Cuckney opened up some daylight between themselves and Clifton Village at the top of the Nottinghamshire Premier League table with a nervy four wicket win over the South Notts side. Having been set an under-par victory total of just 116 runs, the hosts had to dig deep and inch across the line with four wickets to spare.
Despite being forced to bat first by their opponents, Clifton began their innings with minimal fuss. Tim Le Breton made an accomplished start at the top of the batting card, flicking balls to the boundary on both sides of the wicket. His timing was better than that of partner in crime, Scott McNeill though, whose vigil at the crease was cut short by Lewis Bramley. A thick outside edge was held by Ian Parkin at slip and McNeill could only trudge back to the pavilion for 5. When 39 runs were on the board for the loss of only 1 wicket, Langwith Road was shrouded in a blanket of heavy rain, and the prospect of further play looked uncertain. However, after a delay of 75 minutes, Clifton resumed their innings with added gusto. While Richard Harris was busy thrashing Bramley through cover, Le Breton continued his early season form by sweetly striking the fast bowlers down the ground. In the 8 overs after the restart, Clifton were scoring at a run a ball and when Le Breton passed 50, the visitors were thinking that a big score was on the cards. When the mainstay of the innings departed for 56 though – unfortunately picking out Will Butler with a fine sweep – disaster was on the horizon. Incredibly slipping from 101-2 to 111-9 in the space of 20 minutes, Clifton’s chances of securing a positive result were dealt a hammer blow.
First the dangerous overseas player, Shreyas Iyer was snaffled up in the slips for 2, before the disconsolate Martin Weightman was adjudged lbw without troubling the scorers. Caleb Mierkalns fared no better, again falling victim to the old enemy, that is, the leg before wicket. Cuckney were truly roused now and had their sixth wicket when Alastair Walters was gobbled up by Parkin once more. Butler continued to test the outside edge and this reaped further dividends as Caleb’s brother Dan nicked off. The Cuckney skipper completely grabbed the headlines when he claimed his sixth scalp of the day (with remarkably only 7 runs against his name), as Dominic Harvey tamely surrendered for a duck. Having battled hard for 39, it was time for Richard Harris to be sent on his way much to the delight of the bowler, Parkin. Clifton were put out of their misery when finally dismissed for 115; Luke Gunn was the final casualty having made a comparatively high score of 5.
When Cuckney began their pursuit of 116, there was a sense of anything you can do, we can do better. This was because, the run chase got off to an unimaginable start with Adam Burgess being dismissed to the very first ball of the innings. Nick Langford wasn’t in the mood to have a look before playing his shots either, but did so to better effect than Burgess. The left hander was largely dismissive of the threat posed by Harvey, taking the aerial route to the boundary fence on a couple of occasions. Having made 30 (38), the number 3’s innings came to a close when Weightman’s short leg side delivery was flicked round the corner. The glovesman Walters, showed superb reactions to take a very low catch to his right.
At 43-2, Cuckney still remained firm favourites, but they began to give the South Notts team encouragement with some undisciplined batting. Luke Thomas called for a suicidal single that put Dan Wood in real trouble. Despite the wicket keeper’s despairing dive, the agile Caleb Mierkalns ran him out for just 1. Another wicket was to follow when gangly spinner Iyer received sufficient bounce from the pitch to have Butler caught behind, which left Cuckney on the uncomfortable scoreline of 64-4. Thomas and Bramley successfully began to rebuild; the latter stroked four boundaries to help release the tension. Bramley couldn’t see his side over the line though courtesy of a cool Caleb Mierkalns catch which gave Le Breton his only wicket of the day. Luke Thomas pushed his team up to 109 runs before his gritty defence was broken by the fiery Weightman for 34 (88), but Richard Bostock and Joe Hayes held their nerve to earn Cuckney victory.
After the game, Butler admitted that his side made a meal of scoring the 116 runs, but was pleased with his own bowling performance.
With Plumtree overcoming Rolls Royce with consummate ease, they are hot on Cuckney’s heels, 11 points behind the league leaders. Leapfrogged by the “Plumdogs”, Clifton slip to third, now 6 ahead of Rolls and 8 points in front of the West Indian Cavaliers.