Amazing Zia can't quite clinch promotion for Lytham on final day of cricket season
Lytham Cricket Club couldn’t quite complete this season’s remarkable turnaround with promotion back to the Liverpool Competition’s ECB premier league at the first time of asking but they made a valiant attempt.
After a disappointing first half of the season, which saw the Church Road club threatened with a second successive relegation, Lytham bounced back from a Covid outbreak in the camp to win their final nine completed fixtures and surge up the first division table.
It wasn’t quite enough as Matt Taaffe’s side missed out on promotion by just one place, despite ending the campaign with Saturday’s thumping 108-run win at Highfield.
Their inspiration was Afghan spinner Zia-ur-Rehman Akbar, whose 85 wickets from 277.3 overs included 12 hauls of five wickets or more. He took 36 wickets in the final five games alone, including a season’s best of 9-36.
The 23-year-old’s 7-26 in Wigan on Saturday saw hosts Highfield dismissed for 63 in 23.4 overs in reply to Lytham’s 171 all out from 53.3.
Lytham chose to beat but Highfield’s Sam Rotherham removed both openers with just 12 on the board.
Top scorer Tom Jefferson (39) and Guy Roberts (33) then put on 68 for the third wicket only for a mid-order slump from 96-3 to 98-7 to follow.
Richard Openshaw then struck 33 from 36 balls with six boundaries in a half-century stand with Niall Dunn but Lytham had ample runs on the board, despite Rotheram finishing with 4-27 from 12.4 overs and Ryan Parry taking 3-35 from 13.
Zia then bowled unchanged with Thomas Hessey, who took 3-27 from 12 overs as the Highfield batting crumbled.
They weren’t looking in too bad shape at 35-2 but this soon became at 38-5 and from 62-6 they added just one more single. Captain Ryan Hargreaves was top scorer with 19 but the six who followed him to the crease added just eight between them.
Victory alone would never be enough for Lytham, who also needed Birkenhead Park to lose at home to relegated Old Xaverians if they were to clinch the second promotion spot behind champions Newton-le-Willows, who Lytham had beaten the previous weekend.
It wasn’t to be as Wirral club Birkenhead Park, the last team to beat Lytham at the start of July, won their final fixture by three wickets to take runners-up position by 20 points from the Church Road side.
Birkenhead Park had their own overseas bowling sensation in Satyajeet Bachhav.
The Indian was the only player in the league to take more wickets than Zia with a total of 94.
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