THE runs flowed and there was late drama as the 122nd Foster’s Lancashire League season burst into life yesterday.
Champions Accrington were big winners, while Levi Wolfenden led Church to glory at Lowerhouse and new Colne pro Ali Azmat smashed a sensational 168 in a win at Todmorden.
And East Lancashire and Nelson were involved in a last-ball thriller at Seedhill.
Lowerhouse piled on the runs as they posted 253-7 against Church – but they were stunned as Wolfenden’s magnificent ton led Craig Fergusson’s men to a remarkable win.
Ben Heap and Jack Edgar both made half-centuries, while Jonathan Finch returned to action with 29 as Lowerhouse set a testing target.
Church set about that with a poise and were 130-0 at the halfway stage.
Usman Tariq was caught at long on for 75 but that left Wolfenden to take centre stage.
The all-rounder, who made 92 as Church knocked Accrington out of the Lancashire Cup on Good Friday, took his side to the brink of victory before falling for 102 but Lloyd Aspin, who made a half-century, saw them home.
Ali Azmat was quite simply stunning for Colne as he took the Todmorden attack apart.
The former Earby pro smashed 168 and was only out in the final over as the Horsfielders, last year’s recipients of the wooden spoon, posted 251-6.
It was an astonishing knock from the Pakistani on a green track as he won his battle with Todmorden’s rapid Queensland Bull Michael Neser.
Tod’s reply got off to a breezy start but they tailed off despite Kristian Garland and Colne could celebrate a fine win.
Jimmy Hayhurst and Simon Hanson each claimed four wickets as Ramsbottom collapsed to 55-9 and while they managed to get up to 94 all out that was never enough as Accrington eased to victory.
East Lancashire pro Matt Kleinveldt made a high class 82 as his men posted 182-8 at Seedhill with Toqir Hussain claiming a maiden five-wicket haul.
Nelson’s hopes were hit when professional Ryan Canning was run out after a mix-up with the score on 10. The target was reduced to 172 after a brief delay but at 116-8 they looked doomed.
Skipper Neil Thompson had other ideas though and he played a brilliant innings of 65 and he and Lewis Hillman needed eight off the last over and that became two off the final ball. But Nick Turner bowled Thompson to give the Blackburn side the points.
Rizwan Shafiq claimed four wickets and Keith Roscoe and Brett Pelser three each as Rawtenstall beat Rishton.
They bowled the hosts out for 124 and after Vinny Hanson (22) got Rawtenstall off to a bright start and Pelser’s 48 not out saw them over the line.
Bacup suffered an amazing collapse against Enfield. They were set at 92-2 with Tim Farragher looking good on 30 – but their day turned to disaster as they slumped to 106 all out with Ben Dowling ripping out six Bacup men.
Enfield were in a hurry as Werner Coetsee made 47 not out as they dashed to a seven-wicket win before 5pm.
Darter Graham Lalor hit the bullseye with the second ball of the new season as Burnley battled with Haslingden.
Lalor’s early strike was a big one as he had Graham Knowles caught at square leg but it proved to be a false dawn as Haslingden recovered well.
Skipper Phill Hayes made a fine half-century while sub-pro Ashar Zaidi made a trademark 80 as Haslingden closed on 225-8.
Burnley were 82-1 at the halfway stage with Chris Burton and Bharat Tripathi going well.
However Burton fell straight after the break as he holed out off Matt Griffin for 37 and David Brown could only make 10 as they slipped to 109-3 and it was 111-4 when Tripathi went for 44.
Chris Holt and Steve Brunt departed as wickets tumbled and Burnley were 166 all out.