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North Staffordshire and South Cheshire League Division One

By Leek Post and Times  |  Posted: July 25, 2014

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ASHCOMBE Park's Nathan Ball recorded his highest score in senior cricket, smashing 49, then followed up with three wickets in a terrific all-round performance.

The club's professional Rizwan Haider shared the honours by scoring 43 runs before claiming a five-wickets.

As a result the Park came very close to recording their third win on the trot.

In the end, frustrated by a dogged rearguard action by visitors Betley, Ashcombe had to settle for a draw, although their higher run rate per over earned them a 'winning' draw and an extra five points, eventually taking 14 from the match.

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At the scheduled start time any prospect of play looked highly unlikely with monsoon rain and pools forming on the outfield, but miraculously, play began at 3pm with the match reduced to 78 overs.

Put in to bat, Ashcombe got away slowly. Steve Proffitt (15) and Nick Goodwin departed to Betley's opening attack of Tom Forster and 6ft 7inch pace-man Faisal Irfan Butt, who each claimed a wicket.

Tom Boulton followed at 39-3 as visitors' skipper, Richard Bebbington began a spell which would eventually bring him splendid figures of 6-65 and Ashcombe took almost seventeen overs to pass 40.

But Haider accelerated the rate, scoring 43 until run-out – sent back attempting a quick single.

Ashcombe skipper Ian Alcock cracked a super 39 with four fours and two sixes until stumped off Bebbington at 123 -5 with the weather closing in again.

A break for rain, which incorporated tea, saw Ashcombe briefly lose their way on resumption with sacrificial wickets as Dave Proffitt was caught at mid-wicket for 19 and Josh Johnson caught by Forster at 125-7.

But Nathan Ball was just beginning an amazing innings.

Lashing a delivery from Butt high into the next field, which he followed with two more maximums off Forster – mixed in with four fours and some inspired running between the wickets – Ball stepped on the gas in splendid style.

Aidan Derbyshire departed at 140-8 to an lbw decision but Jake Johnson launched another huge hit into the field off Butt and helped Ball take the total to 178-9, when Johnson was also caught by Forster.

Grant Roberts helped Ball take the final total to 188-9, with the pair somehow running three off the last ball – which should have yielded nothing – thanks to two mis-fields.

Ball was unfortunate to finish just one run short of what would have been a memorable half-century.

Betley, with their innings now reduced to 33 overs, set off in pursuit at some speed – passing 30 in four overs until the prolific Sunny Gandi (15), currently the leading run-scorer in the entire league, was deceived by Haider's slower ball and caught by Alcock at mid-off at 31 -1.

Fellow opener Forster (17) followed at 36-2, thanks to wicketkeeper Steve Proffitt's fine diving catch, and when Butt (11) was brilliantly caught at slip by Haider off Ball at 58 -3, the floodgates opened.

At 84 -7 with 12 overs to go, Ashcombe looked to have the game in the bag but were ultimately thwarted by the Harrison family.

Uncle and nephew Neil and James dug in, bent only on survival. Eventually Neil (20) was adjudged lbw to Haider at 101-8 in the final over and departed pointedly examining his bat.

Holmes survived another huge lbw appeal next ball but that was it, as Betley hung on to draw at 102-8, taking six points.

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