THE Bolton Association pulled off a superb victory over the Northern League in the semi-finals of the MEN Lancashire Knockout writes Peter Mensforth

But the hopes of an all-Bolton final ended when the League were surprisingly beaten by 24 runs by the Central Lancs League.

The Association faced a tough task against a league that has Lancashire premiership status yet they produced a solid batting display and a brave bowling show at Fleetwood to win a thriller by seven runs.

Batting first they reached 211-8 with fine contributions from man of the match Stuart Knowles 77, Tony Kelly 35, Harris 23 and Tripathi 22 yet on a good batting track, that total looked to be perhaps 20 runs short.

The Association, however, quickly piled all the pressure on to the home side when they reduced them to 43-4, the Walshaw combination of bowler Brett Collins and wicketkeeper Anthony Harris claiming three of the wickets.

Another wicket fell at 88-5 but a lack of bowling depth looked to have let the Northern League back into the game as Howarth and Mercer took the score to 169-5.

Collins then came back with his last two overs, bowled Howarth for 78 with his first ball before Andrew Griffiths claimed two vital wickets and then Phil Wakefield claimed the last when Harris took his fourth catch of the innings.

At Milnrow the League looked favourites to win their semi-final after restricting the Central Lancs to 197-9.

And after looking to be in a good position at 80-1 they lost two quick wickets, fell behind the run rate and never recovered.

Ian Taylor, who had earlier taken 4-20 off ten overs made a valiant effort to save the day with a thundering knock of 25 that contained two consecutive sixes but when he was bowled the League innings folded at 163.

CENTRAL LANCS v Bolton League

Central Lancs League won by 24 runs

Central Lancs League

P Wilcock b Stewart 0

M Gardner b Taylor 8

S Brierley st Evans b Halton 38

C Dearden c Evans b Rayment 46

B Cross b Taylor 21

J Henderson b Rayment 21

M Dawson not out 35

M Bux b Stewart 0

N Avery b Taylor 4

S Holt b Taylor 5

L Wolstenholme not out 1

Extras 8

Total (for 9) 187

Bowling: Taylor 10-0-20-4, Stewart 10-0-31-2, A Taylor 6-1-24-0, Halton 10-0-46-1, Rayment 5-0-40-2.

Bolton League

S Parker run out 37

P Stafford c Gardner b Bux 9

D Morris st Dawson b Dearden 25

G Garner b Henderson 22

P Rayment c Cross b Wolstenholme 15

J Fearick st Dawson b Wolstenholme 7

M Stewart c Henderson b Avery 3

C Evans run out 0

I Taylor b Henderson 25

A Taylor b Bux 1

W Halton not out 7

Extras 12

Total 163.

Bowling: Bux 10-7-33-2, Henderson 8-0-30-2, Avery 10-5-18-1, S Holt 10-1-28-0, Wolstenholme 6-0-35-2, Dearden 3-1-11-1.