St Annes awash with title celebrations

St Annes Cricket Club are League Champions. Captain Andy Kellett is pictured with the trophy and some of the 1st X1, from left, Duncan Whalley, Charles Boucher, Ben Dowling, Matthew Grindley and Neil Bradley.
St Annes Cricket Club are League Champions. Captain Andy Kellett is pictured with the trophy and some of the 1st X1, from left, Duncan Whalley, Charles Boucher, Ben Dowling, Matthew Grindley and Neil Bradley.
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St Annes were crowned Champions of Furness Building Society Northern Premier Cricket League for the fourth time in seven years after rain washed out the entire programme on Saturday.

Andy Kellett’s side took an 18-point lead into the penultimate match of the season, knowing that a home victory over Kendal would give them an unassailable lead over reigning champions Leyland.

However, only an hour’s play was possible at Vernon Road, before the rain closed in with the visitors on 62-3.

St Annes, who had South African all-rounder Gulam Bodi as their latest sub-pro in the ongoing absence of Dinuk Hettiarachchi, were frustrated by Kendal opener Gary Baker, who was unbeaten on 30 when the rains came.

Ben Willis claimed the wickets of Cumberland opener Jonathan Miles and pro Jamie How, the latter to a brilliant running catch in the deep by Nathan Bolus.

Charles Boucher then pulled off a magnificent left-handed slip catch to claim the wicket of Terry Hunte off Matthew Grindley.

Leyland never got going against Blackpool at Fox Lane, rain returning just as Blackpool were about to begin their innings after a delayed start.

Nobody was more frustrated than Lancashire’s Steven Croft, who was named in the Blackpool side for the third time this season in search of a confidence-boosting innings ahead of the final two County Championship fixtures.

Fleetwood’s match at Barrow never got started either, having been called off in the morning.

League executive committee member David Sykes made the presentation of the championship trophy to St Annes captain Andy Kellett in front of the pavilion.

Kellett skippered St Annes to their last title in 2009 as his side maintained their record of being crowned champions every second year since 2005.

Kellett rated this success as better than two years ago for a variety of reasons. He told The Gazette: “In 2009 we had Stephen Twist and Michael Baer, who have since left. This year, people have talked about us being a two-man team but we have had six or seven under-19s who have played regularly and developed well.

“We have also been without Dinuk since July, and we got some good sub-pros in, which was a big plus. Losing Dinuk did not affect our team spirit, and that was key.

“I also think this was a better league than 2009 because six or seven teams could have won it this time.”

Besides Dinuk, the other half of St Annes’ supposed ‘two-man team’ is opener Atiq Uz-Zaman, who has one more opportunity to score the 26 he needs to reach 1,000 runs for the season. Only Barrow’s South African pro Pieter Malan has reached that milestone so far, in 2011.

The Pakistani would love to go on to score 102 and beat St Annes’ record amateur total of 1,075, set by former captain Ian Austin in 2006.

Saturday’s Stanley Park washout meant visitors Leyland retained their division two title.

Third-placed Blackpool were on 38-3 when play halted. Steven Pallett took all the wickets, but was unable to remove the division’s record-breaking opening batsman Adrian Darlington, who was unbeaten on 35.

The curtain comes down on the 2011 season next Saturday, when St Annes visit Preston.

There’s more at stake in the final match at Stanley Park, where the winner of Blackpool v Morecambe will secure a top-four finish and a place in next season’s Lancashire Cup by leapfrogging Netherfield, who have completed their programme.

n The Liverpool Competition and Palace Shield programmes were similarly wiped out.

In the former, Lytham took the wicket of home captain David Snellgrove as Bootle reached 69-1 in the 13.3 overs played.

Snellgrove was caught by Lytham skipper Anthony Mulligan off the bowling of Joe Davies after hitting three fours in his 14.

Michael Swart hit seven boundaries in his run-a-ball 40.

The ECB premier league campaign has two weeks to run, Lytham completing their programme with home games against title-chasing Ormskirk and New Brighton.