Beccles A (189-9) beat Hales and Loddon (133) by 56 runs in Norfolk Alliance Division Five.
Hales and Loddon slumped to the bottom of Norfolk Alliance Division Five as they paid the price for a disastrous batting collapse in the basement battle with derby rivals Beccles A. Set a target of 190 to win by the visitors, H&L fancied their chances against the team in the wooden spoon position before the start of play but were left reeling at 9 for five after eight overs of their reply.
A steady procession of H&L batsmen were left to rue some poor shot selections as Beccles opening bowlers Matt Lowe and skipper Ian Norman quickly found their rhythm to devastating effect. Medium-pace swing bowler Norman gave next to nothing away, bowling three consecutive wicket maidens in his first four overs at a cost of three runs. With Lowe keeping the pressure on at the other end and capturing two wickets, Hales were facing total humiliation at the hands of their old foes.
But all-rounder Mark Stewart and Tobagan recruit Auldwyn Lindsay were in no mood to surrender as they set about rebuilding the innings. They put on 61 in 13 overs in an entertaining partnership which salvaged lost pride. With both men finding the boundary with regularity, H&L were suddenly back on track to achieve the most improbable of victories.
When Lindsay skied one off the bowling of Chris Robson, Lowe kept his composure to take the catch which sent H&L’s dangerous calypso cricketer back to the pavilion for 27.
It proved to be a pivotal moment, as Stewart, who batted superbly throughout, eventually ran out of partners and was left stranded on an unbeaten 81, featuring 12 fours and a six. Aided by astute field placing, spinner Jason Cockings bagged the next three wickets, all caught, to take Beccles to the brink of success.
Beccles wrapped up victory with the last ball of the 37th over when Andy Baker, batting down the order at number 11 after injuring a finger while slip fielding, was caught by Jonathan Puxley, fielding in a potentially suicidal position. The wicket, which came after nine overs of stoic resistance by the final pair as they battled to salvage a draw, took Norman’s haul to 4 for 15 from 11 overs.
After being invited to bat by H&L skipper Josh Pitcher, the Beccles batsmen had been given the luxury of cheap early runs as slack bowling by the opening duo saw Jonathan Puxley and Chris Robson put 33 on the board in four overs. It paved the way for a stand of 65 before Robson was cleaned out for 40 by Stewart’s fourth delivery. Puxley’s well-constructed 54, and an unbeaten 37 from Paul Thorpe were the other key contributions in Beccles 189-9 total.
H&L’s bowlers gradually got their act together, and when Stewart and Martin Wells were operating in tandem the squeeze was applied. Left-arm spinner Wells claimed 3 for 30 from a disciplined 10-over spell while medium-pacer Stewart found plenty of movement to return 3 for 37 from an unbroken 12-over stint. Paceman Neil Pearson clean bowled three tailenders in his second spell to give his figures (3 for 40 from 12 overs) an air of respectability.