Burnley’s Dan Pickup says that winning his first Lancashire League title as captain of the club will take some beating.
The 33-year-old was a member of the championship winning sides in 2006 and 2015, he has won the Worsley Cup three times and was a part of the record-breaking group that secured the quadruple four years ago.
But being crowned the inaugural winners of Division One tops the lot as they marched to glory at the expense of rivals Lowerhouse.
A four wicket win over Todmorden at Turf Moor sealed the deal as Burnley were crowned champions for the 16th time, becoming the second most successful club in Lancashire League history in the process.
“For me, personally, this is the best one yet,” said the skipper. “We won it pretty comfortably in the end in 2015, but this is a new league, a new structure and we’re the first team to win this top division.
“The standard of cricket in this division has been noticeable. We’ve been up against it every week, it’s been a really tough season. To come out at the end of it as champions shows that we’ve been doing something right.
“There’s never an easy game, it’s been pretty relentless, but we’ve never got carried away with the highs and we didn’t get too low with the lows.
“This is the first time that we’ve played the top 11 teams in the Lancashire League twice. This one will take some topping, especially when I’ve captained the side on top of it.
“It really will take some beating. It feels really special, I’m still pinching myself, but I’m glad it’s all over now.”
It was far from plain sailing for the champions, who had been reduced to 17-3 at one point having restricted their visitors to 134-9.
The West Enders, the only remaining side who could pip the league leaders to the post, had bowled Ramsbottom out for 117 at Acre Bottom.
The tension mounted. “It was horrible for a while; it was the least enjoyable game of cricket I’ve experienced for some time,” said Pickup.
“It was just so tense, everybody was nervous, you could see it in our performance when we lost a few early wickets.
“We knew what was going on at Lowerhouse, they had started to recover from a poor start to their innings. It felt like it was hanging in the balance for an hour or so.”
In the end the outcome was decided just as Pickup had retrieved his bat to replace sub-professional Ashar Zaidi, who had just hit 59.
A mighty roar erupted from the terrace, confirming that Jack Wynn, who turned 19 on Wednesday, had consigned Ben Heap’s men to defeat.
The teenager, who had completed his hat-trick when dismissing the top order of Jonathan Whitehead, Ockert Erasmus and Dean Barlow, took Toqir Hussain as his final victim to finish up with 8-26 off 12.4 overs.
Pickup, who saw the innings out when putting 15 runs on for the seventh wicket alongside Joe McCluskie, said: “The feeling once we had done it was really special. It was a feeling of relief more than anything else at first, but I loved it.
“We had been top of the league for a few weeks, there had been plenty of pressure placed on us, we knew we couldn’t slip up.
“The fact that you couldn’t afford to make any mistakes was always in the back of your head. We just tried to stay as relaxed as possible.
“It was quite a strange situation. I was going out to bat and I heard a roar behind me. At that point I knew what had happened, I knew we had won it, but I couldn’t really celebrate at the time. Once everything was done we could enjoy it. It was a crazy night.”
This was Burnley’s fifth league title in five seasons, their third of the Millennium, but it was probably their first without the appointment of a recognised professional.
Shadley Van Schalkwyk had been expected to be joining ahead of the campaign, but the South African cricketer was forced to withdraw after experiencing musculoskeletal discomfort.
Daryn Smit, Australian Jim Allenby, Neels Bergh, Leus du Plooy, Pakistani all rounder Adnan Raees, Imran Khalid, Mark Cosgrove, Dieter Klein, Tyron Koen, Chris Wright and Zaidi formed the tapestry of Burnley’s sub-professionals this term and they all played their part.
Pickup said: “It’s been wide open at times, we’ve done it after our pro dropped out before the season had even started, we’ve been up against it. With everything considered this title is extra special.
“Plans had been made over the winter and they were blown out of the water. You don’t know where you’re going to be with sub-pros, you don’t know what you’re going to get.
“You just have to see who is available week by week. David Brown has done a great job behind the scenes. He’s done a lot of hard work that people don’t really see.
“The lads we’ve got in have contributed massively to our success. We were fortunate enough to get in some top quality players and they’ve bought in to what we’re doing.
“It’s been a good dressing room for the professionals to come in to so the lads deserve a lot of credit for that as well.”
The squad, in tow with the second string, will be jetting off to Benidorm at the end of the month to celebrate.