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Harwood elated after sealing final place

GREAT Harwood skipper Russell Whalley was elated after pro Andy Crook came up with the goods to see off Read in the semi-final of the Ramsbottom Cup.

GREAT Harwood skipper Russell Whalley was elated after pro Andy Crook came up with the goods to see off Read in the semi-final of the Ramsbottom Cup.

The Australian hit an unbeaten 109 - including 17 fours and three sixes in just 83 balls - against the league leaders and favourites for the cup at Read to clinch a final against Settle, who defeated Whalley.

It was sweet revenge for Whalley and co after Read defeated them in the final of the cup last year and won the league title after a battle between the two sides.

And the euphoria was there for everyone to see as they crushed their rivals with almost 18 overs to spare.

"It was great," smiled Whalley. "We got off to a great start with the bat and then we could relax a bit. Andy's knock was one of the best I have seen in a long time."

"He got 80-odd last weekend and now this and Lancashire are looking at him which is great for him."

Harwood bowlers Stuart Maher, Chris Ramsker, Gordon Simpson, Crook and Whalley kept it tight with only Read's middle order batsman Andy Turner able to make a big impression with 60. Pro Danny Law went cheaply for nine.

And Read had to make do without their former Australian Test player Peter Sleep - who was their pro last year but is now an amateur - who injured his back on Friday.

They made a gettable 183-8 but it looked bad for Harwood when opener Liam Deasey fell to the fifth ball of Law's opening over with no score on the board.

But Crook then made Lancashire player Oliver Newby pay with the second over. The Australian hit him for 16 off his first six balls with 13 then coming off the third over thanks to big hits from third man Whalley and Crook.

Newby and Law were getting punished and by the end of the fourth over it was 37-1 and it was soon 65-1 with five overs gone.

Amateurs Frankie Barden and Andy Rushton quietened the batsmen down but the damage had been done.

Rushton claimed the scalp of Whalley by smashing the wicket with 66 on the board and that reinvigorated Read for a spell but Paul Houldsworth wasn't going to be moved.

He and Crook stuck at the crease and both played superbly and, at the half way stage, it was 140-2 with just 44 needed.

Terry Little came into the attack and Crook went mad. He made Little suffer with a four, a six, a four to make his 100.

There was 24 off the final over with Crook hitting a boundary to finish proceedings.

"We did well against Oliver Newby and Danny Law," said the skipper.

"We thought they would cause us problems with their bowling but it was Frankie and Andy who kept us quiet. Although we lost Liam early on, once Andy (Crook) got going it was the start we needed."

"I was disappointed with the way I was out but Paul came in and was the anchor man. he got the singles and hit the bad balls and let Andy do the rest."

The final is on August 15 and will be played at Settle.

"We are disappointed it is at Settle as they obviously have home advantage and their leading wicket taker Stuart Hornby likes playing at home - but he can only bowl 10 overs."

"Apparently it was put to a vote at the start of the season that the top team would get home advantage."

"But we will do it properly - we will go on a coach, have our breakfast together and hopefully, this year, win it."

It is lucky Harwood did save the best for Sunday as they struggled on Saturday against Earby in the league.

It had looked good when Earby only made 142 thanks to a stunning 4-17 off Maher and 5-59 from Crook.

However, none of the batsmen could find their form with Deasey top scoring with 24 in their 95 all out. They do remain in third place though.

Harwood will be looking to bounce back in the league at home to Ribblesdale Wanderers on Saturday.


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