Bottom-of-the-table Hales & Loddon took heart from a battling performance against Norfolk Alliance Division Five leaders Martham despite a four-wicket defeat.
In the opening encounter of the campaign H&L slumped to a 10-wicket reverse at the hands of the highly-progressive title-chasers. And when the hosts set off at a blistering pace in pursuit of a meagre 150 victory target, further humiliation looked on the cards. On a scorchingly hot afternoon, and with the village carnival celebrations in full swing, the dangerous opening duo of skipper Alex Sayer and freescoring Jack Whatmough were in no mood to hang around.
The hard-working Neil Pearson made the first breakthrough, inducing Sayer to offer a routine return catch for 10 but Whatmough continued to wreak havoc. He plundered an impressive half-century containing eight fours and a six in eight overs, eventually being caught behind by wicket-keeper Jack Cook off Pearson for 52. But at 82-2 off 10 overs the hosts only needed 68 runs and, having inherited H and L’s six unused overs, had 41 overs to get them.
The opening overs had come at considerable cost to H&L with veteran left-arm paceman Pearson being despatched for 41 in his first four and young speedster Isaac Rolph conceding 31 in four. But the fall of the first two wickets gave H&L great encouragement. When two more fell to leave the hosts 90-4 off 13 overs the visitors could see some light at the end of the tunnel.
The hosts dug in though and Keiron Spencer showed maturity way beyond his 12 years to edge his side closer to victory with a disciplined 20. Lewis Dunn weighed in with 26, paving the way for victory to be achieved in the 28th over with four wicket in hand.
Earlier Hales had posted a modest 149 total after being inserted on a dry pitch, breaking up in places. Opener Milton Lindsay applied himself well for 21 before being dismissed by an angled Dunn delivery which split off stump. The young paceman went on to return figures of four for 27 off nine overs. Other key contributors to the H&L total were Will Yates and Martin Wells who battled hard as they joint topscored with 27 and Josh Pitcher who added a hard-hit tailend 15.
In truth the total always looked light against a Martham side renowned for their formidable batting prowess but at least a spirited display from the H&L bowlers and fielders gave them something to think about.