The Foxes look set to finish no lower that sixth as the season nears the end
By Deborah Bowyer
14th Sep 2022 | All Sports
By Ron Davies
A season which has seen the Foxes return to the Premier Division and at one stage rise to the heights of second in the table, is rather drifting to its end.
Despite this defeat, Elworth will finish no lower than sixth, maybe even fifth and there are many who would have said, back in April, that a top six finish would be some achievement.
There is undoubtedly some disappointment around that a slightly higher finish is now out of reach which is an indication of how expectations have changed, largely fuelled by the terrific start Elworth made, but also by a consistent run of results through the height of summer.
The latter stages have been undistinguished, although playing the last seven matches without a professional at Premier Division level was always going to be a challenge.
On Saturday, another of the leading lights visited London Road, Checkley. They have second place in their sights, it is five years since they finished outside the top six, consistency is clearly a major factor.
Elworth were asked to bat on losing the toss. The pitch was damp after heavy rain got under one of the covers. An early breakthrough was made by James Cox, who had last week's centurion Alex Banks caught low down at a wide third slip by James Cronie for three leaving the Foxes 9/1.
Richard Cooper had opened the bowling from the London Road End. Cooper has played over 500 games, he had many years at Leek, also played for Betley and Alsager before joining Checkley in 2011.
He is a niggardly bowler who, as the years have taken the edge off his pace, brings all his experience to the fore.
He and Cox pinned Russ Ballard and Sam Baldwin down and for several overs the score advanced at barely two runs an over.
Ballard was looking very comfortable, as so often he found his best shots picking out the fielders but he was in good touch.
He played a lofted drive to the cover boundary for four which boded well. Baldwin, on six, stopped his shot and lofted a catch to Brendan Lovatt at cover off Ben Haselgrave who had replaced Cox at the Railway End.
The going remained tough, new batsman Chris Regan and Ballard both playing out maidens from Haselgrave and Cronie respectively before Ballard swept Cronie for four and in the next over Regan pulled Haselgrave to the square leg rope.
The pair had added 38 and picked up the pace a little when Regan, on 27, was out in similar fashion to Baldwin. Tom Moulton had replaced Haselgrave and he had Regan driving airily into the covers where Michael Allen took the catch.
Coming in at 69/3, Eddie Parrish showed an inclination to get on with it, and Ballard showed the same with a series of boundaries, two from successive balls by Daniel Amos.
He reached a fine 50 with a single off Lovatt. The pair had put on 60 at more than four an over when Parrish, on 29, was bowled by Lovatt, 129/4 with eight overs remaining, Elworth followers were thinking of a score around 175.
Unfortunately, Ballard was caught at mid-off by James Kettleborough for 55 and aside from Thom Bamford who finished 20 not out and Ryan Sloan (14) who perished chasing quick runs late on, the innings petered out at 172/8. Lovatt took three quick wickets at the end to finish with 5/41.
Checkley were one down in the first over. The first ball bowled by Ben Holt was a wide which raced to the boundary, but the second was right on the money as Holt trapped Moulton LBW.
Off-spinner Mike Stewart opened from the Railway End with a pair of maidens yet Kettleborough, who had joined opener Tom Carrigan, was soon looking in the form that brought him 51 the previous week against Bagnall/Norton.
Stewart got Carrigan (5) LBW on 25, but Kettleborough and Cronie were calmly going about the chase. They took 19 overs carefully accumulating 69 runs during which time Kettleborough hit just one boundary and Cronie three.
Elworth were hampered by an injury to Ben Holt which left them without a strike bowler, he seemed to turn his ankle when fielding at backward square leg early in the Checkley innings. He left the field having bowled just four overs and fourth team skipper Anthony Evans fielding as a substitute. He let nobody down.
With 94 on the board Cronie attempted to drive Stewart but mistimed his stroke and was caught by Chris Winter at cover for 28. 79 were required with seven wickets left and 15 overs remaining.
Skipper Michael Allen was in determined mood and the score crept steadily towards the target. Ballard tried the wiles of Parrish's leg spin, Steve Morgan's slow left arm and the rarely called on Alex Banks' medium pace.
It was the tried and tested Winter however who took the next wicket thanks to a brilliant catch by Chris Regan on the square-leg boundary which dismissed Kettleborough for 65.
Allen steered his side home although, on the brink of success, Banks bowled Lovatt for 14 and Andy Carr came out for the last rites. Carr was playing first team cricket at Checkley in 1995, so it was unlikely there would be any no slip ups, there weren't, Allen finished 31 not out.
For Elworth Mike Stewart's 2/26 was the best return. The fielding held up well and Ryan Sloan's work behind the stumps was up to its usual high standard, but Holt's enforced absence certainly stayed Ballard's hand.
The seven points confirmed that Elworth will finish in the top six. To finish fifth, they need to gain seven points more than Hem Heath this Saturday. Elworth travel to Moddershall whilst Hem Heath are at Checkley.
Elworth 172/8 (45 overs) lost to Checkley 173/5 by 5 wickets