Lea & Roses CC travelled to third placed Mansfield Hosiery Mills II in a game which would influence the league’s top positions as both chase honours with only a handful of fixtures remaining.
On a typical late season Bank Holiday Saturday, there was a risk of rain in the air but despite forecast of heavy showers in the area the teams were surprisingly greeted by sun on a wicket which looked likely to offer something.
The Hosiery Mills skipper won the toss and elected to take the field. First to the crease for Lea & Roses was the reunited opening pair of Chris Needham and Tom Lane.
The dangerous pace man Jonathan Salmon took the new ball for Hosiery Mills and unleashed a few quick wayward deliveries before settling in to a good line which challenged both batsmen.
After a slow start, the opening pair looked to nullify Salmon whilst looking to score from the slower bowler Darren Johnson, despite his lack of pace was getting the new ball to move both ways off the seam and causing a threat.
At least the slow start from the Lea & Roses openers allowed their scorer Geoff Hopkins, who had been left to work out how to use the electronic scoreboard without assistance, the chance to tame the beast of a machine.
To the surprise of the umpires after four overs with the scoreboard now operational and displaying a total of five, Lane looked to drive a fast straight ball from Salmon, missed and lost his off stump to the delight of the home support.
This brought the return of Matt Snee to the No 3 slot and despite missing a few games of late was certainly eager to get to the middle again and quickly took guard to face the fired up Salmon.
Snee stood tall and batted solid through the early exchanges with Salmon.
With both Lea & Roses batsmen finding edges at times and Snee effortlessly pulling Johnson through mid-wicket when he left the ball short the score advanced to 29 before Needham changed bats to use Lanes. He pulled a short one and got an inside edge which was easily caught at square leg by Callum Sugg.
At 29-2 the home side looked hungry for more wickets however in their way was James Cooper now batting at four and looking a much more polished batsman of late. Both batsmen rotated the strike and moved the score along with ease and were now looking settled.
After a spell of nine overs Salmon had stopped leaping and now looked like he needed a rest as the sun continued to shine. He was replaced by the Hosiery Mills skipper Ian Wright who looked to stamp his authority on the game by settling into his slow left arm spin routine.
Wright found it hard to get control and with his line straying Snee capitalised and moved the score along with some delightful boundary shots. First a straight six into the pavilion wall and then perfecting his sweep - and reverse sweep - technique much to the surprise of the home faithful, who had to pinch themselves after all it was Bassetlaw Division Two they were watching.
The score had crept up to 67 when Cooper rather unfortunately mistimed his favourite cover drive of the trundler Johnson. The ball looped in the air to Cheetham who accepted the catch without drama in the covers.
Lea & Roses at 67-3 looked for some stability and John Titley arrived at the crease with the game hanging in the balance. After drinks, Wright rediscovered his length and Johnson who had tirelessly bowled uphill since the start was replaced by Daniel Kilvington. There were now two spinners at the middle with over 60 wickets between them this season. Despite the spin twins reputations Snee and Titley moved the score along and Snee was rewarded for his patience with a single to deep square which brought up his 50 to the ringing applause of the Lea and Roses team.
After settling in at the wicket with the score on 90 Titley looked to straight drive a full ball however hit it too well in fact straight back to the welcoming hands of Wright who took a good low catch much to his delight. Lea & Roses at 90-4 looked like they needed inspiration which came from the vice skipper Andy Dewick who was next to the crease.
After taking guard Dewick quickly got into his stride and despatched his first 3 balls for boundaries. The electronic scoreboard was now moving into overdrive until Snee failed to spot an even slower ball than usual from the off spinner Wright, Snee clearly caught in two minds to hit for four or six, sadly he missed and the No 3 was bowled for 64 with the score on 117.
This was a terrific knock and the innings was politely applauded by the home faithful who had braved the Bank Holiday weather. With the score on 117-5 the sun had now departed and the rain clouds started to build on the eastern skyline. Ben Smith limped to the crease and got off to a wonderful start crafting a late cut or edge through third man which was followed by a quick two in the same area.
Sadly next ball he looked to push at a ball outside leg and despite the ball hitting the knee roll and likely to be missing the leg stump by a country mile the umpire rewarded the bowler Wright by raising the dreaded finger, LBW, 123-6.
With ten overs remaining in the innings and the dark rain clouds building Dewick had been joined at the crease by Brad Wilson and now looked to take it to the Hosiery Mills spin twins. After a couple of sighters Dewick took guard and bludgeoned two big sixes off Kilvington into the nearby allotments before hitting an even bigger six off Wright over the longest boundary on the ground.
Wright clearly frustrated as he could see the game slipping away turned to the refreshed Salmon who was keen to get into the action but this was not to be as Dewick used his head to guide the paceman to the boundary.
Firstly a majestic square cut off the back foot and next faced with a not very well disguised slower ball smashing Salmon for six bringing up Dewick’s 50 off 32 balls.
Following a late set back chasing maximum batting points a mix up at the crease left the unfortunate Wilson stranded and run out. This brought Shaun Metcalfe to the crease and shortly after the innings was halted by the arrival of the rain. On came the covers with game delayed on 163-7 with Dewick not out on 55.
With the rain firmly set in for the evening, teas were taken early and despite a brief break in the clouds there was to be no more sun or play and both sides were awarded nine points for their efforts.
It means Lea & Roses with three games to play maintain their 30-point cushion at the top and next week travel to Mansfield knowing one more win will secure promotion.