Little Lever claimed the Anthony Axford North West Cricket League’s first piece of silverware, winning Sunday’s Birtwistle Cup T20 title in an enthralling final against Barnoldswick at Padiham.

It is now looking like double bubble for Josh Gent’s side, who also sit pretty atop the Premiership league table with seven rounds remaining.

At Padiham, where all three matches were 18 overs per side due to the threat of rain, Little Lever beat hosts Padiham in the semi-final by 38 runs.

Professional Jake Lehmann top-scored with a blistering 78 off 39 balls in 173-7, before Adil Nisar claimed 4-23 in Padiham’s 135-8 response.

That came after Barnoldswick had beaten Farnworth by eight wickets chasing 139. Jonathan Beech and Sajid Akhtar claimed three wickets each in Farnworth’s 138-8, before South African overseas amateur Justin Gilliland’s unbeaten 60 off 46 underpinned the successful pursuit.

In the final, Little Lever, who were cheered on by 80-100 supporters, hammered 186-2 thanks to Indian overseas amateur Nipun Gaikwad’s 55 off 28 balls, Lehmann’s 58 not out off 36 and Nisar’s unbeaten 42 off 23.

Barnoldswick (159-8) were very much in the hunt in reply at 121-1 after nine overs - opener Beech top-scoring with 44 off 26. But the Bolton side held their nerve amidst late rain, with Gaikwad to the fore with 3-33 from four overs. It came 24 hours after his return for 2024 was announced.

“It’s absolutely brilliant,” said Gent, who won his first title since taking on the captaincy in 2014 courtesy of their 27-run success.

“It’s a big moment, and I’m really proud of the lads.

“It’s something I’ve been working towards for the last nine years personally. As a team, we’ve been working towards it for the last four or five years. We’ve been building and building, and we knew it was coming.

“Everyone talks a lot about our pro and our overseas. But we’re a proper team. We’ve got more than just one or two players who can do things.

“Days like this show it. Yeah, the pro’s done well, but that’s what he’s here for.

“Nipun was fantastic, he bowled really well. Adil’s another one - four wickets in the first game and 14 off four balls. Jake Wilde as well, he jumped in with a couple of 20s in the powerplay.”

Gent also praised Little Lever’s opponents.

“We got here towards the end of Farnworth’s innings in the semi,” he said. “They got 140, and Barnoldswick absolutely smoked it. So we knew we’d be in for a good game if we got to the final.

“They were going like no tomorrow chasing against us.

“They needed 66 off nine overs to win. They’d got 120 in the first nine, and I though it would be done after 14 or 15 overs. But it just shows our team spirit. We keep going on about it, but it’s got us over the line - 100 per cent.”

And on hosts Padiham, he said: “It’s a credit to them as a cricket club because they’ve put on an absolutely fantastic finals day. Honestly, they were brilliant.

“They had everything going on - a DJ, food, the lot. It was a really good advert for the league, the T20 competition and Padiham themselves.”

Little Lever now only need a maximum of four 12-point wins to add the league title to this success.

“We just need to keep taking it game by game,” said Gent. “We have a massive game on Saturday against Farnworth, who are second. If we can beat them, it’s huge.”

While performances have come from left, right and centre in Little Lever’s team this summer, Gent said Lehmann has provided the missing ingredient.

“We’ve had the same side for the last two or three years, but we just needed to add the right pro,” he said. “And we’ve got him.”

South Australia state captain Lehmann recently said he would decide closer to Christmas as to whether he would return to Victory Road in 2024, and Gent added after lifting this trophy: “If Jake comes back to England, he’ll be coming back to Little Lever. I’m very confident of that.”