LOWERHOUSE claimed the Fosters Lancashire League Championship for the second year in succession on Sunday in a thrilling climax to the season.
The West Enders earned a two-wicket win over Ramsbottom at Liverpool Road in a pulsating, fluctuating and heart-stopping game that ebbed and flowed in the sunshine.
It was fitting that in the club’s 150th year they should enjoy the double for the first time in the club’s varied history.
When you consider the players that the club has produced over the years who never won any silverware, including Stan Heaton, Brian Higgin, Alan Holden, Trevor Jones, Nick Hope to name but a few, and professionals of the quality of Mohinder Amarnath, Manoj Prabhakar, Evan Gray and Ryan Harris, it is unbelievable that in nine years the club has won five major trophies after 141 barren years.
The club have been in pole position from start to finish and thoroughly deserve their success.
It has been a huge team effort, with every player who has represented the team playing a significant part.
How does 2005 and 2011 compare with 2012? For many it is easily the best as a team of home-grown talent triumphed together.
To add to the day of celebration, a very young Lowerhouse second team clinched runners-up position in their league.
A day to savour for every Lowerhouse supporter.
Ramsbottom made it tough and deserve great credit for their part in an enthralling game of cricket, watched by the highest attendance of the season at the Lowerhouse ground.
All the Lowerhouse bowlers played their part in restricting Ramsbottom to 163-8, with Joe Hawke and professional Francois Haasbroek taking the majority of the wickets to fall.
The reply, led by Johnny Whitehead, reached huge peaks of peaks and troughs of delight and despair, but the Martin brothers Patrick and Joe saw the team home, adding 29 to greet tumultuous celebrations.
Accrington had been waiting on any slip-up from the West Enders, having beaten Burnley, who hit Lowerhouse’s title bid last Sunday with victory in the derby.
Accrington knew victory was essential to maintain any hopes of the title.
Burnley batted first and under blue skies started well and moved to 51-1 and then 76-3, with Steve Brunt (18) and Qasim Ali (26) getting identical scores from the previous day.
Then the visitors collapsed after a brief rain delay of 10 minutes which freshened up the pitch, which led to seven wickets falling for 28 runs.
A below par score never looked enough, but professional Adnan Rasool struck in the first over to offer a chance of victory, and when three quick wickets fell, Accrington were wobbling at 45-4.
Only professional Ashar Zaidi, who scored 57 off only 64 balls, mastered the Burnley attack, but the visitors were convinced he was caught behind the wicket when only just in double figures.
Accrington won by three wickets with Graham Lalor ending with 3-27 and James Capstick 2-9 off only two overs.
But Lowerhouse were not for letting their title go, and did the business.
The previous day, Lowerhouse beat Nelson by 18 runs and Accrington thrashed Rishton by nine wickets.
Lowerhouse had to fight at Nelson where the home side had the visitors 44-4 and 67-5 before Chris Bleazard and Francois Haasbroek led the fight back with a sixth wicket stand of 84 to turn the game around.
Bleazard faced 70 balls, hitting four fours, with Haasbroek facing 127 balls and three fours.
Substitute professional Luke Procter, fresh from his disappointments with Lancashire at Lord’s the day before, bowled impressively, taking the first five wickets to fall.
Aided by 40 extras Lowerhouse managed to reach 177-8 in their innings.
Nelson replied slowly against the bowling of Jonathan Finch, Joe Hawke and Haasbroek and lost early wickets, but the partnership between David Crotty and Procter was always going to determine the outcome.
Haasbroek broke through to dismiss Procter, and Crotty, aided by Lewis Bradley, provided strong resistance, but couldn’t quite win it for the home side.
Burnley, meanwhile, travelled to Colne on Saturday.
Colne batted first and Burnley soon continued their good recent form as the impressive Rasool (5-56) and Lalor (2-24 off 11 overs) reduced the home side to 19-5 and then 54-7.
There was then a partnership of 70 from stand-in captain Matt Walker (44) and Adam Holt (34) which pushed the total to some sort of respectability, until skipper Bharat Tripathi took the final two wickets.
Matt Tomlinson made his debut behind the stumps and took a catch in an encouraging first appearance.
In reply, Burnley, in the form of Brunt (18) and Josh Whitehead (13), took the score to 55 in only the ninth over, helped by a number of extras (there were 23 wides and three no balls in total).
The victory was sealed by Ali (26) and Rasool (26 not out) to ease home in only the 26th over with six wickets down.
Rasool ended a successful season by claiming a total of 95 victims, Chris Burton secured the most victims in the league with 39 and Ali scored the most runs with 558.