CHURCH were celebrating long into the night last Friday after the first team won its first piece of silverware for 40 years.
Lowerhouse were favourites to win this year’s 20/20 final as they were the holders, they’re top of the Lancashire League and were hosting the showpiece.
But Craig Fergusson’s green army defied the league table and home advantage to clinch an historic 19-run win.
Around 2,000 packed into Lowerhouse’s Liverpool Road ground to see Church make 132-8 from their 20 overs, Phil Gilrane hitting a crucial 46 not out.
Kamran Basharat then took 3-12 from his three overs to restrict the hosts to 113-8 and hand Church their first major trophy since winning the Worsley Cup in 1974.
Bowler Andrew Bentley, 30, has played more than 300 games for Church since his Lancashire League debut in 1999 so he was delighted they ended their drought.
“It was brilliant, not just for me and the players but for everyone involved with the club,” he said.
“We didn’t get back to the club till late but there were still lots of supporters there who were delighted to see us win. They’ve been around the club for a long time so wanted to share the moment with us.”
The nearest Bentley has got to tasting glory in recent years is when Church lost the 2011 Worsley Cup final and the 20/20 final in 2012, both against Ramsbottom.
They also lost the 2012 Worsley Cup final, Lowerhouse beating them by 15 runs, which made Friday’s victory all the more sweet.
“It was awesome just to play in front of that many people but to get the result as well,” Bentley added. “The atmosphere was fantastic.
“To win something is what you play for and we’ve come so close on so many occasions so it’s fantastic to finally get over the line. I guess this time round it was just our time, but I think we deserved it in the end. We had a plan and we stuck to it.
“Phil Gilrane batted superbly to get us back into the game, then the bowlers did their job and the fielding was excellent too.”
Captain Craig Fergusson won the toss and chose to bat, but brothers Lloyd Aspin (6) and Harvey Aspin (2) both went cheaply to leave Church 15-2 in the fourth over.
Church professional Usman Tariq joined Levi Wolfenden, but 11 runs later Wolfenden (14) found the hands of Jonny Whitehead off the bowling of Jon Finch.
Fergusson then joined Tariq and the pair put on 20, including a six out of the ground by Tariq, but Cobus Pienaar had his rival pro caught behind for 15.
Phil Gilrane then came in and although Fergusson went for 24, Gilrane helped Church put on 51 runs in the last five overs. His unbeaten 46 came off 27 balls and would earn him the man-of-the-match award.
Lowerhouse’s reply got off to a good start as Pienaar and Whitehead put on 39 inside six overs before Pienaar (26) found the hands of Jack Gaskill at long on off Andrew Bentley. Previously Pienaar had hit Tariq for 16 off his first over, including two massive sixes.
But the wickets of Whitehead (12) and dangerman Ben Heap swiftly followed that of Pienaar to leave Lowerhouse 47-3, Gilrane bowling Heap for a duck.
Captain Charlie Cottam (27) and Matt Walker put on a 36 stand to get the holders back on track but Church seamer Kamran Basharat (3-12) bowled Walker for 21 with his first ball.
Finch (6) didn’t last long as he found Wolfenden off Gaskill, leaving Lowerhouse 92-5 in the 15th over, and wickets continued to fall, preventing the hosts mounting a late chase.
Wolfenden finished the 20/20 competition as the third-highest run scorer with his total of 210 from six matches including a high score of 104.
Harvey Aspin was next up with 184 while brother Lloyd was Church’s leading wicket-taker with nine.