New Longton Cricket Club was the venue recently for the third annual cricket match between a team representing The Church of England in Lancashire (Blackburn Diocese) and a team from Lancashire Council of Mosques (LCM).
Players came together from across Lancashire including New Longton, Ellel, Burnley, Accrington, Padiham, Leyland, Thornton, Blackburn and Preston with contributions from further afield as well, specifically Skelmersdale, Carlisle and Durham.
The Diocese team consisted of both clergy and laity, while teachers, clerics and members of mosques made up the LCM side. The mosques team also featured the current Leader of Burnley Council, Councillor Afrasiab Anwar.
Winners on the night were the Diocese by just two runs in a very close-fought match … the first time in the three years of the fixture the church team has come out on top!
But the result (always important!) was just part of the purpose of the match which, in the words of the Bishop of Burnley Rt Rev. Philip North, was also about demonstrating the importance of ‘love, friendship and mutual support’ between faiths.
Bishop Philip is President of ‘Building Bridges in Burnley’ and was invited to umpire some of the match. He said: “Since its inception it’s been fantastic to see this encounter grow to become a regular fixture in the County’s cricketing calendar.
“I was delighted to be able to attend this year and even more pleased to be invited to take a turn as umpire!
“The love, friendship and mutual support embodied in the match tangibly shows us that, whatever our background and faith, we can work together to achieve great things ... while enjoying each others’ company at the same time.
“That’s a message that is so important to get across just now; particularly after the very difficult year we have all experienced.”
Captain of the LCM side, Abdul Alim, commented: "This fixture always ensures a few pleasant surprises, maybe this year complacency had set in which we will hope to address next time! Whilst the result may have gone against us this year, the camaraderie and friendships have continued to blossom, which is far more important.”
Abdul’s teammate, Councillor Afrasiab Anwar who is Chair of the ‘Building Bridges’ group said: "Sport is and always has been a great way to bring communities together. I'm delighted I was given the opportunity to take part in this annual fixture. The result is not important … what matters is the mutual respect, conversations and lasting friendships. My bowling figures were the icing on the cake!”
Meanwhile Diocesan Captain, Tom Woolford, added: “This is such a great fixture and I’m thrilled we’ve finally got one over our friends and rivals at the Council of Mosques. I wouldn’t want them to get bored of thrashing us!
“I hope the profile of this match increases in the years ahead as people in Lancashire hear about the fun and friendship we are able to share around our mutual love of cricket, banter and food.”
The Diocese team was comprised of Tom Woolford (vicar of All Saints’ New Longton); Craig Abbott (vicar of St John’s Ellel); Munawar Din (vicar of St Cuthbert’s Burnley); Jordan McDermott (curate, St Mary Magdalene Accrington); Kit Walker (curate, St Leonard’s Padiham); Jon Smethurst (lay church worker, St Andrew’s Leyland); Ian Davies and Jeremy Davies (father and son, lay members, Christ Church Thornton); Steve Carter (Diocese of Carlisle); Philip Wills (Diocesan Registrar, Diocese of Durham) and his son Jamie Wills.
The Lancashire Council of Mosques was represented by Mohsin, Yaseen and Talha from Little Harwood Mosques; Moulana Salim, Irfan, Imran and Shoaib from Audley Mosques; Qari Asif Badat from Skelmersdale; Afrasiab Anwar, Leader of Burnley Council; Safwan Akubat from Preston Mosques and Abdul Alim from East Blackburn.
The third annual cricket match between a team representing The Church of England in Lancashire and a team representing the Lancashire Council of Mosques took place recently at New Longton Cricket Club.
The first two times this fixture has been played, the Mosques’ team has won comfortably, with the Church team consoling themselves that ‘taking part’ is what really matters in an event that exists to build friendships between leaders of Lancashire’s biggest faith communities.
No such consolation was necessary this time, as the Diocese of Blackburn squeaked home with a 2-run victory in one of the closest, most exciting matches either team has ever contested.
For the first time, the church side won the toss and elected to bat first. Jeremy Davies, a member of Christ Church Thornton, anchored the entire 20 over innings, scoring a magnificent 80 not out.
Davies was ably supported by Durham Diocesan registrar Philip Wills (17) and by a rapid 36 from New Longton’s new vicar, and captain of the side, the Rev’d Tom Woolford.
At one stage the Diocese entertained hopes of a score close to 200, but excellent death bowling by Afrasiab (3 for 13 off 3) brought the Mosques right back into the game. Nevertheless, the church side posted 170/4, ensuring that, at the very least, this would be a closer match than the last two year’s iterations. And so it proved.
Though Mohsin and Yaseen proved obdurate openers, they were behind the required rate into the middle overs of the innings, thanks to a tight bowling attack from Abbott, Davies, and Din.
When Smethurst bowled Yaseen for 22 (in the middle of an economic spell of 1 for 11 off 3) Mohsin was spurred into a rapid acceleration and punished any loose balls with dispatches to the boundary.
Even when Abbott saw off Salim for 14 and Woolford took a sharp caught and bowled to finally dismiss Mohsin for 69, the Diocese team knew they were far from home and dry.
The Mosques’ trump card, Irfan, who had twice taken the game away from the church side with his strong and straight hitting looked set to be the match winner again as he hit 4 maximums in 9 scoring shots to guide the Mosque side to requiring a mere 5 runs to win from the final over of the match.
But with Irfan stranded at the non-strikers’ end and backed up by brave and proficient keeping from Steve Carter (Carlisle diocese) including an inspired run out, Jeremy Davies who had starred with the bat now won the game with the ball.
The final over saw a run out, a bowled, a bye and a couple of runs: all was set up for the final ball - 3 to win, 2 to tie. Dot ball, attempted run, run out.
Several members of captain Woolford’s New Longton congregation, watching on the boundary, joined in with the indecorously enthusiastic celebrations when the church side held on in that frantic final over!
The game was once again played in the very best of spirits and sportsmanship. For instance Bishop Philip, guest-umpiring the first innings, gave eventual match winner Jeremy Davies out LBW early on in the Diocese’s run accumulation.
This, despite admitting on the way out to the middle that he didn’t quite understand the laws of cricket relating to leg before wicket and therefore would be declining all appeals!
It was mosques’ captain Abdul Alim who sportingly and politely pointed out to the bishop that Davies could not be given out LBW since he had, in fact, hit it with his bat. The decision was overturned, and Davies went on to accrue another 65 runs.
As ever, a warm rice supper was provided by the mosque side and drinks by the church side for the teams to enjoy together after the match.
Both teams wish to record their thanks to New Longton CC for the free use of their beautiful ground and facilities, and the Diocese of Blackburn side to the AllChurches Trust which gives a grant each summer towards equipment and hire costs to enable the cricket side to continue.