Captain Matthew Schofield hailed a “phenomenal” win as much-changed Baxenden inflicted a first defeat of 2023 upon runaway Anthony Axford North West Cricket League leaders Little Lever on Saturday.

Schofield’s side won by 34 runs away at Victory Road as they bowled the likely inaugural Premiership champions out for 68 chasing a 103 target in 27 overs thanks to a brilliant 7-32 from eight overs of seam from professional Jake Hargreaves.

Baxenden started the day second bottom in the table. But what made this rain-affected 12-point success all the more remarkable was that they did it managing availability issues.

“To come here and get only our third win, it’s phenomenal,” said Schofield, a key contributor with a top order 31.

“We only actually had maybe five recognised first-teamers. So it’s an unbelievable result.

“I’m sure it’s one of the biggest shocks in the league this season.”

In truth, Schofield has undersold it because it was the biggest shock of the campaign.

“We just had one or two lads pull out, one or two working,” said the skipper. “We’ve come over here with five second-teamers.

“To say they’ve not lost all season, it’s incredible.”

Baxenden, inserted, posted 102-6 from their 27 overs, with rain coming to reduce the fixture after 10 overs of the visiting innings.

“We came off at 22-1,” continued Schofield, who top-scored for his side with four fours in 54 balls.

“It was a decent pitch considering the weather we’ve had, and we managed to get our total up to just over 100. We then put early pressure on them with the ball and maintained it.”

Local lad Hargreaves, in his third campaign as Baxenden’s pro, starred with his season’s best haul.

“Jake was absolutely phenomenal up top - it was a really good performance from him,” said Schofield, before assessing his own innings.

“I’ve been in and out this season. It’s been quite stop-start. But I was pretty happy with this one.”

Baxenden jumped from 23rd in the table to 21st on Saturday.

“We’re going to be in the bottom league next season, unfortunately,” said Schofield. “But we’ve got to kick on from this and finish as high as possible.

“Some of the performances we’ve put in this year haven’t deserved the results we’ve had.

“If we can win a few more before the end, we can head into next year with more confidence. We’ll maybe add a few players here and there, and hopefully we can have a good season and be pushing to get into that top division.”

While Schofield has indicated plans to recruit ahead of 2024, he also revealed work on improving their junior section is underway.

“With the juniors, we’ve struggled a bit over the last few years,” he said. “But we’ve just started offering a free coaching night for the kids in the last few weeks.

“That’s on a Thursday, and it’s been quite a good turnout. We had 25-30 kids down the other night, which is fantastic given we’re only a small village.”

Saturday was Little Lever pro Jake Lehmann’s last game.

He heads home to Adelaide with them needing a maximum of four wins from six games to claim the title.

Adam Masood had him caught for one, and Lehmann ends the summer with 1,040 runs in all cricket at an average of 104.

“Thankfully, we got him early,” added Schofield. “But he’s a superb player. Little Lever are a fantastic team, a good set of lads and a really good club.”