Hales & Loddon (115) lost to Horsford B (117-8) by two wickets in Norfolk Alliance Division Six.
In-form all-rounder Mark Stewart posted a half-century and bagged five wickets but ended up on the losing side as Hales & Loddon paid the price for a woeful batting display and slumped to their third consecutive defeat. After losing the toss H&L were put into bat on their home track and quickly found themselves in deep trouble as veteran left-armer Adrian Gilbert tore into the top order.
A devastating nine-over spell produced figures of three for 13 as the nagging medium-pacer sent back Milton Lindsay, caught at slip for a duck edging an away-swinger; Isaac Rolph caught behind for three and Jon Andrews, bowled shouldering arms to a ball that nipped back for 3. Jack Cook, who had survived confident appeals for a catch behind when on nought, briefly stopped the rot with an unconvincing 17 before being caught off the bowling of Tom Saunders.
The procession of batsmen to the pavilion was ony halted by the arrival of number six Stewart, who in his customary way, decided to fight fire with fire. A fine 68, including 11 fours and a six, saw the total reach 115, before he became last man out, stumped off the slow bowling of Chris Browne. Dean Fisher scored 12 while batting with Stewart in the only worthwhile partnership of the innings.
While the vastly-experienced Gilbert clearly took the Horsford bowling honours, he was well backed up by Tom Gardener (5 overs 2 for 8), Tom Saunders (5 overs 2 for 21), William Minns (9 overs 2 for 34) and Chris Browne (6 overs 3 for 32). The lamentable H&L innings had capitulated in 34 overs, leaving the visitors to acquire the 11 unused overs, and giving them the luxury of 56 overs to pursue the modest target.
Horsford, needing to face 10 overs before tea, found the H&L bowlers in fired-up mood and when Josh Pitcher bowled Ben Collinson for a duck in the opening over, the vistors knew they had a fight on their hands. So it proved as H&L collectively produced arguably their best bowling and fielding performance of the season. Amid mounting pressure the Horsford batsmen kept chipping away at their target with double-figure contributions from Dani Long-Martinez (18), Simon Harwood (15) and Adrian Bryan (15).
With leading wicket-taker Stewart hitting top gear in another fine spell of seam bowling the visitors were wobbling precariously. They only had two wickets in hand when victory was achieved in the 45th over courtesy of a composed unbeaten 32 from Chris Browne and 10 not out from Gilbert. Stewart dominated the bowling honours with 5 for 20 from 12 overs, including seven maidens. Pitcher bowled well for figures of 12 overs 2 for 20, while Isaac Rolph (11 overs 1 for 21) and young Ben Turner (7 overs 2 for 23) kept the pressure on. Slow bowler Will Yates sent down seven overs for 25 but on this occasion the popular postman’s fabled special deliveries were few and far between.
Following the defeat H&L slipped to fifth place in the table, behind leaders Happisburgh, Hockwold, Diss A and Thetford. H&L travel to Dereham A next.