AS the chill of an early evening drew in at East Bierley, there wasn’t exactly a pitch invasion by Adam Brown’s team – but the home side could have been forgiven for forgetting the need to socially distance.

What seemed a lost cause at tea-time, and for most of their innings afterwards, became a remarkable victory as Bierley overhauled Wakefield Thornes’ 340-6 with an unbroken last-wicket stand of 80 in their first-round Heavy Woollen Cup tie.

While No.11 Reece Clark’s forward defensive looked assured, the real hero was at the other end as Ben Walter’s astonishing 227 not out took Bierley to the most unlikely of victories.

The new season may be only a weekend old, but we may never see a match bettered all campaign for drama and clean hitting.

Bierley’s young side, watched over by skipper Brown, 33, Dan Abbott, 31, and Matthew West, 28, had thrown themselves about in the field and never let their heads drop – indeed Thornes seemed more affected by the occasion late in the match than the home side had earlier.

For example, Walter offered up a relatively simple chance to deep square leg on 98, but the ball ended up on the turf, and how the No.4 made them pay.

He hit 22 sixes and 14 fours in an innings that lasted a mere 113 balls, hitting most of his maximums straight but also favouring cow corner in a great display of clean striking, often with what looked to be a short-arm jab.

With Walter pushing the single to try and keep strike, it was Wakefield, winners of the Yorkshire Premier Leagues’ Championship play-offs as recently as 2018, who looked nonplussed.

Kamran Hussain saw the second and third ball of the 40th over disappear over his head for sixes as Walter clinched a remarkable win.

University student Walter, in his second season at South View Road, admitted afterwards: “I am not too sure how I pulled that one off.

“I just tried to keep things simple as possible, watch the ball and stay positive as much as I could.”

Bierley’s wicket was described as a ‘road’ by a home fielder as Thornes got off to a flier – they were 132-0 after 18 overs – and Walter concurred.

He said: “It was pretty flat out there – almost 700 runs scored and the short boundaries help as well - but it was great fun to be out there and it was a good win for the boys.”

The game looked up for Bierley several times when they batted – for example at 53-3, 145-6 and 281-9, when No.10 Jack Hebden holed out to deep mid-wicket.

“I was a little bit nervous then,” admitted Walter, who easily surpassed his previous best score of 150 for Guildford, “but I always had faith in our No.11 Reece, who has a good block in him and looked very comfortable with his forward defensive.”

Walter only looked unsettled when Yorkshire Academy and Yorkshire second-team bowler Matthew Taylor fired in some bouncers.

At tea-time, it seemed impossible that anyone could play an innings which bettered Thornes’ overseas player Byron Boshoff.

The 28-year-old South African, who has not broken into first-class cricket back home, scored 142 off just 119 balls, hitting eight sixes – memorably advancing down the track and planting a ball straight three gardens away to the side of the changing rooms.

The recently-married Boshoff, watched by his wife Robyn, put on 165 for the first wicket with skipper James Wolfenden.

At one stage, 400 looked on the cards as the visitors took advantage of some leg-side bowling with a 7-2 offside field, but every time Bierley got a wicket it took the new batsman time to settle and the scoring rate dropped.

Brown’s youngsters never let their heads drop in terms of their fielding standards either.

By the end of the match it was Wolfenden who was scratching his head, wondering who to ask to bowl the next over.

Elsewhere in the first round, Hanging Heaton produced an impressive performance to secure an emphatic 10-wicket win over holders Shepley.

Openers Gary Fellows (88no) and Nick Connolly (56no) took just 24 overs to overhaul Shepley’s score of 151.

Hanging Heaton, who won the competition in 2018, were indebted to James Byrne (4-36) and David Stiff (4-46) for keeping the visitors’ talented batting line-up in check.

Opener Danny Wood (32) was their top scorer.

Woodlands were set on course for a crushing 175-run win over Shelley by an opening stand of 230 between Tim Jackson, who hit a fine 102, and Sam Frankland (90).

They provided the foundations for a total of 325-7. Shelley were never in the hunt and were bowled out for 150, with Elliot Richardson taking 3-36.

Huddersfield League outfit Scholes had skipper Bradley Birkhead to thank for their two-wicket win at Cleckheaton.

He made a well-judged 109 to enable them to chase down their host’s score of 232-9, in which Ethan Lee made 81.

New Farnley, winners in 2016, overcame Barkisland by six wickets, with skipper Lee Goddard following up his century on Saturday with an unbeaten 89.

Barkisland’s total of 140, which included 51 from opener Ben Heritage, was passed in just 22.3 overs.

Spinners Gurman Randhawa (4-20) and Lewis Lomax (3-18) were the best of the New Farnley bowlers.

Finally, Will Street produced a fine all-round performance as Treeton overpowered the surprise 2019 semi-finalists Buttershaw St Paul’s by 244 runs.

He scored 73 in an imposing total of 323 and followed up with 5-12 as St Paul’s crumbled to 79 all out.

Skipper Sam Drury (95), Liam Johnson (41) and Viraj Bhosale (40) were also in the runs for the Yorkshire Southern Premier League side.