Fylde coast cricket review: Blackpool lose pro, Croft’s Lytham debut, Palace Shield

Grant Thomson hits out for Blackpool
Grant Thomson hits out for Blackpool

Sub-professional Grant Thomson made a dazzling debut after Blackpool lost the services of new pro Anurag Verma for the season, but derby visitors Fleetwood just held out for a draw at Stanley Park.

All-rounder Verma has returned home to New Zealand for treatment to a stress fracture in his back.

The recovery time is estimated at three months and Blackpool have ruled out a return from the 26-year-old this season.

In his absence, Blackpool secured the services of South African Thomson from Ramsbottom CC and the 29-year-old scored a swashbuckling 130 in the winning draw against Fleetwood, also taking three wickets.

On a rain-hit afternoon in the Northern Premier League, Fleetwood were asked to chase a reduced target of 226 from 46 overs after Blackpool had posted 235-8 from 50.

The visitors managed to bat 45.2 overs but frustrated Blackpool by closing on 169-9.

Blackpool were put into bat and Thomson’s 130 came off 116 balls and included 11 fours and four sixes.

He put on 75 for the fifth wicket with Josh Boyne, one of five batsmen out in the teens as Thomson took the battle to Fleetwood, for whom Sam Bell took 5-93 from his 12 overs.

Blackpool looked on course for victory as Fleettwood were reduced to 61-5 only for number seven Tom Wilson to save the visitors with an unbeaten 49 which featured nine fours.

Thomson took 3-29 from 10 overs and Northamptonshire’s Richard Gleeson made another guest return to his former club with 3-50 off 13.1. There were three catches behind for wicketkeeper Ben Howarth.

That result enabled St Annes to overtake Fleetwood with a three-wicket home victory over Preston.

Matthew Grindley was in inspirational form with a season’s best 6-56 from 16.2 overs as the visitors were put in and removed for 223 with four balls remaining.

Preston had Lukman Vahaluwala to thank for posting a competitive total as his 83 from 93 balls against his former club included 14 fours.

Vahaluwala shared in stands of 58 for the third wicket with opener Sajid Patel, who made 50, and 91 for the fifth with Sajid Nalbanth.

Indeed, Preston looked on course for a testing total at 188-4 but added only 35 more as Grindley mopped up the tail.

St Annes reached their target with 2.1 overs remaining, number five Henry Higson leading the charge with 57 from 52 balls (11 fours) and sharing in a third-wicket stand of 89 with Gurman Bains (38).

Preston’s hopes were raised as St Annes’ 180-4 became 192-7, Sabbir Patel taking 4-48 from 15 overs, but then Matthew Derham and Mitch Bolus saw St Annes home at 226-7 without further drama.

St Annes have climbed into third place in the first division, eight points behind leaders Chorley who suffered their first defeat in a low-scoring affair against champions Leyland, whose total of 88 was enough for a nine-run victory. St Annes visit second-placed Leyland today.

Blackpool remain fourth, having climbed above Netherfield, whose clash with Kendal was the only NPL match to be abandoned.

Thomson will again be Blackpool’s paid player at Penrith today as they consider their options for the rest of the season. The Cumbrians have lost all five games to date.

Verma managed just six appearances for Blackpool, scoring 168 runs and taking 13 wickets.

In his three NPL matches, he scored two half-centuries with a best of 77.

Fleetwood have slipped into the bottom four with only one win so far and welcome Lancaster to Broadwater today.

Steven Croft’s eagerly-awaited debut for Lytham proved a low-key one, though the Lancashire captain did help his new side to a most-welcome five-wicket victory at Leigh in the Liverpool Competiton.

Croft was dismissed for 20, caught off the bowling of Red Rose team-mate Karl Brown at Leigh’s Beech Walk ground.

However, Croft’s wicket brought Ryan Maddock to the crease to fire Lytham to victory with an unbeaten 62 from 51 balls, which included five fours and two sixes.

Lytham’s number six shared in an unbroken sixth-wicket stand of 87 with Josh Holden to steer their side beyond Leigh’s total of 190.

The hosts did well to set such a target, having slumped to 71-6 and losing two more wickets before reaching three figures.

But then wicketkeeper Matthew Hibbert came in at number nine and brought Leigh back from the brink with 45 from 50 balls, sharing a ninth-wicket stand of 89 with Finnegan Hulbert (41) before their side were dismissed after 44.2 overs.

Jack Saunders was the pick of the bowlers with 3-20 off 7.2 overs.

Lytham were then in trouble themselves as Croft’s exit left them at 68-4.

But Maddock and Holden secured a much-needed second ECB premier league win of the season at 194-5 after 41.5 overs.

Holden’s unbeaten 47 from 38 balls featured four fours and two sixes

With Lancashire not in action until the Roses match begins at Headingley on Friday, Croft is due to make his first Church Road appearance against Southport and Birkdale this afternoon.

Croft’s surprise switch to Lytham followed a long association with Blackpool CC in the Northern League.

The 32-year-old now lives close to Lytham’s Church Road base and he cited the quality of cricket in the Liverpool Competition as a reason for his change of allegiance.

Lytham go into today’s home game still in eighth position after six matches, while their winless visitors are second-bottom.

Garstang suffered their first defeat of the season in the Moore and Smalley Palace Shield by seven wickets at Fulwood and Broughton, enabling Longridge to go five points clear at the top with the last unbeaten record in the premier division.

Longridge’s Seconds lead division one, with South Shore and Norcross third and fourth respectively.

Premier Division: Eccleston (230-3) beat Penwortham (171-7) by 59 runs, Fulwood and Broughton (131-3, Mat Smith 61no, Mark Smith 48 ) beat Garstang (130, M Walling 54, Mat Smith 5-29, R Turner 3-18 ) by seven wickets, Great Eccleston (140-1, W Thistlethwaite 73) beat Freckleton (138-6, E Fiddler 34, J Procter 4.39) by nine wickets, Longridge (175-5) lost v Vernon Carus (203-7) no result, Rufford (106) lost to Croston (110-5) by five wickets, Torrisholme (171-4, D Woods 95, C Parry 44, D Howard 3-52) v Thornton Cleveleys (138-7, J Beech 43, GD Lee 5-39) no result.

League table on facing page

Division One: Garstang 2 (129-9) lost to Fulwood and Broughton 2 (140-6) by 11 runs, South Shore (143-6, A Perera 32, G Gorrell 4-32) beat Hoghton (142, S Haydock 31, H Pazeer 5-34, N Ashford 3-62) by six wickets, Vernon Carus 2 (154-5_ lost to Longridge 2 (156-8) by two wickets, White Coppice (178-5, A Moore 87no) lost to Fylde (183-0, B Anderson 100no, M Johnson 48no) by 10 wickets, Withnell Fold (119, R Javeed 60, J Davies 4-42, I Davies 3-28) lost to Norcross (123-4, S Bovington 73no) by six wickets, Whittingham & Goosnargh v New Longton no results

Division Two: Kirkham & Wesham (197-6) beat Whittle & Clayton-le-Woods (196-6) by four wickets, Wrea Green (72, N O’Malley 4-29,