are being financially supported by tied-in brewery loans and personal goodwill, a situation that cannot continue indefinitely.
We need an SOS to the league and member clubs to get their heads together to ensure that clubs do not go out of business.
The abandoning of replayed league matches to be replaced with a Twenty20 regional league with home and away matches and a finals day would be a start. The Worsley Cup on a four-team league format of say 40 overs would be another alternative.
Back to the game, Rawtenstall reached 113-7 from 39 overs as the rains came. The remaining 11 overs were lost and also a further nine overs of the second innings before the clouds dispersed for 30 overs to be played with Lowerhouse chasing the reduced target.
The Lowerhouse top order again failed badly, and on this occasion no middle order recovery was forthcoming. Andrew Payne bowled superbly for the home side but there can be little excuse for the abysmal batting performance.
Lowerhouse need to regroup quickly in readiness for the home game against Enfield next Sunday.
On Friday, Nelson professional Woodcock made 68 not out in his side’s 59-run win at Lowerhouse. Dibb added 34 before Haasbroek took a stunning catch off Matt Marquis, and Khurram Nazir made 23 as Nelson totalled 165-6. Thompson took 5-17 as Lowerhouse stumbled to 68-7. Whitehead (18 not out) and Paddy Martin (19 not out) batted out the overs to put on another 38.