Charlie Swarbrick’s swashbuckling 64 helped keep Lancaster in touch with the league leaders at Vernon Road on Saturday.
The St Annes surface often produces friendly batting conditions, but on the back of Lancaster’s batting performcances of late, St Annes captain Andy Kellett elected to bowl first.
The new opening partnership of Swarbrick and Jamie Heywood got Lancaster off to a customarily sedate start, with 19 coming from the first 12 overs. Importantly, the stage had been set for the visitors to push on, as 54 runs came from the next seven overs.
Swarbrick leapt on anything short of a length keeping former Preston man Vahaluwala, who was down on pace nursing an ankle injury, from causing worries to the Lancaster batting line up as he has done in the past. The in-form Heywood provided good support before he was stumped for 35 trying to attack Vahaluwala.
Kenyan International Alex Obanda, filling the role of professional for the day, looked ominous as he hit an early maximum.
His innings was abbreviated however, as Vahaluwala picked him up for his second of the day. Swarbrick kept the innings moving playing off side and leg side moving around the crease.
Cumberland star and St Annes professional Toby Bulcock suffered as Swarbrick clipped him into the stands to bring up a deserved maiden league fifty.
Bulcock kept affairs tighter at the other end as Lee Sparks’ promotion to number four resulted in a brief stay at the wicket, bowled for one.
Bulcock had the last laugh in his tussle with Swarbrick as he fell playing one big shot too many for a fine 64.
Veteran Danny Welbourne played a mature knock of 28 to keep the middle order stable, while Iain Burstow pushed the Lancaster total past 170 with a quickfire 24.
The final three overs only yielded six runs however, as the lower order struggled to get bat on ball.
The final total of 177 was around par for the course from 48 overs and, with the game finely poised, St Annes openers Kellett and Taaffe got off to an equally steady start.
Iain Perrieman generated some early pace from short of a length despite the wearing pitch, rapping young Taaffe on the gloves early in the piece.
With Liam Moffat absent with a finger injury, bowling honours were transferred to his brother Kieran, who despite not having the same pace as his sibling, managed to shape the ball away from the right handers and was unfortunate not to pick up a wicket as an edge eluded the grasp of Perrieman at gully.
Perrieman provided the breakthrough, however, as Taaffe found Jamie Heywood in the slip cordon. When Off-Spinner Scott Sparks removed Kellett LBW, Lancaster looked to have opened an end up.
Lukman Vahaluwala had other ideas, as he ruthlessly took apart the visitors’ bowling. While Burstow removed Jones, Lancaster were firmly on the back foot as Vahaluwala treated Perrieman’s short balls with contempt in pulling them to the mid-wicket boundary.
Lancaster needed some luck and found it when the clouds closed in and the rains arrived. From needing a relatively straightforward 70 from 20 overs, seven overs were lost, pushing the required rate to over five an over for St Annes.
Vahaluwala’s fine 60 from 52 balls would prove in vain as Perrieman removed him LBW before Scott Sparks out-thought Bulcock and Naylor trying to throw the bat. Natham Armstrong kept St Annes’ hopes of victory alive with a quick 28, but he too lost partners as Perrieman and Sparks closed out the game.
St Annes had to settle for the losing draw agonisingly short of the total, but the outcome, while fortuitous keeps Lancaster firmly in the top four of the table.
*Both senior teams bowed out of the Readers Cup on Sunday, the 1sts falling to 72 all out with hosts Barrow knocking off the required runs for no-loss, while the 2nds could not chase down Barrow’s 131 at Lune Road as they were dismissed for just 68.