Former England and Lancashire cricketer Ian Austin rolled back the years by leading St Annes to victory in today’s four-team beach cricket tournament at St Chad’s Headland in Blackpool yesterday.
It was the first beach cricket competition played in the UK using a format of the game developed from the popular ‘indoor cricket’ and Kwik Cricket variants of the sport.
Austin took three wickets in the last over of Blackpool’s innings in the final to reduce Blackpool to minus 11 runs in their six overs. His spell included two wickets in his last two balls – leaving him on a beach cricket hat-trick.
St Annes made heavy weather of chasing the paltry target, with Blackpool’s Sri Lankan professional Saj Weerakoon taking a hat-trick with the last three balls of the second over to reduce St Annes to minus 13.
But St Annes clawed their way back into the game, reducing their deficit to minus seven after three overs and minus five after four.
With the batting side losing five runs each time they lost a wicket, Blackpool pinned their hopes on at least a couple of breakthroughs in the final two overs.
But Austin and Mansoor Ahmed steadied the ship, batting out time to ensure victory. Blackpool’s Lancashire Academy player Luis Reece trapped Austin lbw with the final ball of the contest – but it was too little too late.
St Annes ended on minus 10 to take victory by the narrowest of margins.
Afterwards Austen gave the competition the thumbs-up. “It’s been good fun and it’s always nice to win,” he said.
“Anything that can get more people playing the sport has got to be good.” Reece also enjoyed the fun.
“I didn’t really know what to expect, but it’s been a good laugh. It’s definitely a form of the game that can go somewhere."
Earlier Fleetwood beat Lytham in the third place match.
Fleetwood scored 41 from their six overs, but Lytham could only muster 15 in response.
Lancashire women’s team player Georgina Read, who played for Lytham, said: “It was very different to the usual form of the game on grass, but I really enjoyed it.
"You don’t have as much time to think about things as you play, so you just play it as it comes. It was a lot of fun.”
Earlier St Annes limped home in their semi against Lytham.
Lytham scored 13 in their six overs, but St Annes secured a place in the final with 15 runs.
In the other semi, Blackpool scored 22 in response to Fleetwood’s 21.
The competition was a beach cricket pilot being run by Lancashire Cricket Board in conjunction with VisitBlackpool and the Northwest Regional Development Agency.
The trial is being monitored by the England and Wales Cricket Board, who are looking into the future format of beach cricket.
The format played in Blackpool was similar to the indoor version of the game, with a six-metre high net surrounding a 40m x 30m pitch.
The competition was played at St Chad’s Headland at Blackpool’s newly redeveloped promenade.
The cricket was played on beaches created on the promenade for the NESTEA European Championships Tour English Masters beach volleyball competition.
It is the first time a tour event has come to Britain.
The beach volleyball competition runs from Thursday 11 September to Sunday 14 September.