North Staffordshire & South Cheshire League, Division One
ASHCOMBE Park snatched defeat from the jaws of a draw as they lost their last wicket to the final ball of the day at Moddershall to lose by 71 runs.
The home side’s massive total of 280-4 declared featured a superb innings of 101 by young opening batsman Tom Ball.
There was also a half-century, at almost a run a ball, from Fraser Hawkins, son of Ashcombe’s former keeper-batsman Phil.
Sam Moores contributed 45, along with 21 from Matt Goodwin and a bludgeoning 44 not out from 18 deliveries by Kashif Bhatti, off a tiring Ashcombe attack at the end.
On a pitch as flat and true as an ironing-board, it was not a day to be a seam bowler but Ashcombe’s Jake Johnson nevertheless claimed 3 -40.
Ashcombe’s mammoth run chase kicked off on the back of a superb innings of 82 from opener Nick Goodwin.
It was built around a number of cracking back-foot, cover-driven boundaries as he shared partnerships of 41 with Ryan Ball (9) for the first wicket and 54 with Brad Cartlidge (20) for the second.
After such a solid start and with Goodwin and Rizwan Haider now scoring fluently, it seemed Ashcombe could mount a real assault on their huge target.
Moddershall sensed it too, becoming quiet and subdued in the field until Goodwin miscued a straight drive and was caught at mid-off by Moddershall skipper Andy Hawkins, off professional Bhatti at 126 -3.
Haider (17) followed at 139-4 to a juggling boundary catch by Dave Housley, earning Hamaiz Mahmood his solitary wicket.
Dave Proffitt (25) was also caught by Housley, this time off Moddershall’s third spinner, Zen Malik. At 169-5 Ashcombe’s hopes of victory were gone, particularly when Josh Johnson followed three balls later with no addition to the total, caught by Matt Goodwin, again off Malik (2-39).
Ashcombe fought on towards a draw, with Tom Boulton resisting in determined fashion scoring 20 off 82 deliveries, until he became Housley’s third catch and Bhatti’s fifth victim at 193 -8.
Gary Mandley (18 not out) and Chris Bradstreet came together at 193- 9.
Bradstreet came in at the end due to a suspected broken finger injured whilst fielding.
But Moddershall’s extremely rapid over rate had added nine extra overs to the game and Ashcombe’s final pair still had six overs to face.
They resisted everything, taking the total up to 209 and surviving two farcical appeals for a catch in the final over as Moddershall got desperate, until Bradstreet was plumb lbw to Bhatti off the very last ball.
It was Bhatti who bowled Moddershall to their win; two spells totalling 26 overs included 15 maidens and the slow left-arm spinner was a thorn in Ashcombe’s side throughout, ending with match-winning figures of 7-45 Ashcombe’s match tally of seven points keeps them in seventh place in Division One and they need just three more points to ensure survival, no matter what happens elsewhere.
Moddershall’s maximum haul of 25 points ensures they remain third, keeping pressure on Meakins and Little Stoke, who occupy the two promotion places with just two matches remaining.