Prestwich became Walkden Cup wonders for the second time in three years with a scintillating performance. Starved of success for decades, they lifted the cup on Sunday after beating Woodbank by seven wickets.
Man of the match Ian Walker led the victory charge with an unbeaten 85 as his team surpassed Woodbank’s total of 157 with more than four overs to spare.
Prestwich are now the only side to win the Walkden Cup twice since the Lancashire County League was formed in 1994. They first grabbed the glory in 2000 when beating Glossop in a thriller.
Rain washed out the initial confrontation in August, but the weather put on its best bib and tucker on Sunday, and the sides responded with a match played in an excellent spirit.
Woodbank won the toss and chose to bat, and had reached 14 when teenager Andy Taylor made the breakthrough.
Steve Lomas clipped the ball to square leg where Paul Mercer dived to make an excellent catch. Nigel Holder had struck two ominous boundaries before Taylor pounced again, finding the outside edge to be well caught by wicketkeeper Walker.
Pro Mark Stringer and the experienced Neil Ridehaugh then took charge of the game, rattling the score along to 79 with 30 overs left. Stringer was particularly brutal on the bowling of Duxbury, before the reintroduction of Chris Humphreys did the trick for the home side.
The paceman produced a ripsnorter to trap Ridehaugh who had no chance with a ball which bounced alarmingly, and he gloved it to Walker for 29.
From an an affluent total of 82, runs dried up for Woodbank after Ridehaugh’s dismissal. A mere 11 runs were scored off the next eight overs as first Andy Bradley and then Paul Mercer and Steven Lorenzini applied the pressure with some tight bowling. Indeed, a kamikaze single to Humphreys brought about the run out of Jason Stringer as they endeavoured to break the stranglehold.
Lorenzini trapped Dave McCheyne l.b.w. before he claimed the crucial wicket of Stringer who had struck a boisterous 43. He pulled a short ball to deep square leg where skipper Steve Orrell pulled off a superb catch inches off the ground.
It left the visitors on 110 for 6 and facing an uphill battle. However, Steve Loster and Chris Milnes dug in for a 27-run stand in 12 overs before Bradley grabbed the deserved wicket of Loster, caught by Carl Hey.
Lorenzini finished with a creditable 2 for 15 in his seven overs. Humphreys mopped up the late order wickets of Woodbank captain Dave Walsh and Mustafa to finish with 3 for 16 off his 10 overs, while Mercer picked up last man Danny Budgen with a wide ball, thanks to a superb piece opf stumping by Walker.
Woodbank’s hopes were given an early boost when Mark Stringer got extra lift from a delivery to Hey and he was snapped up at slip by Walsh with the score on 2. But Walker and Duxbury overcame the early blow to take the score to 48 before Duxbury was dismissed in unusual circumstances for 25.
He watched a ball from teenage spinner Mustafa roll back to keeper Ridehaugh off his bat, and the alert Ridehaugh whipped off the bails before Duxbury could drag his foot back behind the crease.
Lorenzini was given a major let-off when a straightforward caught and bowled chance to Walsh was put down, but it was the catalyst for the youngster to blossom with a fine knock of 32 until Stringer had him caught by Ridehaugh with the score on 117.
The unnerved Walker strode purposefully to his half century in 85 balls, and joined by Orrell (10 not out) , prospered to rattle off the remaining runs for victory.
Walker cracked 10 fours and two sixes in an innings brimming with class, and he capped it with the winning shot to the square leg boundary.