ATHERTON have been crowned Bolton Association Division champions after beating Blackrod on a thrilling final day.

Both sides knew before a ball was bowled that victory would guarantee promotion.

And when league leaders Daisy Hill’s game at Adlington was abandoned, the stakes intensified as the league title came up for grabs.

Atherton’s bowling attack, spearheaded by Muhammad Baig (5-42) and Shaun Marsh (4-36), made the visiting batsman nervy from the off, bowling the first three victims out for 10 runs.

But professional Thushendra De Zoysa steadied the innings with a superb knock of 85.

However, only Graeme Walsh (22) provided any support and Blackrod were bowled out for 136.

David Tantsis-Hall, the Association’s top run-scorer, opened the reply with a knock of 29.

Skipper Calum Barlow led by example scoring 36 not out, before Baig turned his hand to the bat and added 36 to secure victory, and the title, with four wickets to spare.

Barlow said of the win: “It was a little bit nerve-wracking but we got there in the end.

“We wanted to get promoted from the league so to go up as champions is the nicest way to win it.

”The lads found out the Daisy result while I was still in batting so I didn’t know until they all came running on to the pitch once we had won. It was a great feeling.

“Ronnie Irani came down to present the trophy. His dad used to play for Atherton so that was a special moment.

“We are going to have to recruit now for next season. A few former Atherton lads have talked about wanting to come back so we will have to see what happens there. We will have to look at Lostock and see what they did to be able to stay in the league this year.”

Losing skipper Joey Pryle was graceful in defeat and claimed it was still a successful season for his side.

“We didn’t get enough runs on the board,” Pryle said. “Tush [de Zoysa] did very well again to get 85 but we didn’t support him, he can’t do it all by himself.

“We had 136 on the board at the break but we knew we had won games from that position before.

“We dropped their Aussie [David Tantsis-Hall] in the first over which could have changed things but we kept him under wraps and got him out early on.

“At 59-4 we thought we had control of the game again but honestly we dropped about four catches. Some of them were difficult ones but if they stick it’s a different story.

“Overall the game was played in good spirits, it had great banter and was very competitive, exactly what cricket should be about.

“I said last week that it wouldn’t be a disaster if we don’t go up and it won’t be. Our young players will only benefit from another year in this league and hopefully we can make it third time lucky next year.

“It has been a successful season with three of us going for the title. I am quite happy with the way it has gone.”

As for Daisy Hill, they secured promotion to the Bolton Premiership after their game at Adlington was abandoned.

The St James Street outfit started the day in top spot and looked favourites for the title with a favourable final-day tie.

Stephen Hodgkinson (4-50) and Neil Tong (3-25) impressed for Daisy as they bowled their hosts out for 103.

And what should have been a routine chase was interrupted six overs into the second innings as heavy rainfall caused the game to be abandoned and left Daisy skipper Steven Chilton cursing his luck.

“It was the only ground in the Bolton area to have been rained on, it must have been serious karma,” Chilton said.

“It was a strange one. There were nice blues skies before the game, we said we’d bowl them out for 100 and we did but when we got out to bat there was a huge cloud just above our ground and it trenched it down.

“We said before the season started that it was our primary goal to get promoted and we have achieved that.

“The lads are a little bit disappointed and down about not winning the title but every credit to Atherton.

“Promotion is all about consistency and we have been very consistent all season, we have played 14 and only lost four.”

Darcy Lever secured a fourth-placed finish with victory against Astley Bridge.

Jake Cooper top scored with 29 as Darcy were bowled out for 129 with Syd De Silva (5-45) and David Cryer (4-31) doing the damage with the ball.

De Silva knocked 45 in the reply, but the bowling of Shaukat Patel (4-27) and Joe Gavin (3-25) saw Astley Bridge dismissed for 120.

Tonge’s clash with Golborne was abandoned in the second innings.

Sub professional Luke Perry scored 70 as Tonge posted 202-5. Golborne were struggling on 20-3 when the game was called off.

Little Hulton’s clash with Little Lever was abandoned without play.

In the Premiership Division, Westhoughton skipper Rob Houghton believes his side have had a successful season after signing off with a comfortable win against Lostock.

The Howfeners won the Hamer Cup and qualified for the Lancashire Knockout, finishing third in the table.

They made routine work of the final-day victory over Lostock. Professional Qaiser Abbas bowled 5-47 and Matthew Morris took 3-39 as the Chew Moor outfit were dismissed for 106.

Dan Naylor opened with 28 in reply, before Abbas struck 38 not out to lead his side to victory.

“If you look at our season from the outside it looks like a decent season,” said Houghton. “We have won some silverware, the Hamer Cup, and finished third in the table. We could have done better in a few games but the highlight has to be winning the trophy. It was good to finish the season with a win too.

“We both had a few lads missing but we still had to go out there and perform.

“We now have to plan for next season. We are a bit disappointed we didn’t put up more of a fight for the title but Farnworth were so good and clinical, they thoroughly deserved to win it.

“Next season we aim to challenge for everything again. It would be nice to get a few extra games in too, maybe 20 or 22 instead because four of the 18 games got abandoned, but I’m not sure where the extra teams could come from.”

Farnworth finished 20 points ahead of the chasing pack after beating Walkden.

Kamran Younas scored a half-century as the Bridgeman Park side were bowled out for 146. Tahir Maqsood starred with the ball, producing figures of 7-48.

But Younas also collected seven scalps, bowling 7-17 as Walkden fell for 61. Imran Mirza took 3-28.

Bradshaw finished runners up after they avoided a potential banana skin by beating Eagley by two wickets.

Professional Agha Salman scored 39 and the retiring Paul Rayment hit an unbeaten 41 as Eagley posted 179-9.

Number eight Rob Hardman rescued Bradshaw’s innings and won them the game with a superb unbeaten 53.

Elsewhere, Chris Barrow scored 70 as Farnworth Social Circle beat Horwich.

Jake O’Byrne also hit 29 as the Piggot Park outfit made 148 before they were bowled out by an attack led by Lewis Haydock (4-34) and Harry McManus (3-14).

Marcus Haydock top scored with 34 in reply but Horwich were dismissed 47 runs shy of the target.

Heaton and Kearsley warmed up for their Peter Stafford final with a close-fought encounter.

Ahmed Matloob took five wickets as Kearsley were dismissed for 136, Devendra Bundela top-scoring with 45.

Cameron Murray took five Heaton victims in reply as Kearsley bowled their hosts out for 135.