Hale Barns First XI remain on course to successfully defend their Cheshire Shield crown after sealing a nail-biting two-wicket victory over Barrow CC.
Joe Cooper was terrific with the ball, taking four wickets, although Iroshan De Silva’s individual heroics kept Barrow in the hunt, while a magnificent 44 not out from Sam Smith ultimately booked Barns’ spot in the final.
S Smith (1-38) made an impact in both innings as he broke the deadlock to send back Alex Reid for 13, but it was Cooper who took centre stage with a sensational 10th over of the match, in which the spinner claimed three victims to reduce the visitors to 35-4.
Opener De Silva looked in imperious form, but he continued to lose partners as Lee Dwyer was trapped lbw by Cooper (4-16) for 11, while Barrow were soon reeling on 117-7 with 10 overs remaining after Jake Romer (2-24) struck twice.
However, De Silva’s wicket proved elusive, with the overseas batsman finally gaining sustained support from Prashant Pandey. The number nine batter amassed an unbeaten 22, while De Silva scored the bulk of the runs during a partnership of 75 as he completed the allotted overs on 99 not out, guiding the away side to a respectable total of 192-7.
HBCC’s frailties with the bat were once again in evidence as their reply got off to a poor start, with opening pair Khurram Hussain (8) and Cooper (12) both departing inside four overs with just 21 on the board.
De Silva (2-22) then made a telling contribution with the ball by taking two dismissals, while Ben Staniforth was run out for 11 to leave the hosts in real danger of exiting the competition at 56-5 from 20 overs.
And when Tommy Smith’s valiant effort of 23 off 55 deliveries came to an end, the task appeared to be insurmountable with Barns still requiring 112 runs.
But the game took another twist as S Smith and Alex Ross (40) formed a crucial seventh wicket stand to haul the home team back in contention, putting on 72 before the latter was finally removed by Malcolm Barrow (2-26).
Still needing 40 from the final five overs, Christian Dodson played a vital cameo of 21 off 11 balls, but having been stumped in the penultimate over, it was left to S Smith and Romer to finish things off.
And they managed to do so with two deliveries to spare, with S Smith ending unbeaten on a superb 44 to secure a great win for the Barns, who will now take on fellow finalists Cheadle Hulme in their pursuit of back-to-back titles.