Spinner back to his best for St Annes’ win

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THE rain hit the Northern Premier League programme for the first time this season but could not prevent St Annes winning a thrilling Fylde coast derby at Fleetwood.

Prolific professional Dinuka Hettiarachchi hadn’t found wickets to easy to come by in the early weeks of the season but St Annes’ Sri Lankan spinner was back to his best at Broadwater.

Hettiarachchi took 5-38 off 15.3 overs as Fleetwood were bowled out for 99 chasing 105.

A rain-delayed start reduced the match to 32 overs per side, and the visitors struggled to reach three figures for the loss of eight wickets.

Fleetwood pro Ryan Smith took 6-53, dismissing all the top five, and looked to have set the home side up for their second win of the season. Ben Dowling’s 25 was St Annes’ top score.

And Fleetwood looked like reaching their target until the run out of James Ellis for 28 proved a turning point. Hettiarachchi did the rest, removing Smith for a duck along the way.

Preston captain Lukman Vahaluwala was the inspiration behind his side’s winning draw against Blackpool at West Cliff.

Vahaluwala made 88 off 105 balls, putting on 115 for the first wicket with Sajid Patel, as Preston reached 200-8 in another rain-hit clash reduced to 40 overs.

Patel smashed three fours and five sixes in making 71 off 86 balls despite the best efforts of Blackpool’s Steven Mercer to stem the run flow with 4-55.

Blackpool’s in-form opener Alex Smith registered his third successive half-century to steer his side to safety.

Hailed by captain Paul Danson last week as one of the league’s most gifted batsmen, Smith batted throughout for an unbeaten 56 off 112 balls which defied excellent all-rounder Vahaluwala, claimed 5-14 off 12 overs.

Blackpool reached the close at 130-7, Andy Furniss chipping in with 22.

In the second division, rain ruled out any derby action between St Annes and Fleetwood at Vernon Road.

Prashant Aga hit a fine 89 not out off 84 balls to inspire Blackpool’s 53-run win over Preston at Stanley Park. Blackpool captain Kev Reid and Ross Parker took four wickets apiece to bowl out the visitors for 110 despite a defiant unbeaten 46 from late order batsman Hussain Hagi.