James Stansfield’s vein-bursting half-lap of Far End Lane had Moorlands in raptures to round off a pulsating Sykes Final before captain Eddie Walmsley lifted the trophy for the first time in their history. The meeting of the strongest two teams in the league did not disappoint in a match where the balance of power swung dramatically numerous times.
It was thanks to James Rawlinson’s calm and collected innings, hours before Stansfield’s pent-up celebration that Moorlands remained in the contest. The former Walsden man (above) accumulated a patient half-century to nurse his team back into the match after Hoylandswaine’s bowlers threatened to get on top. Despite losing Andrew Fortis, bowled by Muhammad Azzharullah on the second delivery of the day, Moorlands enjoyed a placid start as Shoukat Ali (32) and Andrew Wood (28) effortlessly put 58 runs on together. Arron Lilley regularly switched his bowlers to force the breakthrough and his strategy worked, particularly with the spinners as Moorlands stumbled to 104-7.
It looked a long way to post a challenging score from there but Rawlinson’s quirky playing style - more stiff-armed and regimented than flourished - complemented nicely with Nadim Hussain’s fluent running. They settled for nudges and nurdles, taking no chances to keep Honley’s brand new scoreboard flicking along. Hussain’s 37 proved equally as crucial as Rawlinson’s 53 in a 70-run partnership to set Hoylandswaine an about-par 182-9. Former Northants man Azharullah (above) took 4-43 and finished with the most success in the seven Hoylandswaine bowlers regularly rotated by skipper, Lilley.
Openers Sajinder-Pal Singh (12) and Asif Iqbal (23) got out of the traps swiftly in a bid for quick early runs and for a while they looked to be relatively untroubled. However 34-0 soon became 49-4 as Moorlands fought back strongly. Shoukat Ali (above) bowled tremendously disciplined for his 2-25 along with Siraj Sajid (3-56) and Andrew Wood spared his own blushes by taking a key catch to remove the dangerous Chris Holliday (6) following his careless drop at deep extra cover earlier.
Arron Lilley (above) has been in similar circumstances before though. In the 2012 final on the same venue for Delph & Dobcross, his rapid half-century turned the match and he was required to do the same on this occasion. The Leicestershire all-rounder slickly moved through the gears to reach his half-century in only 33 balls, smoothly punching 8 fours and lofting two sixes towards the scoreboard and into the gardens. Control had swung his side’s way but when Nadim Hussain trapped him LBW on 129-5 the outcome was impossible to predict.
Hoylandswaine’s achilles heel this season has often been the brittleness of their batting, particularly with the big guns out and it came back to haunt them despite a dogged effort. The mountainous Faisal Irfan (16) fell shortly after Lilley, caught behind at the hands of Sajid. Christian Jackon, needing a runner after pulling up with a heel injury when bowling, didn’t hang around too long for 1; Azharullah was trapped LBW for 4 to turn the temperature up to a simmer. Ben Potter and Max Morley then battened down the hatches to frustrate their rivals, picking off boundaries on occasion to nudge the score.
The endgame had spectators guessing right until the final moments. Walmsley brought himself and the experienced Stansfield on for a final throw of the dice with deliveries getting lower and the target getting nearer as the match wore on. Morley (14) was castled by Walmsley for his solo wicket and the dismissal of last man, Ghani sparked jubilant scenes amongst the Moorlands team and delighted supporters with one of them lighting a crimson smoke flare as victorious bowler Stansfield wheeled off into a mass of players and supporters.
The man of the match wasn’t an easy one; almost every player had made a telling contribution somewhere along the line. Ron Tindall selected James Rawlinson for his dedicated vigil for which the dramatic scenes that followed wouldn’t have been set.
The sides will meet again a week later for a key Premiership match and T20 Trophy final. A final thanks should go to Honley’s continually impressive ground and facilities, along with the leagues of volunteers around the ground.