ST ANNES’ six-match winning run was ended by resurgent Chorley in the Northern Premier League, despite Sri Lankan professional Dinuk Hettiarachchi’s best ever bowling figures for the club.
Having finished rock bottom last season, Chorley are genuine title challengers after crushing the leaders by 117 runs, dismissing Andy Kellett’s side for just 68.
Hettiarachchi took seven wickets three times last month and, as he told The Gazette last week, he had never topped that number in an innings during his three seasons with St Annes.
That all changed on Saturday, when the spinner wreaked havoc on his way to stunning figures of 8-56 off 24 overs.
Hettiarachchi claimed five leg before decisions, bowled two and saw Duncan Whalley pull off a smart stumping to dismiss Alex Weetman.
No.4 William Moulton single-handedly defied the Sri Lankan to make 90 off 93 balls.
Dropped on seven, Moulton fired nine fours and five sixes before he was bowled by Ben Willis’ third ball having looked odds-on for a century.
Jack Bentham (29) and Weetman (18) also batted sensibly to take Chorley to 185, having been 131-7.
St Annes’ opener Atiq Uz-Zaman hit the first 29 runs of his side’s reply before falling to a superb caught-and-bowled by Iain Critchley.
The Chorley left-arm spinner went on to take 4-31 from 15 overs after opening the bowling with Billy Smith, who took 2-14.
St Annes then saw all ten wickets go down for 39 runs, including the final six for 16, as pro Gaurav Dhar weighed in with 3-22.
Chorley’s razor-sharp fielding supported their bowlers’ efforts, Jimmy Lee claiming the final wicket with his first ball.
Opener Nathesh Kiruparan battled through 68 balls for 20 until he was eighth man out.
With the NPL campaign only just into its second half, Chorley have already amassed 25 more points than they managed all last season.
They have cut St Annes’ lead by eight points to 15 and are now the Vernon Road club’s closest challengers, having leapfrogged Leyland and Morecambe.
It was no surprise that Blackpool stopped the rot of three successive defeats on the day of Steven Croft’s first guest appearance of the season – but the shock was that the Lancashire star made a bigger impact with the ball than the bat in the six-wicket home win over Lancaster.
Ben Simm had the thrill of dismissing the Red Rose deputy skipper for just three runs, caught by Dinesh Ranga, having earlier been one of Croft’s three victims with the ball.
But a second prize scalp, that of Croft’s fellow opener Con de Lange, proved more elusive as the Blackpool pro went on to make 60 from 57 balls, including seven fours, as the home side powered towards their target of 160.
Croft’s 3-25 off 6.5 overs of spin was topped by Steven Mercer’s 4-31 as the visitors were dismissed with 13 balls remaining, the main contributions coming from No.4 Tim Barry, whose 42 included three sixes, and opener Michael Stevens (37). Besides Croft, John Mounsey and Andy Furniss also fell cheaply for Blackpool but unbeaten knocks from Michael Moore (33, including seven fours), and Alex Smith with a run-a-ball 35 saw the hosts home with over 13 overs remaining.
Fleetwood softened the blow of St Annes’ setback a little by holding on defiantly for a draw at Leyland, who began the day in second place.
The visitors had it all to do after Leyland piled up 240-4, the majority of those runs coming from a mammoth 150-run partnership for the third wicket between centurions Adam Coates and pro Brett Pelser.
Their stand was broken when Ryan Smith had wicketkeeper Coates caught for exactly 100 off 107 balls, which included 15 fours.
South African Pelser powered on to an unbeaten 104, which spanned just 91 deliveries and featured eight fours and four sixes.
The Fleetwood reply looked doomed at 99-6 but the final pair of Scott Richardson (16) and Kieran McGann, who saw off 21 balls without scoring, saw the visitors escape with a draw.
Fleetwood pro Ryan Smith struck four sixes and five fours in his 51-ball 65, while there were a couple of sixes in Adam Parker’s 43 and very valuable contributions from wicketkeeper Dean Bell (30) and No.9 Matt Jones (29, including four fours and a six).
It meant a frustrating end to the afternoon for Leyland skipper David Makinson, who took 5-42 from 15 overs.