CHURCH moved to the dizzy heights of third place in the Musbury Fabrics Lancashire League after a three wicket win at Rishton on Sunday in an absorbing local derby.
Life is on the up at the West End ground with wins over top sides Bacup, Nelson and Haslingden in recent matches in a season where anything is possible at the moment.
The days of Peter Sleep and Russ Whalley may have gone at Rishton but the club has some exciting and talented youngsters who are beginning to mature under newly-appointed skipper Scott Greaves. Former captain Jonathan Dobson, who has come through the ranks at Blackburn Road, has been forced to retire because of injury and other committments.
Rishton won the toss and batted but opener Darren Eccles was soon making the return journey to the pavilion after Andrew Bentley made his third delivery drift away in the slight breeze to give Ruwin Peiris a simple catch at first slip.
Bentley bowled an impressive spell, keeping the batsmen guessing with his movement and drift as did the evergreen Westwell, who dismissed left handers Mark Leathert and pro James Franklin at a cost of 35 runs.
The dismissal of Franklin kept everyone guessing with both umpires signalling his dismissal after wicketkeeper Sam Tucker both caught and stumped the New Zealander for nine. The pro's prized scalp took Westwell into a clear lead as the league's top amateur wicket taker with 31 scalps.
At 33-3, urgent repair work was needed with Andy Bartley and Richard Rostron putting together a fourth wicket partnership of 59 which was the highest of the match.
Bartley played the anchor role with Rostron occasionally unleashing some pleasant drives to keep the scoreboard ticking. The partnership was broken when Peiris joined the attack and had Rostron caught at slip by Alec Holt for 24. Bartley was next to go for a workmanlike 46, harshly adjudged lbw sweeping at Peiris.
Sam Hacking batted well for 20 but wickets tumbled around him as Peiris increased his wicket tally to 17 in four matches in picking up 5-38 with his gentle slow left arm spin. Rishton skipper Greaves was last man out for 16 as his side were dismissed for 151.
The Church reply began the same way as Rishton's with skipper Phil Sykes falling to Franklin's second ball to a stroke he will want to forget. Peiris and the in-form Mark Aspin dug in and the amateur's assault on Greaves' fourth over signalled the introduction of Garth Wyse into the attack. The youngster bowled an impressive spell and claimed the wicket of Aspin who was well caught by Rostron at long off for 19.
Peiris and Adam Greenwood took the total to 91 when Peiris was bowled by Shaun Hutchinson for 37 to put Rishton back in the match. Greenwood was then bowled by Rostron for 14 and Church were 91-4. David Bury brought the 100 with some fine stroke play before he too fell, hooking Rostron to Wyse at long leg for 17.
Rostron was in the middle of an impressive spell of eight overs for just 15 runs in picking up two wickets. Holt had great difficulty in scoring from the all-rounder but he hit three boundaries off Hutchinson's seventh over to relieve the pressure.
When Greaves returned to the attack Holt picked up another eight runs but saw his younger brother Sam depart bowled by the home skipper for one to leave Church on 126-6 in the 35th over.
There was still another twist left in this match when Holt departed for 29 caught by Bartley of Franklin with 16 still needed and three wickets to fall.
Phil Gilrane played a delightful cover drive and he was then dropped at mid on off Greaves with eight still needed but he and Tucker saw Church home with four overs to spare.