HORWICH RMI narrowly missed out on a place in the Lancashire Knockout final as a below-par batting display cost them dear in Sunday’s home semi-final against reigning champions Darwen.

Horwich were bowled out for just 105, with only Dean Morris (28) from number four reaching 20 on a pitch used for Saturday’s Bolton League defeat against Bradshaw.

But, in defence of a 106 target in 45 overs, the hosts fought hard to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat as Darwen slipped from 52-1 in the 23rd over to 75-7 in the 35th.

Unfortunately for Horwich, an unbeaten 29 from Mark Friend in the middle order saw Darwen home by three wickets with eight balls to spare, setting up a final with Lancashire League rivals Norden.

For Darwen, invited to bowl, spinner David Bowden took the new ball and claimed 3-8 from nine overs, including the wickets of professional Brett Pelser and overseas amateur Lachie Fitzpatrick.

As Horwich defended, skipper Pelser took the new ball with his medium pacers and returned 3-22 from nine, while Jack Berry's left-arm spin chipped in with 2-19 from nine.

Both were crucial in bringing a rain-affected game back into the balance.

Horwich cricket manager David White said: “You can’t get 105 and realistically expect to win.

“We played on the same wicket as Saturday when there was 500 runs scored on it.

“But the weather played a part, and Darwen bowled really well to put the pressure on. We just didn’t come to the party with the bat.

“We went off twice for rain, and it played into their hands really.

“The game was in the balance when we came off for a second time. They needed 30 and the ball then got wet. It kind of took us out of the equation a bit.

“Darwen pressed reset and came back on and scored at three an over, which was all they needed to do.

“The pitch turned, and we just didn’t bat well enough.

“But we never felt out of it. We always thought, ‘A couple of wickets in quick succession and we’ll be in the game’. That’s how it turned out.

“But full credit to Darwen, they did the damage before tea.”

Horwich endured a disappointing weekend, with Saturday’s Premiership defeat against Bradshaw realistically ending their title hopes.

But they can still add the Stafford Trophy – they play Atherton in Sunday’s semi-final – to a recent T20 Cup success.

“We always felt we were going to start losing matches because we are a young side,” said White, whose side did not lose in any competition until late June.

“It was just a case of could we finish the job in a couple of tournaments?

“We are looking forward to Sunday. The pressure’s been taken off in the league with the last two results.”

As well as reaching the last four of the LKO, Horwich also reached the last 16 of the ECB National Club Championship.

White added: “We’re very proud as a club. The lads have been absolutely brilliant.

“We envisage these lads – they’re all mates off the pitch – staying together. We’ll maybe add the odd face next year and really kick on.

“Their added experience of being 12 months older, the club’s in a superb position.”