THE champagne cork hasn’t hit the roof just yet but Read captain Warren Eastham is in celebratory mood after guiding his team to the Ramsbottom Cup final.
The party decor hasn’t yet been purchased, but club officials and representatives at Whalley Road will be awaiting the result in eager anticipation on Sunday, July 31st as the club has the opportunity of picking up silverware for the first time in seven years against Ribblesdale Wanderers.
It was 2004 when Read last won the Ribblesdale Cricket League title, and it was the season before that when they were last crowned Ramsbottom Cup champions.
And Eastham, who has won the competition twice, admits there’s a great atmosphere among the Whalley Road ranks.
“There’s a real buzz about the place and everyone is really excited,” said Eastham.
“We will go in to the final against Ribblesdale Wanderers as favourites and let’s just hope we can do the job. It’s going to be an exciting month for us leading up to that game as well.
“We are determined to pick up some silverware this season and this provides us with a fantastic opportunity.
“It should make for a great final.”
He added: “It’s a fantastic feeling to be in a final.
“I’ve been very fortunate in my career to have played in two Ramsbottom Cup finals and win both of them.
“But I think there must be seven players in the side that have never had the opportunity.”
Batting first on Sunday against Baxenden, Read made a staggering 307 with professional Stuart Hornby hitting a phenomenal 120. Jon Harvey added 46 in the early stages before Mohammed Jamal smashed 67 from just 32 deliveries. In response Joe Marshall claimed 5-28 to limit Baxenden to 225, 82 runs short of their target, despite the best efforts of paid man Babaar Naeem, who fired 113.
“It was a tremendous all-round team performance on Sunday,” said Eastham.
“To put 307 on the board and then bowl them out for 225 is a great achievement. Babaar Naeem got 113 and looked like he could win the game for them but when I bowled him it was like somebody had flicked a switch and then they just went in to meltdown. It was a horror shot from him and that acted as the catalyst.”
He added: “Joe Marshall took 5-28 off seven overs with his left arm spin. He’s developing at a rapid rate and he was man of the weekend for us. Stuart got 120, his best of the season, and three wickets and I took 2-45. Jon (Harvey) raced to 46 and put us in to the ascendency straight away. And then Mohammed Jamal smashed 67 off 32 balls. He hit six sixes and four fours.
“It was a fantastic game of cricket between two very good sides and it was nice to come out on top. We’ve got ourselves in to a final and there’s some young lads that are really excited about it because they’ve never played in one before.”
The calendar countdown has officially begun and it’s 26 days until the big day. However, Read have a league title in their sights and that’s their prerogative for the time being. Clitheroe were the victims at the weekend and now Read are just eight points behind leaders Barnoldswick.
“It was a cracking weekend,” Eastham said. “To be honest it’s the best I’ve seen us perform all season. We should’ve got more runs against Clitheroe and we were probably around 70 runs short of what we needed but everyone was up for the fight.”
Hornby was again in fine form with the bat as he added a half century to his weekend tally. Then, defending their 206-run total, Harvey took five wickets while Hornby added three more. Eastham and Will Driver also struck to earn a 40-run triumph.
Eastham said: “Our fielding was exceptional, our pro Stuart Hornby fired a half-century with the bat and then everyone else chipped in around him. Jon Harvey was also fantastic and he then took five wickets. The two of them were quality on Saturday but the team played well as a unit and with great spirit.
“We’d put a platform down to score 250 to 270 and obviously fell short but we always seem to get the bit between our teeth when our backs are against the wall. We ended the curse of the bonus points as well which was nice because it helped us creep up the table.”