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Hartley sail close to the wind again

For the second week in a row, Hartley pulled off a one run victory, this time at the expense of League leaders Sevenoaks Vine, to leave the top of the table the closest it has been at this stage for a number of years.

Blackheath missed the opportunity to capitalise on this result to go top as they too suffered defeat, at the hands of Bexley. The Vine now have just a three point lead, Hartley moving second with Blackheath just a further six points behind.

Hartley's match against the Vine was reduced to 30 overs a side due to a wet outfield and batting first, Hartley's James Hockley 41 and Dan Stickels were the mainstays of the innings as they were bowled out for 153 with ten balls left, Lorne Burns doing much of the damage with 5-31. The Vine got agonisingly close but ended their 30 overs on 152 for nine to lose by one run, Jack Laraman taking 4-19.

Second placed Blackheath had a disappointing day with the bat at the Rectory Field as they hosted ninth placed Bexley, in big need of a win to move away from the relegation places. Jahid Ahmed scored 46, Dipyan Paul 31 and Joe Kerridge 30, but none went on to build more substantial innings and Blackheath rather meandered their way to 185 for nine from their 50 overs.

Bexley got off to a fine start, George Wells scoring 45 and Adam Riley 43 as they opened with a partnership of 96 to set Bexley well on their way. Wesley Fernando joined the party with the score on 108 for three and his unbeaten 49 steered Bexley home to win by four wickets.

James Hands was the pick of the Blackheath bowling, and his usual guile produced figures of 3-30 but was not enough for Blackheath. This win lifts Bexley into eighth place but still only eight points away from safety, ahead of Sandwich who slip into 9th place after defeat at Lordswood.

Lordswood stay in touch with the top three, although twenty four points behind the leaders, thanks to a convincing seven wicket win at home to Sandwich. In a game reduced to 60 overs, Lordswood invited Sandwich to bat. Robert Goatham apart with 66 and 31 from Alex Smith, the Sandwich batting was rather indifferent and 143 for eight was below par at Martin Grove.

Lyndon Lockhart anchored the innings with a fine unbeaten 55 and with contributions of 27 from Chris Piesley and 26 not out by Shaun Piesley, Lordswood cruised home with three overs and a ball to spare only three down.

The lower end of the table is even closer than the top with just 19 points separating Beckenham, 140, in fifth place with Sandwich in ninth on 121. This group also includes Bromley, 135, Canterbury, 132 and Bexley, 129. With contests between some of them to come, the race for survival looks as keen as the race for the title.

Beckenham and Canterbury assisted their chances of survival greatly with wins over Bromley and Bickley Park respectively. Bromley chose to bat first at Plastow Lane and an exciting match against Beckenham was to follow.

Callum Basey apart with 30, the Bromley top order struggled and at 87 for seven looked almost out of the match. Matt Horder then scored 26 and Nathan Hill an unbeaten 26 to lift the Bromley total to 159 for eight at the close of their 50 overs, a seeming low total.

This was not to prove the case as the Beckenham top order, as in weeks before, also began to flounder and despite 43 from Will MacVicar they found themselves at 77 for six with much to do, and Bromley strong favourites.

There followed a useful 26 from Jamie Mcculloch taking the score to 121 for seven when he departed, but it was the fine unbeaten innings from young Adam Senn of 46 that steered Beckenham home to win by 3 wickets in the 40th over.

Rob Mc Neill was the pick of the Bromley bowlers with 3-41. Fifteen extras after the seventh wicket did not help Bromley's cause.

At Bickley Park the home side were simply outplayed by Canterbury, who batted first. In the absence of Nayan Joshi and injury to Dan Magin preventing him from bowling, the Bickley attack were somewhat decimated and Canterbury made them pay. Paul Steer top scored with 80 and with useful contributions of 70 from Sam Burt and 59 by Graeme Francis Canterbury posted a high score for the Bickley wicket of 309 for nine.

Jos Siddall with 4-60 added some respectability to the Bickley figures. Given the Bickley batting this season, it looked unlikely they would chase this down and so proved to be the case. Bickley were bowled out for 181 which would have been considerably less without 59 from Gordon Darroch and 37 from Jos Siddall.

Whilst mathematically this does not seal Bickley's relegation, it is hard to see them getting out of jail now, especially if Magin is out for injury for the final four games, which may be the case.