AMAL Dalugoda produced a vintage performance to inspire Astley Bridge’s impressive come-from-behind three-wicket victory at Blackrod on Saturday.

Bridge, on the fringes of the Association promotion race, had to recover from 36-7 chasing only 97 to secure a third win from eight matches. And the veteran Sri Lankan was their key man.

The 45-year-old, who has returned to the club this summer from a spell at Egerton, firstly claimed a stunning 6-13 from 17.2 overs of left-arm spin on a conducive pitch, with not one Blackrod batsman reaching 20 after the hosts had elected to bat.

After the hosts’ new-ball pair Matthew Readey and professional Shashrika Pussegolla claimed three wickets apiece, Dalugoda then steered the chase with two boundaries in an unbeaten 25, sharing an unbroken stand of 61 with fellow bowling all-rounder Irfan Puda, who top-scored with 35 not out, hitting six fours.

“We did what we needed to do,” said captain David Cryer.

“We were shaking. Their openers bowled incredibly well, but Amal and Irfan were outstanding to steady the ship and push on.

“I know how good those two are with the bat, but the way they were bowling didn’t particularly fill me with confidence that we could get the win. Thankfully we managed it.”

Blackrod actually got off to a solid start with the bat, reaching 33-0 thanks to openers Joey Pryle (18) and Daniel Robinson. But Cryer bowled Robinson and trapped Thushendra De Zoysa lbw in the space of three balls in the 13th over to push the door ajar.

Dalugoda then came on at first change and blew its hinges off, while Puda’s impressive day also started with the wickets of Pussegolla (18) and Bradley Wright.

“We wanted to bat first given the weather,” admitted Cryer. “But, at halfway, we were happy we ended up bowling. It was a wicket which favoured slower bowling.”

Bridge pro Denuwan Dadallage was bowled for a golden duck by Readey, while five others, including skipper Cryer, fell for single-figure scores to give Blackrod significant hope of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.

Instead, that is exactly what the visitors did thanks to Dalugoda and Puda, who will both remember the day fondly for some time to come.

“Amal showed his experience with the ball and then kept his head with the bat to get us over the line alongside Irfan,” said Cryer. “Amal’s someone who has made a huge impact on the whole club, not only the first team but the juniors.”

This was a desperately-needed win for the Sharples Park side given the excellent form of the Association’s leading duo Atherton and Heaton, who both won on Saturday.

Leaders Atherton are 20 points and Heaton 15 clear of Bridge, who sit in fourth place. Eagley are sandwiched in between in third.

Cryer knows promotion is a long shot, but he is certainly not giving up hope, adding: “Atherton and Heaton seem to be running away with it, so the rest of us just have to keep up the pressure.”