With temperatures barely reaching double figures, it was a sparse crowd that saw an enthralling cricket match Nelson tied with East Lancashire at Seedhill.
East Lancs won the toss and batted, but Dan Lord (1), Nial Boyle (0), Minhaj Bhada (2) and Paul Kelly (5) all lost their wickets to an inspired opening spell of bowling by Sam Halstead and Richard Meade, who grabbed two wickets each.
Professional JuanPierre de Villiers saved the day for the visitors with a stubborn defence initially. It took him 93 balls to reach 34, by which time he had also lost Nick Turner, lbw to Nelson pr Kesh Maharaj, for 11 and Mohammed Bhada, snapped up by Lewis Bradley at silly mid on off Harrison Phelan, for 9.
Sohail Mohammed stayed with his captain and professional as they mounted an assault on the Nelson attack. De Villiers hit two sixes from a Maharaj over, followed by successive fours off Phelan in the next over. The pair put on 55 for the seventh wicket until Toxy Hussain had de Villiers caught on the longoff boundary by his opposite number.
De Villiers had hit seven fours and two sixes in his 68, after facing 120 balls.
Khurrum came on to bowl belatedly and bowled Sohail Mohammed for 30 to wrap up the East Lancs innings on 158.
The Bradley brothers gave Nelson a wonderful start as 50 was achieved in the ninth over. De Villiers and Tariq Asif opened the bowling but conceded 61 runs in the opening 10 overs.
However, de Villiers then yorked Russell Bradley who had made 28 at a run-a-ball, and the South African tore the heart out of the batting.
Phelan (8), Khurrum Nazir (0), Maharaj (first ball duck) and Chris Heap (1) fell in quick succession as Nelson slumped to 76-5.
Lewis Bradley took a blow on the head from a de Villiers bouncer and play was held up until he was ready to resume. Fortunately, Bradley’s helmet had taken thebrunt of the impact but he sported a massive bump afterwards.
He bravely batted on and hit Mohammed Bhada for six. The bowler soon gained his revenge as he caught and bowled him for 37.
Neil Thompson made 15 before being given out lbw again and Toxy Hussain was well caught off a full-blooded square drive for 11. When Meade was bowled by de Villiers for three, Nelson were 141-9 with 18 overs left!
Halstead and Lewis Hillman stopped everything de Villiers could throw at them, creeping towards the target.
They brought the scores level in the 42nd over, but Halstead (on 20) was given out lbw. Hillman, who faced 28 balls, was left undefeated on 4. Both sides received seven points for the tie plus two bowling bonus points.
Saturday’s Worsley Cuptie with East Lancs was called off due to persistent rain and the two sides will try again tomorrow. Nelson then host Ramsbottom on Sunday.
Nelson are still looking for a substitute professional as it has not been possible to complete the necessary documents to sign Qaasim Adams.