CRICKET: Gritty Town show champion spirit

Spalding 2nd's Mick East admires one of his strokes in Satuday's win over Billingborough 2nd. Photo (TIM WILSON): SG300612-138TW
Spalding 2nd's Mick East admires one of his strokes in Satuday's win over Billingborough 2nd. Photo (TIM WILSON): SG300612-138TW
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Spalding (145) beat Woodhall Spa 2nd (112) by 33 runs: IT’S often said that the hallmark of champions is winning when not playing to your potential – and that’s exactly what Town did as they returned to the top of the South Lincs and Border League table on Saturday.

In what proved a low-scoring game at Spalding Grammar School, the hosts defended their 145 well to prevail by 33 runs, which was enough to secure 17 points and send them back above Stamford at the summit.

With third-placed Billingborough, who are chasing a third title on the spin, now just six points off top spot, Spalding skipper Rob Ambrose reckons an exciting finish is in prospect.

He said: “We certainly were not at our best, but I’m happy to take the points. It’s nice to get top spot back and that’s the halfway point of the season now – so to be top is a good effort from the lads.

“We know we have been lucky with the weather compared to other teams, but that’s not our fault.

“The second half of the season is going to be really interesting. It’s good for the league, as over the last few years its been a bit boring with Billingborough running away with it. So with ourselves and Stamford up there this season it makes for an exciting finish.

“We have got to keep going for the 20 points every week and hope the other two drop some. We have a very difficult game this week away at Belton Park and need to be on the money – it’s a hard place to play.”

After losing the toss and being asked to bat first on a green pitch, Spalding lost Mike Kearns (1) early on in their innings.

That allowed Josh Newton (31) to join Matt Hendry (42) at the crease, and the pair scored freely to get Town off to a decent start.

With the introduction of Rob Bee (2-36) and Matt Haslam (4-15) into the attack for Woodhall, Spalding quickly realised that the slower bowlers were much harder to get away and the wickets started to fall.

Charlie Kearns (3), Tim Norris (1) and Ambrose (1) all fell cheaply as Spalding started to wobble, but Simon Juckes (27) and Ansar Hussain (13) dug in to get their side out of trouble.

After making certain of not giving any overs back to Spa, Town were eventually bowled out in the final over for 145.

Early wickets were always going to be key to Spalding’s chances – and Charlie Kearns (2-36) obliged, snaring Woodhall skipper Bee in the first over. Once Jack Barratt (2-20) had got the sawdust down to help his footing he bowled beautifully with Kearns to have the visitors five down.

But with Tom Dodds and Haslam joining forces at the wicket, the pair started to score quickly and pushed their side over the 100 mark with some very clean hitting.

That prompted skipper Ambrose to turn to the slow bowlers, in a bid to put the brakes on Woodhall. While Norris struggled to find his length, Jimmy Clarke (3-16) bowled in tandem with Ansar Hussain (3-14).

The experienced duo bowled superbly to remove the two danger men and then set about removing the rest of the Woodhall line-up to bowl them out for 112, clinching the win.

Division Two

Spalding 2nd (159-9) beat Billingborough 2nd (53) by 106 runs

TOWN’S fine run of form continued with a comprehensive victory over Billingborough, their second in as many weeks against their local rivals.

With overcast conditions and a green, damp wicket Boro had no hesitation in asking Spalding to bat first. This proved to be a good decision, as the opening bowlers found a good line and length, which troubled both opening batsmen.

Richard Wells (3-23) bowled very well, picking up two early wickets and putting Spalding in serious trouble at 16-2. But a good partnership of 32 between Tom Dale (59) and Ash Rex (15) started the recovery – and when Rex was dismissed the score was up to 47.

Alex Lyon (15) carried on in partnership with Dale, adding another 51 runs before he missed a straight delivery from Stu Gollop. When Dale was finally dismissed by Matt Cox, Steve Norris (17) and Ash Bright (18) put on quick runs as Spalding reached 159-9 off their 45 overs.

After a short rain break, Town bowlers Steve Norris (1-17) and Carl Lamming (3-8) made immediate impact. Their line and length deliveries wreaked havoc and took wickets at regular intervals, leaving Billingborough reeling at 17-4.

Boro’s run rate was slow and pressure was building, allowing debutant Ollie Saville to kill the game as he bamboozled the batsmen with impressive leg spin bowling.

He helped himself to four wickets for only 18 runs, ensuring Richard Arnold’s cameo 16 was in vain as Billingborough were dismissed for only 53.

Division Three

Burgh & District (71) lost to Spalding 3rd (75-4) by six wickets

RICK Dale roared to six wickets as Town stormed to the top of the standings in style.

With Burgh surprisingly deciding to bat, Spalding’s bowlers strangled the openers with an accurate spell of bowling.

The breakthrough came in the fifth over when Chris Green (1-18) got rid of Nigel Underwood for one.

After ten overs a change in the bowling brought Dale into the attack – and he made an immediate impact, having Blackmore caught behind for 18.

He then proceeded to rip through the Burgh batting line-up, finishing with 6-22, backed up well by the economical Kev Nottingham and Jim Clarke (2-20). The Burgh innings finished on 71 all out in 27.1 overs.

Spalding started the chase with Keith De Keyzer attacking from the start, putting the Burgh bowlers under the cosh.

Although losing three partners, he completed a fine 50 before being caught with the score on 70.

That allowed Ash Rex to score the winning runs with a boundary, completing a six-wicket win.

The outstanding Burgh skipper Underwood (4-24) was unlucky to finish on the losing team.