Hales & Loddon (136) beat Ashmanhaugh & Barton Wanderers A (115) by 21 runs in Norfolk Alliance Division Five. Skipper Josh Pitcher led by example with bat and ball as Hales and Loddon dug deep to conjure up a vital victory which lifted them off the bottom of Norfolk Alliance Division Five.
After underpinning the H&L batting effort with a gritty half-century, Pitcher produced the final flourish with the ball taking 3 for 6 in 20 balls as the visitors fell 21 runs short of a modest 136 victory target in a pulsating encounter. The morale-boosting success was just reward for H&L’s determination to get the game played despite torrential rain which had wiped out many of the day’s fixtures. The 22 points gained saw H&L leapfrog relegation rivals Swardeston, who shared 10 points with co-strugglers Beccles after their game at Beccles failed to beat the weather.
H&L had lessened the impact of the rain by covering the strip, nevertheless many hours of work still had to be put in by the club groundstaff before the skippers agreed to a reduced 40 overs per side game, which started an hour later than the normal 1pm time in bright sunshine with a drying wind. H&L were put in to bat and, at 3 for 2, were deep in trouble until Will Yates and Pitcher instigated a recovery. The duo put on 52 in 13 overs before Yates departed for 23, outfoxed by a cunningly-flighted delivery from young spinner Cameron Marrable, whose 10 overs cost a mere 17 runs.
Pitcher, joined by veteran Milton Lindsay, continued to bat with authority and brought up a fine 51 containing seven fours and two sixes which took the score past the 100 mark. Pitcher’s resistance was ended caught off the bowling of veteran ex-Norfolk all-rounder Jimmy Lewis, who went on to claim 4 for 25 from 8.3 overs. Lindsay knuckled down, contributing a significant 18 before spooning up a simple gully catch in the push for quick runs. Despite a brief flurry from Auldwyn Lindsay (12), who was adjudged lbw, the H&L innings fizzled out in familiar fashion for 136 with three overs unused.
The visitors were handed cheap early runs on a plate as Neil Pearson, operating off a reduced run-up, pitched too short and was smashed for 13 off the first over. A change of tactics paid dividends as left-armer Pearson put his injury niggles to one side. Normal pace was restored and Pearson found swing and movement in his next 10 overs, which reaped only one wicket, but more significantly cost only a further 17 runs. At the other end, pace partner Isaac Rolph bowled with genuine fire, barely giving the Wanderers batsmen a minute’s peace as the ball lifted sharply on the drying surface. Rolph returned figures of 3 for 37 from 11 hostile overs, including the wicket of the Wanderers captain Bernie Everett, who, having survived a confident H&L run-out appeal was caught for 15 soon afterwards on the boundary attempting to upper-cut a Rolph delivery over point.
Mark Stewart picked up the key wicket of Lewis, pouched by Rolph for 12. The stylish left-hander had hit an unbeaten century in the victory over H&L earlier this season. Although there was spirited resistance further down the order from James Sheldrake (18) and Marrable (20), the H&L bowlers and fielders were in no mood to be denied. Although two catches were dropped, a dolly by Pitcher at cover and another by Matthew Plummer at mid-on, six were taken. Plummer dislocated a finger in his failed attempt late on, but a resounding click confirmed that team medic Tim Outlaw had managed to reset the dangling digit and Plummer was able to continue none the worse for wear.
The Wanderers innings ended with six overs unused as Pitcher claimed the final three wickets to fall, two of them to fine instinctive catches in the gulley by Yates. The 21-run victory was the perfect response to H&L’s sad 87-run surrender at Lowestoft the previous week. It gave H&L the perfect lift before Saturday’s trip to Hilltops to play bottom-of-the-table Swardeston-CEYMS who are 10 points adrift. Hales have the same number of points as Beccles on 122 but have won four games – one more than their rivals.