DWAYNE Bernard was the all-action hero as Ellesmere Port made a miraculous recovery to seal their survival on an epic final day of the season.
Bernard produced the performance of his career to lead Port to a dramatic victory in their do-or-die relegation decider at Frodsham on Saturday.
The visitors were staring a fatal defeat in the face when Frodsham moved within 36 runs of their target with eight wickets to spare.
But in a twist straight out of a Hollywood blockbuster, Bernard took 8-44 in an incredible spell of bowling to ensure Gareth Boys’ side pulled off the great escape.
Port captain Boys said: “Steven Spielberg couldn’t have written a better script than that.
“It was always going to be mission impossible for us and at one stage we were dead and buried.
“But the lads showed how it much it means to them and some of the cricket we played was as good as county level.”
Port headed to Moor Lane knowing nothing less than a 25-point victory would do if they were to haul themselves above Frodsham and Hartford and out of the Cheshire Alliance Division One drop spots.
Their ‘mission’ could not have got off to a better start as Tom Mitchell and Chris Gatrell made light work of a testing track.
Mitchell hit 88 and Gatrell added a half century of his own as the visitors declared on a challenging 191-4.
Two early wickets lifted spirits further but Frodsham – needing just a draw to survive – battled back and when the reply reached 156-2 there seemed only one winner.
Bernard, however, had other ideas. He single-handedly bowled the shell-shocked hosts out for 186 with a display that will live long in the memory.
Boys, who captained Port to the Division Two title 12 months ago, said: “Dwayne was absolutely unbelievable and when he got that last wicket he set off on a run which I think ended at the M56!
“We’ve had 21 weeks of bad luck when everything has seemed to go against us, but it was all worth it and it’s an even better feeling than winning the league last season.
“Frodsham were destroyed but they deserve credit for going for it. The umpires said it was the best game they had ever umpired.”
Boys also reserved sympathy for Hartford after their defeat at promoted Glazebury – combined with Port’s unlikely win – condemned them to relegation along with Frodsham.
Schoolteacher Boys knows the younger members of the Hartford team well as he is head of PE at Hartford High School.