Northern League: Darwen are the headline act to put Flintoff’s return in the shade

Jordan Clarke's Darwen stayed at the top of the table

Jordan Clarke's Darwen stayed at the top of the table

First published in Sport

ALL eyes may have been on Andrew Flintoff and his shock return to league cricket – but Darwen once again proved they are the real Chorley Building Society Northern League headline act as they picked themselves off the floor to beat Fleetwood and stay at the summit.

Flintoff has come out of retirement and will play for Lancashire in their Twenty20 showdown with Yorkshire on Friday – but having not played cricket for five years, the former England superstar decided to have a warm up by turning out for his old club St Annes against Penrith.

Naturally that led to Vernon Road earning mentions throughout the afternoon with updates on TV and radio and a huge crowd.

But a few miles up the coast at Fleetwood Darwen were proving their are rightful leaders.

It seemed as though they were destined for disappointment, however, as both Ammer Mirza and Jordan Clarke were dismissed cheaply to leave them reeling at 7-2 and when John Cordingley became Sam Bell’s third wicket it was 31-3.

Chris Clarke and pro George Linde advanced the score to 63 but three more quick wickets fell and Darwen were wobbling until Neil Cordingley walkedf to the crease, He made a game changing 44 not out before Darwen were finally bowled out for 140 with six overs left.

In reply, Fleetwood were dismissed for 101 with Neil Cordingley and Chris Wade each claiming three wickets.

Chorley were undone by reigning champions Leyland at Windsor Park in a game that went down to the final ball.

Ian Dickinson’s 34 had seemed to give Chorley a good start but they wobbled in mid-order and it took a quite splend effort from Keiran McCullagh who smashed a fantastic 59 not out – including five fours and four sixes – as Chorley closed on 176-9.

Leyland pro Alex Ross hit a majestic 112 not out as his side looked to be easing home.

However, they seemed to have thrown it away and needed six from the final ball with Ross off strike.

But Makinson delivered the most dramatic of finishes by clearing the ropes to win the match.

Up at St Annes, Flintoff claimed 3-26 from nine overs but holed out for just two from three balls with the bat.

But St Annes made sure he had a happy return with victory over Penrith. The league new boys were bowled out for 132 and Lukman Vahaluwala’s unbeaten 76 saw St Annes edge to a two wicket win.

Elsewhere, Barrow were beaten by Kendal and Lancaster coasted to a win over Preston and Blackpool beat Netherfield.

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