The stunning North Yorkshire village of Sessay provided the idyllic setting for the ECB Women's North of England Final. With the hosts unbeaten North of England champions every year since the competition began in 2018 and Lindow still playing in the second tier of Cheshire cricket, Sessay went into the game as clear favourites.
That said, Lindow stopped worrying about the form book several rounds ago. From being in Cheshire Division 4 as recently as 2019, this was the club's first foray into the National Knockout competition and it looked like it would end at the first hurdle. That day Nantwich were in full control at 78-1 chasing 100 when six late wickets for only nine runs gave Lindow an unlikely 4 run win.
Unbelievably, the margin of victory in the next round was even smaller, when Lindow's 62 all out against Stockport Georgians seemed almost certainly not enough. When the final Georgians wicket fell for 59, and the celebrations died down, Lindow came away with the belief that as well as competing in these games, they were good enough to win them.
So it proved, with a win in Lancashire against Leyland followed by a third victory over a Cheshire Division 1 side, this time a semi-final win over Didsbury and with it a place earned in the final against Sessay.
Despite the bright sunshine in North Yorkshire, Lindow captain Jo Seddon won the toss and elected to bowl due to the heavy rain in the previous 24 hours. The first ten overs saw a great contest with the game very much in the balance at 54-1. Claire Ashworth took a good catch off Katie Farmer's bowling before trapping the other opener LBW. At 89-2 off 14 overs Sessay had the foundations for a big total, but Lindow fought back.
First Alex Wilson struck, followed by Emilia Rossi removing the opposition captain for 42 the next over, leaving the home side 92-4 after 16 overs. From here the Lindow spinners took control. The club's Kiwi overseas player Sarah Parker with two wickets and Grace Hemsted with one, all stumped by the exceptional glovework of Emily Murray, the Lindow wicket-keeper. Sessay finished 107-7 off their 20 overs.
The equation was now simple for Lindow, 108 to be North of England champions. First up, the spin twins Parker and Hemsted got Lindow on their way, but a direct hit run-out meant Sessay were celebrating and Murray joined Parker at the crease at 14-1. This was the partnership that gave Lindow the impetus, adding 60 before Parker was caught on the boundary for a superb 39 from 34 balls.
At 91-2 Lindow were cruising, but it quickly became 91-4 as Ashworth (bowled for 5) and Murray (run out for 31) fell and the holders sensed they had a chance. Tight bowling meant the run rate did slow, but Carys White and Libby Ackerley held their nerve and saw Lindow home in the penultimate over to big celebrations from the visiting supporters and all those watching the livestream back in Cheshire.
Another brilliant team performance with six bowlers taking wickets, all batters contributing, Nikki Hill and Louise Long once again setting the standards saving runs in the field and excellently led by Jo Seddon. The club now has the honour of being the first Cheshire club to move forward as North of England champions and will play the Midlands champions, Dorridge from Solihull, at a neutral venue in Derbyshire next month.
Gunnersbury from North London play St Cross Symondians from Winchester in the other National semi-final. Before then though Lindow have key league matches to play and coach Rowan Day will have the team fully focused on their promotion push so that playing Cheshire Division 1 teams is a weekly occurrence.
A very proud day for everyone connected with Lindow Cricket Club, where women and girls cricket is thriving. Finally, congratulations to the group of women, several who played in this match, who with some nervousness after only starting softball cricket in 2018, stepped forward in 2019 to launch the club's first women's hardball team, which four years later is crowned as the North of England champions. Quite the legacy!
Match report by Adam Bull.