Hale Barns 2nd XI unfortunately fell at the final hurdle as they suffered a disappointing four-wicket defeat against Neston 3rds in the final of the UK Fast Cheshire Cricket League 2nd XI T20 Cup.
Tom Entwistle and Younas Saeed were notable performers with the bat to lead a recovery following a disastrous start, while Jack Wylie took two wickets as Neston limped over the line with eight balls to spare.
Barns had recorded some imposing totals when batting first throughout the competition and were confident of repeating the feat having won the toss, but that optimism was extinguished after just four overs.
The first wicket of the day went to Andrew Roberts in the second over of the match, while Hale’s top order were unable to handle Oliver Mills (3-13), who claimed three victims, including two in two balls to restrict the team to 15-4.
The top five batsmen were all back in the pavilion by the eighth over for just 27 as Neston continued the onslaught, but a captain’s knock from Entwistle steadied the ship.
James Guest (11) was the first batter to look at relative ease with conditions as he found gaps in the field to take the score to 43-5 at the halfway stage, although he didn’t last much longer as Roberts (2-14) got his second dismissal.
Saeed entered the crease but it was Entwistle who took the initiative as he battled through an injury and manoeuvred the ball nicely, but the partnership was halted at 28 when the skipper was bowled for a well-made 25.
Tom Saddington boosted the scoring with a mix of fantastic running between the wickets and a delightful straight six, while Saeed brushed off his initial struggles by finding the middle of the bat with more frequency in the closing overs as the pair added 36 to the total in the space of four overs.
And while Saddington was stumped for 12 with two balls remaining, Saeed carried his bat with a hugely important 31 not out to give Barns a slim chance by posting 110-8.
Early wickets were a necessity, but Steve Egerton (18) tucked into the second over with three fours and a six to give Neston a flying start on 21-0.
He was removed in the following over by Saeed and Sam Smith got in on the act with a wicket of his own, but opener Tom Norris and David Manchett carefully negotiated the middle phase of the innings to steadily work their way towards the target.
The pair accumulated 39 runs until Wylie (2-15) struck twice in his last over after a tight spell, first dismissing Norris (18) before sending back opposition captain Daniel Wakefield for a second-ball duck thanks to a superb grab by Khawar Iqbal at mid-off.
Hale’s bowlers gave their all to restrict the scoring, with Jake Romer (0-10), Smith (1-19), Saddington (0-23) and Saeed (1-19) all impressive, but with the game seemingly heading for a nervy conclusion with 32 runs needed from 36 deliveries, Neston grinded out 27 from the next four overs to ease the nerves.
J Wilson departed for a quick-fire 16 after being run out by Entwistle, while Guest produced a stunning run out after a terrific throw from the boundary, but Manchett proved immovable as he steered them to the required total with a match-winning 36 not out.