Rufford Cricket Club celebrated a unique tie-up with some of America’s top sporting superstars by breaking a century-old duck at the crease.
The tiny village side from Lancashire lifted the Sandhurst Shield for the first time in the competition’s 97-year history just days after joining the same sponsorship stable as baseball’s New York Yankees and the New York Giants of gridiron.
Rufford, the first English cricket club to be backed by global party firm Amscan, trounced Haydock by a massive 166 runs in the final at Norley Hall, Wigan.
And now the team are gunning for an impressive double in the Southport and District Amateur League to mark their new association with Amscan’s “Pride, Passion, Party” sports initiative in the UK.
The stunning Sandhurst Shield victory capped a marvellous weekend for Rufford who thumped leaders Prescot and Odyssey by nine wickets in a league clash the previous day to narrow the gap between the top two with six games still to play.
Then, after a slow start in the Shield decider, they piled up a daunting total of 246-7 in their 45 overs, Mark Golding top-scoring with an unbeaten 62 and Greg Ashcroft hitting 55.
In reply Haydock were skittled for just 80, making it third time lucky for Rufford who had lost in both of their previous appearances in the final.
Club president Frank Ashcroft said : “The team played at the top of their game and this comprehensive victory now means that Rufford have, at last, won every league title and cup competition in the Southport & District League.
“The fact that most of the first team squad have come through our junior system is testament to the dedication of the club's coaches and volunteers.
“But the season is not over by any means. We are now looking to make it a cup and league double.
“With six games to go we intend to challenge right to the end and keep piling the pressure on the leaders.”
New York-based Amscan, the world’s largest designer, manufacturer and distributor of decorated party products, launched their “Pride, Passion, Party” initiative in the UK this summer to offer clubs and individuals in a variety of sports the opportunity to invest in player development.
Lancashire Rugby were the first in the North West to benefit on an under-18 tour to France. Hutton Grammar School and Tarleton Rugby Club have also been supported.
But Rufford were the first cricket club in the country to join the Amscan fold. And they were sporting new branded kit for their historic Sandhurst Shield win.
Cliff Wareing, the club secretary, added: “At the start of the season we had five juniors move away from the club and it hurt. So we decided we needed to ramp up our investment in the junior set-up.
“Amscan’s PPP initiative was just what we needed. It is international, it’s innovative and we feel part of a larger sporting community which incredibly includes the likes of the New York Yankees and the Giants.”
Amscan general manager Adrian Ellis explained: “We launched PPP in the UK with the help of World Cup legend Gordon Banks. We have supported Lancashire RFU in France and we have just entered an agreement to support cricket.
“Rufford are the first club to sign up and we are delighted that their first team have won this prestigious final. Of the 15-strong squad, 14 came through the Rufford junior system. It was that commitment that attracted us.”