Nantwich favourites to retain title
Reigning champions Nantwich became firm favourites to retain the ECB Premier League title on a day when they beat challengers Hyde by three wickets.
Second-placed Chester Boughton Hall suffered a shock five wickets home defeat at the hands of Urmston.
With just four weeks of the season remaining, Nantwich lead the table with 355 points, followed by Chester on 331, with Hyde now a struggling third on 311. What’s more, next Saturday, the Dabbers visit bottom club Grappenhall while Hyde and CBH scrap it out at Werneth Low.
Never yet championship winners, Hyde have suffered a batting slump recently which continued at Nantwich where they mustered only 140 in 36 overs, James Duffy 43, Rob Woolley 30 not out, while Jimmy Warrington took 4-76 - raising his tally for the season to 55 – Glen Batticciotto 3-22 and Barrington Browne 3-41.
Nantwich scored 142 for seven in reply, Jonny Kettle carrying his bat for 77, while Scott Kirwin took 5-60, dismissing five batsmen for single figures to top 50 wickets for the season.
It was a red-letter day for Kettle who claimed four catches to break the league wicket-keeping record of 46 victims set up by John Roper (Heaton Mersey) in the 1991 season.
Together with his 965 runs, the former Oulton Park youngster looks well in line for the Player of the Year award.
Chester must have felt safe when they declared at 258 for five in just 52 overs against Urmston at Filkins Lane, Lancashire batsman Jordan Clark being unbeaten with 119, while Sumit Panda took 3-86.
Urmston, however, got home by five wickets in the last over of a thrilling reply, teenager Lewis Jackson completing a maiden unbeaten century, with skipper Panda contributing a key 50 and Daron Cruikshank claiming 3-32.
Neston did their prospects of remaining in the top flight a power of good with 17 points from a high-scoring draw against Macclesfield at Parkgate. David Hurst hit form with a fine innings of 103 not out in Neston’s 263 for seven, Luke Pavlinovitch assisting with 48 and Rob Porter claiming 5-77.
Macclesfield batted spiritedly in reply to reach 251 for nine, Khalid Sawas 110, Rob Porter 51, while Paul Stimson’s left-arm spin earned him 5-84.
There was another run glut in the Toft v Oxton clash, where Toft ran up 261 for six, skipper Toby Drummond 114, Ed Stubbs 53. Oxton went flat out for victory and fell only 11 short at 251 for eight, Lee Dixon 58, Andy Gibson 53, Mark Rowland 48, Ross Dixon 43 not out, while off-spinner Nigel Muirhead returned 3-46.
Didsbury nudged Grappenhall back into bottom spot with a five wickets win at Wilmslow Road. Rick Green, 54 was the only Grappenhall batting success in a tally of 162, which occupied 60 overs, Nick Anderson 3-33 and Jon Fawcett 3-48. Didsbury responded with 166 for five, with one over to spare, Pat Moors 49 not out, Paul Slattery 33.
In the clash between two of the other three bottom clubs, Oulton Park kept their hopes of escape alive with a tense two wickets last-over win against Alderley Edge at Little Budworth.
The in-form John Steele (98) top-scored in Alderley’s declared tally of 278 for nine, Kieron Berrington 4-69, Robin Taylor 3-74. Former Northwich batsman Martyn East then dominated the Oulton reply after Danny Leech and Louis Bentley were out cheaply, a third wicket partnership of 150 with Nick James (66) laying the foundation of Park’s success.
East hit a six off the first ball of Jason Whittaker’s last over and was then run out for 161, but his tail-end replacement finished off the job. Alderley’s 14 points haul keeps them 31 ahead of Oulton, now in 11th place.