Darwen win maiden Lancashire Knock Out Cup
Darwen CC won a thrilling final by two wickets to beat Clifton CC and claim the Lancashire Knock Out Cup, sponsored by Heineken, for the first time in the club's history.
After losing the toss at Ormskirk CC, Darwen fielded first and restricted Clifton to just 146-8 from their 45 overs, on a day when the ball had control over the bat.
However Darwen lost a flurry of early wickets in their run chase, but an unbeaten ninth wicket stand between skipper Mark Friend and Neil Cordingley, enabled them to edge over the line in a final which was hard fought until the final delivery.
Clifton captain, and former Lancashire player, Gareth Cross won the toss and elected to bat, but Cross was dismissed with the first ball of the final, caught behind by Jordan Clarke off the bowling of Reece Davies.
In trouble at 33-3, Joe McCann (37) and Will Davidson (15) added 48 between them, before McCann became the first of spinner John Cordingley's three wickets.
Cordingley reduced Clifton to 87-7 and finished with outstanding figures of 3-23 from his nine overs - before lower order hitting from James Evans (37) and Steven Cheetham (24) boosted their total to finish on 146.
Darwen made a positive start through opening batsmen, Jordan Clarke and Ammer Mirza who put on 30 inside four overs, before three wickets fell to Lancashire pace bowler Liam Hurt who turned the game on its head. Hurt removed Ammer Mirza and John Cordingley in successive deliveries followed by Jordan Clarke, to leave Darwen 34-3 and Clifton believing it would be their day.
Darwen continued to lose regular wickets throughout their pursuit, with Gareth Cross (2-23) and Steven Cheetham (1-33) both bowling excellent spells during the middle overs.
At 90-8, and still 57 runs from victory, Mark Friend was joined at the crease by the experienced Neil Cordingley and the pair began to edge their side closer and closer to their target passing 100, with plenty of overs still remaining.
Liam Hurt was brought back to bowl his final three overs, but he couldn't find the elusive wicket to break the pair up, as the ninth wicket partnership moved beyond 50 and the required runs below single figures.
All that remained was to hit the winning runs and Darwen did so with a boundary off the fourth ball of the 41st over, as Mark Friend, who finished on 43 not out to claim the ‘Man of the Match’ award, and Neil Cordingley 26 not out, were mobbed in the middle by their delighted team mates and supporters.