Blackpool deny Lancaster first win after final over drama

New Lancaster overseas player Michael Barry in action. Picture: Richard Edmondson
New Lancaster overseas player Michael Barry in action. Picture: Richard Edmondson

Lancaster’s best chance of a win so far was squandered on Saturday as Blackpool pipped them to the post in a last-over thriller at Stanley Park.

Home skipper Steven Mercer invited Lancaster to bat on a hard, abrasive surface and Danny Welbourne and Jamie Heywood looked in little trouble until the former fended a wide half volley to second slip to give Seasiders professional Christi Viljoen the first of his five scalps for the afternoon at 23-1.

Heywood then failed to convert his start into a larger score as he was bowled through the gate for 14 to bring the experienced Iain Burstow and professional Michael Barry to the crease.

Both built a solid partnership of 71 as New Zealander Barry pounced on the short ball while Burstow looked for the full delivery to take the aerial route down the ground.

Pace off the ball looked to be the way forward for the hosts as Mercer trapped Burstow on the back foot for a well-worked 26 before Charlie Swarbrick patted back a simple caught and bowled chance without troubling the scorers.

Mercer’s slow wicket-to-wicket approach choked the run rate as Barry and Dylan Conroy struggled to rotate the strike.

Barry did bring up what Lancaster hope will be the first of many Northern League 50s but Mercer had the last laugh as Barry holed out at deep mid-wicket for a patient 54.

At 126-5 with only eight overs remaining, Lancaster required a late surge and got it through the hard running from Conroy, Ben Simm and Iain Perrieman who pressurised the Blackpool fielders into errors.

Conroy’s unbeaten 37 took the visitors to a par score of 173-9 with Viljoen cashing in late in the piece to pick up 5-46.

Lancaster’s confidence received another boost after the break when Perrieman castled Andy Furniss third ball of the innings.

His opening partner Liam Moffat put the visitors firmly in the box seat when Gurmandeep Bains played on to make it 12-2.

Perrieman treated left-handed opener Matthew Houston and number four Viljoen to a fearsome barrage of short balls while Moffat kept one end tight with the professional’s tumultuous innings eventually brought to an end by Perrieman as Lee Sparks took a smart catch off an under edge.

Simm introduced the off-spin of Burstow to keep the pressure on and 45-3 eventually became 53-4 when Houston was run out in a terrible mix-up after a string of dot balls.

Stephen Twist is well known as a dangerous player around the Northern League, and his presence at number five checked Lancaster’s progress.

Barry, the third of the trio of left-arm quicks, picked up his first Northern League wicket, bowling Luke Smith neck and crop for four, before a knee injury forced him out of the attack.

Simm replaced the injured Barry and plied out his opposite number Mercer to put Blackpool on the brink at 82-6 but then came the partnership that changed the game.

Alex Smith provided excellent support to the ominous Twist, picking off ones and twos at will to bring the total closer and keep the run rate within reach.

Burstow and Simm struggled to string dot balls together as Twist powered the ball into the gaps to take himself past 50 and Blackpool ever closer to their target. Smith finally departed for a crucial 34 with 30 still required.

Simm brought back Perrieman with 14 required from the final two overs and it paid off, when Twist’s fine innings met its end skewing a short of a length ball to Burstow at cover.

Perrieman bowled out the over to leave Blackpool’s Danny Gilbert requiring 10 from the final over.

Liam Moffat could do little however as his third ball was flat-batted by Gilbert into sight-screen to send the hosts into delirium and Lancaster into despair as they won by two wickets with two balls to spare.

The 1st XI remain second to bottom ahead of next week’s very busy schedule. The 2nd XI did manage to raise a side but collapsed spectacularly to 25 all out in reply to Blackpool’s 118 at Lune Road.