Cole looking forward to 2021 after title joy
Plus group success for Trinity, Hightown, Rainhill, Liverpool, New Brighton and Leigh
NORTHERN skipper James Cole led his side to the title in the Love Lane Leagues’ ‘Group of Death’ – now he says he can’t wait for normal service to be resumed next year.
Cole was able to call on a full-strength side for most of the summer – in contrast to Saturday’s opponents, Ormskirk, as well as Formby and Firwood Bootle, all of whom missed out on their county pros.
As such, he says he would have been disappointed not to win – and his expectation was met courtesy of an eightwicket win.
“We didn’t field as well as we could have done,” said Cole, ever the perfectionist, after his side dismissed the visitors to 133. “But all the bowlers bowled well – the spinners tied up an end and the seamers chipped in with wickets.
“It’s always nice to bowl a side out in 45 overs, it makes your job a little bit easier.”
An opening stand of 80 between Taylor Cornall and Liam Grey did the bulk of the work in the chase – Grey finished unbeaten on 53, while Cornall rounded off an incredibly consistent season in which his lowest score was 20.
As much as Cole’s side have taken to the limited overs format, he says he’s looking forward to the return of timed cricket.
He said: “That’s what the league is famous for, and what all the top end clubs want to play.
“We’re really looking forward to next year, when we’ll hopefully have a lot more cricket to play.”
When the format for the Love Lane Leagues was announced, it was widely hailed as a pleasing compromise between pragmatism and idealism; a set-up that guaranteed clubs at least three home games against a local-ish rival of similar-ish quality, with the added incentive of a big pile of booze on offer for the eventual winners.
Sure, some people pointed out, a side could in theory lose all six group games then win the next two to claim the local bragging rights – but come on, how likely was that?
On to Group A, where Southport Trinity lost all six group games then won the next two to claim the local bragging rights.
They did it the hard way, chasing down 194 at Ainsdale, after the hosts had recovered from 0/2.
Trinity themselves lost cheap wickets early on but the game hinged on a fourth-wicket partnership of 72 between Vim Van Der Walt and Jonny Hine – Van Der Walt finished unbeaten on 92, as he found just enough support from the lower order to seal a two-wicket win with two balls to spare.
Hightown St Mary’s won group C, defending 202 against Sutton after Arslan Dar’s 73. Andrew Dodd’s four wickets had kept the target within reasonable range, but after the visitors lost four top-order batsmen for just 10 runs, it was always going to be an uphill struggle.
Rainhill’s David Atkinson top-scored with 70 in their win over Rainford to claim the Group D title – Liam O’Toole’s 4/26 ensured the hosts were always playing catch-up with a target of 189.
Liverpool, who’ve dominated their city rivals in Group E, found themselves in a spot of bother in the final against Old Xaverians – they lost wickets in clumps (two on 11, three between 91 and 110, three between 125 and 127) to slip to 148 all out. Xavs reached 77/2 in reply but the hosts, with Christian Edwards taking 4/48, induced a collapse of their own.
Wallasey, in Group F, had won all seven of their games – including two against their fierce rivals New Brighton – only to come unstuck against the same opposition in the final. Having lost Jamie Crawley, one of the stars of the season, to the first ball of the match, they recovered to post 180; Dan Cooke’s 50 got the visitors within 25 runs of the target, before the seventh-wicket pair got them over the line.
The most dominant batting display of the finals came from Leigh, in Group G, who posted 244/5 against Highfield thanks to Sam Dorsey’s 79 and Karl Brown’s 52. A rout was on the cards when the visitors slipped to 24/4 in reply; Madduma Lakmal’s punchy 91 rescued some respectability, even if the win was a long way off.