Hale Barns First XI claimed a dramatic one-wicket victory to scrape past Stockport Georgians CC in a thrilling Cheshire Shield final at a packed Brooks Drive.
The team lined up with eight home-grown players, although it was overseas batsman Campbell Vadlja who was awarded man-of-the-match after producing a crucial innings during Barns’ pursuit of 219 to win, with Joe Fretwell-Walsh seeing the team home to cue wild celebrations.
The away team made an impressive recovery with Adam Keene and Francis Yates enjoying a fourth wicket stand of 50 at faster than a run-a-ball until Joe Cooper found a way through Keene’s defences for 23.
Cooper (2-28) doubled his tally to remove Yates (25), leaving the visitors reeling on 87-5 and the wickets continued to tumble as Luke Skade’s impressive cameo of 39 came to end after being caught off the bowling of Fretwell-Walsh (1-52).
Georgians maintained a reasonable run rate of five an over, but as they reached the halfway point, Daniel Box (23) became the seventh batsman back in the shed as he was trapped lbw by Phil Dodd.
However, Barns’ dominance was halted by a frustrating partnership of 92 between Christopher Dodd and Oliver Ormerod to incredibly guide Georgians to a defendable total.
Eventually, C Dodd’s tremendous resistance was ended in the penultimate over by Saeed (2-43) for 39, while P Dodd (3-28) claimed two dismissals in the final over, including Ormerod, who was last man out on 36 as Stockport posted 218 all out.
In response, Barns remained unscathed until the seventh over when C Dodd got the better of Cooper for 13, but Tommy Smith (36) and Ben Staniforth (16) built a solid pairing to reach 59-1 after 15 overs.
However, a few quick wickets changed the complexion of the game as both batsmen departed, while Khurram Hussain (10) was unable to make a significant contribution to leave the game in the balance on 97-4.
Barns were still the favourites with Vadlja at the crease, who had been in fantastic form throughout the competition and looked comfortable yet again. He was briefly supported Hicks, who added 16 before being adjudged lbw with 90 runs still required from the remaining 18 overs.
C Dodd returned to the attack and sent Christian Dodson back for 8 as Georgians edged further into contention, but Sam Smith showed great maturity to play an impressive foil to Vadlja, who began to find the boundary with regularity.
The Aussie appeared to be playing a match-winning knock as Barns moved closer to victory, but a moment of pure brilliance swung the odds in Georgians’ favour when Keene (2-39) held onto a stunning catch off his own bowling to leave the hosts in a precarious position at 181-7 from 36 overs.
Another wicket for C Dodd strengthened his case for the man-of-the-match award as he made S Smith his third victim after a wild swipe that saw him caught for a well-made 19, while Max Bailey then put the visitors on the brink of a remarkable win by taking the ninth dismissal with Barns still needing 12 runs to reach the target.
But it was not meant to be as Fretwell-Walsh (23 not out) and Saeed (6 not out) pulled off a heroic effort to hold their nerve and seal the silverware for the Barns, with the former driving a four through the cover to pass the required total with 1.3 overs to spare.