SKIPPER Marc Brown led from the front with an imperious knock as Netherfield made it back to back Northern League victories, inflicting defeat on high-flying Darwen for only the second time this season.

With the visitors chasing 174 to win, Brown batted through the innings to top score with 90, as Ben Phillips and John Huck also made vital contributions.

Darwen were bowled out for 173 with the final ball of the innings, with opener Ammer Mirza the standout contributor with 55, as Saliya Saman and Brad Earl took three wickets apiece.

Despite not looking completely comfortable early on, Mirza struck four boundaries as Darwen reached 31-0, before Saman struck with the final ball of the 11th over.

Scott Jackson edged the Sri Lankan behind to Ben Barrow to depart for nine, which brought Birch Hall professional George Linde to the middle, with him and Mirza sharing the highest partnership of the innings.

A boundary through mid-wicket off Nathan Chambers brought up the Darwen 50 in the 18th over, with Linde in particular looking increasingly assured at the crease.

Linde struck Chambers for a straight six before edging Saman to a diving Phillips in the slips for 30, with the home side 75-2.

Mirza smashed three fours off one Saman over before Chambers found the edge of Chris Clarke’s bat, a catch duly taken by Barrow, to leave Darwen 92-3.

Opener Mirza brought up his 50 with a single off Earl but, after sweeping the same bowler for four, holed out to Huck at extra cover off Chambers to depart for 55.

With Earl initially bowling in tandem with Chambers and then Mark Clarkson, the trio exerted some control on the Darwen middle order.

John and Neil Cordingley shared 23 for the fifth wicket in seven overs before the latter was trapped in front by Earl for four with the final delivery of the 41st.

Kamran Anwar fell the same way, as John Cordingley proved the mainstay of the Darwen innings in the latter stages, adding 21 for the seventh wicket with Reece Davies.

Davies took successive boundaries off Clarkson before top-edging behind to Barrow for 18, as Chris Wade was run out for two.

Earl clung onto a sharp caught and bowled chance to dismiss John Cordingley for 38 and return figures of 3-38, with Saman bowling Darius Ainsley as Darwen were dismissed for 173.

In reply, Netherfield were reeling at 1-1 in the second over after losing Barrow, with the 22-year-old departing for one after lofting a miscued pull off Anwar to Wade at mid-on.

The initial overs saw the visitors rebuilding, with Brown guiding Anwar through the slip cordon for the first boundary in the eighth over.

Phillips followed suit by cutting Neil Cordingley for four before Brown clipped Anwar to the square leg boundary and maneuvered the same bowler for a further four, as Netherfield reached 32-1 off ten overs.
Brown continued in the same vein, with the 26-year-old sweeping Linde for successive fours to bring up the visitors’ 50 and a half century partnership with Phillips.

The duo maintained the run rate until Phillips departed for 45, holing out to Ainslie off Linde, although there was little respite as Huck joined his skipper at the crease.

Brown brought up his second half century in as many games, with Netherfield continuing to pile on the runs and ease towards their victory target.

Anwar – who finished with figures of 2-59 – bowled Huck for 33, although Brown was on hand to knock off the remaining runs with more than eight overs to spare.

Brown finished unbeaten on 90, falling short of his first century of the season but playing a pivotal innings as Netherfield continue to show resurgence in form.