AN 11th club century by Atiq Uz-Zaman helped St Annes take advantage of Leyland’s inactivity to stretch their lead in the Northern Premier Cricket League with a 12-point win over Darwen.
Andy Kellett’s side were the only club to win at home in Division One – Blackpool were among the away winners at Barrow – as they clinched a five-wicket success with just a single ball remaining.
Darwen set a competitive target of 226-7 from their 50 overs at Vernon Road, with Alex Davies leading the way with a fluent 85.
The opener, who had spent the week with England Under-17s scored eight fours and two sixes in a 117-ball knock.
There was able support for Davies from Mohammad Zaman Khan, Gareth Cordingley, Jordan Clarke and Kamran Anwar, who all passed 20, but were unable to push on for a bigger score.
St Annes professional Dinuk Hettiarachchi bowled an unchanged spell of 25 overs to finish with 3-83.
The Saints’ reply was built around a masterful hundred from former Pakistan Test player Atiq, displaying his usual powerful strokeplay.
He shared an opening partnership of 84 with Nanthesh Kiruparan, who made 34, and there was a debut half-century from from Kushan Mirando, a Sri Lankan compatriot of Dinuk.
A student at Fleetwood Nautical College, Mirando was spotted by St Annes playing for Fylde, and his 50 came from 54 balls with four fours and a six.
When Kamran Anwar dismissed Uz-Zaman lbw for 107 (from 110 balls, 14 fours and two sixes), Darwen sensed a way back into the game but Ben Dowling held his nerve to hit the winning runs off the penultimate delivery.
Darwen fought hard in the field, with Chris Wade taking 3-37.
With second-placed Leyland not playing, St Annes now lead by 13 points, and were further boosted by Morecambe’s 74-run win at Chorley.
Netherfield took advantage of that result to go third with a six-wicket win at Fleetwood.
The home side set a target of 180-8, built around Adam Parker’s stylish 85 form 96 balls (five fours, four sixes).
Parker was well supported by Mike Clinning, who made 38 in a stand of 88 that helped weather a hostile opening spell of pace bowling from Australian pro Ben Laughlin.
The bowling hero for the visitors, however, was Stuart Nixon, who bowled with great control to take 6-69 from 19 overs, his victims being all the Fleetwood top six.
Netherfield’s run chase centred round a superb innings from Cumberland batsman Alex Atkinson.
Having led the league’s Under-21s against the MCC recently, Atkinson was particularly aggressive against short-pitched bowling, and made 78 from 84 balls (ten fours, three sixes).
He was dismissed by Sam Bell, but Netherfield were well on their way to winning with two overs remaining.
Richard Gleeson again showed his all-round abilities for Blackpool with a virtuoso performance in their 24-run victory at Ernest Pass.
The Cumberland all-rounder top scored with 38 not out in the visitors’ 177-7, of which young Craig Brown made 36 and professional Con De Lange 34.
Barrow professional Pieter Malan took 2-48 from 20 overs but the home side were at their best in the outfield, effecting four run-outs.
Gleeson then picked up the key wicket of Malan, clean bowled for one, on his way to 5-36 from 13 overs.
Malan’s opening partner Daryl Wearing batted superbly to make 61 from 100 balls (seven fours and a six), while Iain Kermode hit 41.
However, Gleeson’s return to the attack saw the last four Barrow wickets go down for 13 runs, as they were dismissed for 153 in 43.4 overs.
This was a fourth successive win for Paul Danson’s improving side, though a top-four finish is perhaps the best Blackpool can aim for after climbing to sixth.
Blackpool’s second team are better-placed to challenge for the title and are clear in third place in division two after beating Barrow by eight wickets at Stanley Park.
Veteran opener Adrian Darlington, now doubling up as wicketkeeper, made 50 and is just two short of 700 runs for the season.