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National Club Champions 2015

Blackheath Cricket Club lifted the Royal London National Club Championship Trophy for the first time since 1971 with a comprehensive 9 wicket victory over Northern CC from the Liverpool & District Cricket Competition.

Chris Willetts lost the toss and Northern, who had overcome former winners Chester Le Street in their semi-final, decided to bat. The Club flexed its bowling muscle as early as the first over as Warren Lee had the Lancashire side's leading scorer well held by Dipayan Paul at second slip. 

Lee was extracting significant movement off the seam when he got his length right and the Lee-Paul combination was soon in action again, accounting for the 2nd wicket. The Northern captain gloved a rip-snorter from Lee after just 7 balls and when the introduction of Jahid Ahmed (1-18) accounted for the remaining Northern opener to leave them 42-4, Blackheath sensed blood. 

The Northern middle-order showed some spirit however and 73 runs were added for the 6th wicket in a stand that could have turned the tie against less experienced opposition. Chris Willetts expertly used Tom Mees, Dipayan Paul and James Hands to keep the Northern rate under control and when Hands, the competition's leading wicket-taker, broke the 6th wicket stand with a Kerridge stumping, the Crosby based side were facing their second collapse of the day.

Regular wickets did fall as the Northern innings petered out to 161-9 from their 45 overs, James Hands' masterclass in this competition continuing with 2-13 from his 9 overs. Barring any oddities that Finals can sometimes produce, this total seemed well light.

The Blackheath reply started steadily as Chris Willetts and Jahid Ahmed weighed up their opponent's attack but Willetts grabbed the chase by the scruff of the neck when he took 13 off the 4th over. This produced an early introduction of spin but with the 15-over fielding restrictions still in place both Willetts and Ahmed were able to score freely, all around the wicket. 

Shortly after Ahmed had hit Northern's slow left-armer into the stand for the first maximum of the day he top-edged a rising delivery from the same bowler, attempting a repeat dose. His 32 from 32 balls in an opening stand of 67 with Willetts had laid the foundations for the Blackheath chase and moreover, had outlined the enterprising approach Northern would have to counter if they had any hopes of pulling off an unlikely victory.

Although the elegance of Tanweer Sikandar replaced the brutal force of Jahid Ahmed, the chase continued at the same vigorous pace and when Sikandar deposited his third ball for a straight six, the fielding side would have sensed the game was up.

Willetts (58*) continued, occasionally punctuating his industrious accumulation with a flowing boundary against the loose delivery but it was Sikandar who starred in the pair's unbroken 95 run partnership with a fluent 52* from 48 balls. 

It was fitting that it was Sikandar who struck the winning runs with a caress through mid-wicket, but slightly less fitting that the likes of Michael Thornely, who had proven the match winner in Blackheath's quarter and semi finals, and Dipayan Paul, Duncan Willetts and Mahi Mahfuzul who had made such telling contributions during the campaign, didn't get a chance to parade their batting talents in the final. 

Nevertheless, the Club can be proud to wear the title of National Champions for a year having completed one of the most comprehensive wins in the competitions 47 year history - by 9 wickets with 92 balls remaining.

The post-match presentation, enjoyed by Blackheath supporters and respected by the sizable crowd who had made the long journey from Merseyside, saw Warren Lee rewarded for his tone setting opening spell of 3-25 with the Man of the Match Award. 


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