LOWERHOUSE all-rounder Jonathan Finch always saves the best until last.
In 2010 the 28-year-old became the first West Ender to do the amateur double since Jon Hartley in 1980 in a 46-run victory over Colne on the final day of the campaign.
And this year Finch helped the ‘House to a deserved Lancashire League title as he scooped a career best 8-38 on the penultimate match of the season away at Todmorden.
After accumulating 329 runs and 53 wickets to date, going in to the season’s finale at home to Accrington, Finch said: “My batting has been a bit disappointing this year but my bowling has improved. I’m just happy to have contributed and pitched in for the team because it’s a team sport. I love providing for the team but I’d have given up all the individual milestones for a league championship any day.”
The Liverpool Road club only secured its first ever league title in 2005 having been the only club since the famous old league’s inception in 1892 - bar Bury - not to win it. But now they’ve got another trophy to add to the cabinet, and one which they accrued as self-acclaimed ‘underdogs’.
“Everyone’s chuffed to pieces,” said Finch. “Nobody gave us a sniff at the beginning of the season but to defy the odds and win the Lancashire League in the manner that we did is a completely extraordinary experience.
“I was speechless at the end. I was mentally and physically drained after the match with Todmorden. I’d say it was my greatest achievement from a cricket perspective though.
“I was immensely proud of the way the team adapted themselves and performed as a club. I take great pride in representing Lowerhouse CC.”
The likes of Fergus Bailey, Ben Heap, Joe Martin, Matt Walker and Jonny Whitehead have come to the fore this year and shown maturity beyond their years. With an average age of 18.6, the five starlets have contributed 1,216 runs to their club’s championship cause as well as 32 wickets and 49 catches.
“It’s very difficult to compare our two successes,” said Finch.
“In 2005 there was a lot of expectation on our shoulders because we had a team of good, experienced players.
“But this time around we’ve relied a lot on youngsters and there’s been some great individual performances from them.
“It’s a different achievement but equally as satisfying.
“People questioned whether we could maintain that level of form throughout the season, but we did it!
“It’s exciting because there’s some talented, young players in our ranks fully capable of putting in a performance when it matters.”
And Finch, who featured heavily in the West Enders Worsley Cup success in 2004 as well as the ‘05 league triumph, was full of praise for his skipper: “Charlie Cottam has grown in to the role over the last few years and a lot of results are down to his captaincy and guidance.
“His biggest strength is that he leads by example in fitness, batting, fielding and his ‘never say die’ attitude.
“He contributes a lot of effort and commitment and everyone has got a lot of respect for him. He’s taken to it like a duck to water and it’s been an absolute pleasure playing for him.”
And now the aim is to continue the development at Lowerhouse Cricket Club and build on this success by battling on all fronts. Finch is hoping for an influx in silverware in the near future.
He said: “The biggest challenge is winning after winning so we’ve got to learn from 2005. If you look at the basis of the team then there should be something in place for the next five years. We need to develop in the 20/20 competition and pose a threat in the Worsley Cup. We know we’ve got more to offer so hopefully 2011 has created the foundations and we can go on to be even more successful next year.”
Lowerhouse are planning a huge celebration at their final home game on Sunday when they will be officially presented with the championship trophy.
The club would like everybody who has supported the club over the years to come and join them, and people from the local community. There will be bar and refreshments throughout, plus entertainment in the clubhouse after the game.