IN ONE of the most thrilling finishes in the history of the Worsley Cup, Rishton were denied a place in the final by a six off the last delivery of a remarkable last-four clash at Todmorden.
Rishton had dramatically bowled themselves back into contention as they looked to protect a total of 234-3 at Centre Vale on Sunday and reach their first Lancashire League cup final since 1973.
With Todmorden collapsing in alarming fashion, professional Kumar Dharmasena looked to have booked Rishton's place in the showpiece final against Ramsbottom when he took two wickets with the first two balls of the last over to leave the hosts needing nine to win with the last pair at the wicket.
The Sri Lankan prevented Dave Hatton from scoring off the next delivery before a scrambled leg-bye got Todmorden skipper Jon Henderson on strike with eight required from two balls.
Henderson got the target down to six off the last with a skied drive before remarkably smashing Dharmasena's final delivery over extra-cover for the winning runs.
Rishton's shell-shocked players could hardly digest the result after hauling themselves back from seemingly inevitable defeat before letting victory slip from their grasp in the most heart-wrenching fashion.
Dharmasena, who earlier scored 90 and shared in a 166-run stand with Peter Sleep, finished with five wickets but will have taken no consolation from getting his side so close.
At 161-2 in the 36th over Todmorden were seemingly cruising to victory with professional Gyan Pandey on 80 after he had been dropped on 11 by Sam Hacking and then again by Jimmy Bibby, who injured a finger in the process, at 45.
Pandey had kept risks down to a minimum in scoring his runs off 100 balls with six fours and a six until a rush of blood off the deserving Richard Rostron saw him hole out to Shaun Hutchinson at long-on.
Even then the Yorkshire club looked to have plenty in reserve as Stuart Priestley marked his return to first-team duty following a serious back injury by moving calmly to an 82-ball half-century.
But just when Rishton were desperate for a further break-through Priestley mis-judged a second run to Garth Wyse, whose excellent throw led to fall of the fourth wicket with the score on 205 in the 45th-over.
With Dharmasena and Sleep back in the attack, Rishton skipper Scott Greaves had played his final card and it duly came up trumps as the spinners induced panic in the home ranks.
Todmorden lost three more wickets for the addition of just 10 more runs and a run-rate that had never got above six suddenly got away from the home side right at the death.
With Henderson marooned at the non-striker's end and Dharmasena making it six wickets down for just 21 runs, the improbable triumph looked to be Rishton's until Henderson, a former young England cricketer, played the shot of his life to finish unbeaten on a run-a-ball 37.
Rishton may have felt they had come up 20 runs short after being put into bat but still had enough on the board had they held their catches and their nerve.
Rostron and Parvez Kazi put together a half-century opening stand before both fell with the score on 51, bringing Dharmasena and Sleep together in the 12th-over.
They stayed that way until the 49th after making sure Rishton would have a decent total to defend.
The two internationals were never able to take the game away from Todmorden with just 13 boundaries between them.
But gradually turning the screw they worked the home bowlers around before Dharmasena fell just 10 short of a hundred after facing 120 balls, while Sleep finished unbeaten on 74 from 118 balls with 71 runs coming off the final ten overs. The real drama, though, was still to come.