Alderley Edge First XI secured their first Cheshire County League title in 8 years after beating reigning champions Hyde in resounding fashion on Saturday. Defeat for closest challengers Bowden meant Adam Worrall's men secured the title with one game of the season to spare.
As the season came towards it's exciting finale the challenges of captaincy came into full view. With finals weeks, holidays, and bank holidays availability of players wavered. Maybe the excitement of Rio enthralled players towards beach volleyball or kayaking and away from the willow and leather. Whatever the reason getting out three teams of 11 each weekend (and sometimes twice each weekend) presented some challenges for the captains.
The first 11 have not been so impacted with Worrell having available the players who have kept Alderley Edge top of the table all season. As the season drew towards an exciting finale Alderley Edge faced a tough run in, if they were to become champions.
The full grit and resilience of this truly talented team was needed to play a resurgent Chester Broughton Hall (4th in league), Hyde (3rd in league), and ending the season away at Bowden (2nd in league). Just 23 points ahead things were getting tight. With Bowden playing Timperley and Nantwich, both laying in bottom half of league, the final game of season could have been a winner take all affair.
Worrell's team have shown the resilience needed to win the league, optimised by two standout performances during August: one being an individual triumph and the other a team performance. With no one player (bowler or batter) standing out at the top of the statistics for the ECB Premier League it is the team that will come though.
At Nantwich only Sam Perry (35) stood up against the Nantwich bowling leaving Alderley Edge 88 all out. All looked lost but the bowling pair of Richard Wilkinson (17 overs 5 for 33) and Charlie Reid (10 over 4 for 17) came through dismissing Nantwich for 83 and so claiming another important 25 points.
Against Cheadle, as the rain approached, Richard Wilkinson produced the bowling performance of the season taking 9 wickets for 35 runs reducing the opposition to 81 all out. Callum Rowe (41 not out) guided the team home before the rain came, another 25 points.
Against Bramhall the darkening skies came to the aid of Alderley. Bramhall ECB Premier League top 20 batsman of the season Dale Mckay (111 Not out) and Daniel Lamb (83) took the visiting side to match winning total of 264. With the top order falling quickly it was left to youngster James Scott (31) to steady the ship with Mark Currie (15 not out). In a rain affected game Alderley ended on 90 for 7 as the umpires took the players from the pitch. An unlikely result leading to 7 valuable points.
Last weekend two games decided the result. Losing the toss, Alderley were asked to bat first and began cautiously, building chiefly on opener Mark Currie's 28. At 42-2 Alderely's Lancashire star Jordan Clark strode to the crease but quickly lost partners to find the score at 72-4 and the game in the balance. with the home side's top order facing some skillful bowling from ex-Alderley Edge man Jason Whittaker and Hyde's overseas opening bowler William Walker.
After Clark was given a reprieve on 14, dropped off the bowling of Whittaker at mid off, he and Richard Wilkinson set about rebuilding the innings with initial careful strokeplay eventually giving way to some brutal hitting as the pair registered a partnership of 145. Wilkinson provided crucial support in compiling 45 from 66 balls, Clark registering a blistering 119 including 8 fours and 5 sixes. Hyde's lack of a fourth bowler was cruelly exposed with David Fitzsimmons' 4 overs costing 44 runs. Alderley finished with 243 from their 55 overs, Walker finishing with 3-77 for the visitors.
Alderley took the field in confident mood after tea but were made to wait for their initial breakthrough with Harry Dearden (48), fresh from signing a First Class contract with Leicestershire, providing stiff resistance along with fellow opener Tom Partridge. Their partnership was broken with the score on 49 following the introduction of Andrew Windle who removed Partiridge for 17. Further tight bowling from Richard Wilkinson (3-50) and a second burst of fast bowling from Clark (3-15) saw the visitors lose 3 crucial middle order wickets with the score stuck on 80.
Hyde's captain Danny Berry struck a battling 32 from number 6 to hold up the Alderley charge but was removed shortly after the drinks break with the score on 119 after Windle was reintroduced to the attack. The Alderley seamer took a further 2 wickets to finish with figures of 4-31 and the visitor's strong batting line up all out for 131 with 15 overs of the innings still remaining.
Within minutes of the finish news had filtered through to the Moss Lane clubhouse that Bowden had been defeated in their game at Nantwich, a result which gave Alderley their first Championship since 2008 sparking celebrations amongst both players and the watching crowd.
Alderley will complete their season away at Bowden next Saturday where they will receive the Cheshire County League trophy.
Report by David Scanlon.