GREAT Eccleston avenged their defeat by Vernon Carus in the Palace Shield Twenty20 Cup final with a league victory in another thrilling contest.
Vernons retained the cup thanks to Ian Dunn hitting two runs off the final ball and Saturday’s premier division rematch was another nailbiter in which the leaders prevailed by a single wicket.
Skipper Dunn was out cheaply this time but the visitors still reached 181-8 in 44 overs as Christian Ash made 51 before becoming one of Will Thistlethwaite’s four victims (for 23 off four overs).
Mohamed Nadeem, who scored 68 for Ecc in the T20 semi-final win over Longridge to set up the finale against Vernons six days earlier, top-scored again with 54 as the leaders edged home with their final pair at the crease after 40.3 overs. Richard McCutcheon did his best to deny them with 5-68 off 15.3 overs.
Ecc’s lead has been cut by a point to six after second-placed Penwortham trounced bottom club New Longton by eight wickets.
Garstang surrendered fifth place to Fulwood & Broughton, who beat them by seven wickets despite a superb 91 by opener Michael Walling for the visitors.
The Garstang’s skipper’s 64-ball innings included 14 fours and two sixes and accounted for the majority of his side’s 172 runs (Miles Mollinga 30), while taking his average to 56. They were all out in 34.1 overs as Chris Gunn took 4-29 and Matthew Rossiter 3-33.
Fulwood then sealed victory thanks to an excellent third-wicket stand between unbeaten No.3 Graham Smith, who made exactly 100, and Richard Turner (57).
Fulwood had beaten Fylde the previous weekend, but they bounced back to defeat Thornton Cleveleys in the Illawalla derby.
After TC had been dismissed for 154 with two balls remaining, the visitors sealed a five-wicket win in 31.3 overs.
Fylde leapfrogged their hosts, who are back in the bottom three.
Norcross remain second-bottom after a 32-run home defeat by Whittingham & Goosnargh.
Opener Munaf Bavla held the visitors together with 72 in their 41.5-over total of 163. Zubaire Patel removed him en route to 5-25 off 4.5 overs, while Michael Veitch chipped in with 3-30.
It was a similar story in the Norcross reply, with the No.1 batsman leading the resistance. But Sean Bovington found little support before being dismissed for 55 and his side subsided to 131 all out in 41.3. Sohel Master lived up to his named with 5-38 from 19 overs and Faruqali Saiyed took 3-32.
First division leaders Freckleton dismissed Croston for 53 on their way to a five-wicket win.
Only No.8 Steven Ramsey (14) reached double figures for the home side as Joshua Holden (4-15), Mark Rigby (3-20) and Daniel Fisher, with a stunning 3-4 off 4.5 overs, shared the wickets.
The Freck batsmen had their problems too, particularly facing Sam Marsh (3-19 off seven overs) but sealed victory after 14.2 overs as Gary Fiddler’s 16 proved the top score of the match.
Great Eccleston Seconds remain just three points behind after their five-wicket win at Fylde Seconds, where Robbie Hudson took 6-26 and Miyaahmed Lunat finished 46 not out.
After 12 games unbeaten, division two leaders finally suffered their first defeat, when fifth-placed Mawdesley claimed their prized scalp by a 52-run margin.
Yet another win looked a distinct possibility as Liam Smith took 4-44 off ten overs and Daniel Jardine 3-20 off 6.4 to restrict the visitors to 171-4 from 41.4 overs (Dave Whiteley 61, Martin Williams 35).
But none of the Shore batsmen really got going as Williams completed his fine day with 5-34 off 14 overs to remove the hosts for 119 in 42, No.7 Adam Pennington the top scorer with 23.
Kirkham & Wesham have finally broken into the top three on the back of eight straight wins, the latest by 44 runs at home to Whittle & Clayton-le-Woods.
The hosts were limited to 185 in 39.2 overs by some outstanding bowling from Abdulaziz Patel (6-46 off 11.2), with opener Anthony Harris (59) and Salim Bux (34) keeping K&W’s heads above water.
Patel continued to do his utmost to defy the hosts singlehanded, scoring 62 from No.7, but Whittle were all out for 141 in 35.1 overs as Mohmed Rafik Patel took 3-28 off 6.1.