DARWEN made the perfect start to the new Chorley Building Society Northern League as they pulled out all the stops to beat Lancaster on a sun-drenched opening day.
And Chorley were also mightily impressive as they too celebrated a fine win over Preston at Windsor Park.
Jordan Clarke’s Darwen were on the back foot at Lune Road when the skipper and Chris Clarke fell cheaply as they took first knock but Ammer Mirza was in glorious form and his 72 was the mainstay of the innings.
John Cordingley was also key for the Towers as he hit 44 and that too was a crucial knock as the only other batsman to reach double figures was professional George Linde, who made 10.
Iain Burstow claimed five wickets as he went through the lower order and Darwen were 166 all out in 44 overs.
But that was more than enough as the bowlers stepped up to the plate with Linde getting down to work.
The South African claimed 5-42 from 15 overs on a hugely impressive debut as Lancaster were never really in the hunt.
Danny Welbourne made 31 at the top of the order for the hosts but Kamran Anwar’s pace undid Charlie Swarbrick and professional Michael Barry and the Bombers were never in a position to recover.
Jamie Heywood made 20 and skipper Ben Simm hit 30 down the order before he became one of John Cordingley’s two victims and Lancaster subsided to 101 all out as the Towers made it a 15-point day.
Like Darwen, Andy Holdsworth’s Chorley have high hopes for the campaign and their first day was a success as they put neighbours Preston to the sword.
Despite a failure with the bat for new professional Mohammed Jamal, Chorley’s innings was solid with Will Moulton’s 41 the top score.
David Fisher (28) and Ian Dickinson (24) also contributed good runs at the top of the order while Keiran McCullagh made a valuable 17 batting at number nine as Chorley reached 161 before being bowled out with Soyeb Dukanwala claiming four wickets and Saeed Bariwala three.
That was a testing target and Preston, who have strengthened their side after last year’s wooden spoon, were always up against it as opening bowlers Richard Flood (2-26) and Billy Smith (2-26) piled on the pressure.
Shanawaz Patel threatened to win it for Preston as he made a 51-ball half-century but his boundary laden knock was brought to an end when Moulton took a return catch for one of his two victims.
McCullagh also claimed three wickets as Preston slumped to 116 all out.
Elsewhere there was a landmark day for new boys Penrith as they upset the odds to beat Kendal at Tynefield Park.
It threatened to be a nightmare debut as Kendal’s New Zealand Test man Jamie How scored as will and made a rapid 119 with 13 fours and seven gigantic sixes.
How was the fifth man out with the score on 197 with more than 10 overs to spare but Kendal collapsed to 228 all out with home pro Paul Hindmarch claiming seven wickets.
He then made 47, while Ryan Carruthers hit 49 and Alex Atkinson 40 against his former club and the new boys got over the line with two wickets and four balls to spare.
St Annes were also opening day winners as they eased past Netherfield while the other two games ended in draws.
Reigning champions Leyland took the lion’s share of the points against Barrow and Fleetwood took a winning draw at Morecambe despite a half-century and four wickets for Rawtenstall professional Brett Pelser who deputised for the home side.