Chell hits century as Empingham look to end wait for silverware

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Empingham Cricket Club are on the verge of landing their first silverware in more than a decade.

Sixteen wins from their last 17 games has put Empingham in pole position to land the Grantham and Melton Cricket Association Division One title.

They host Rothley this weekend with a 39-point advantage at the summit and require just a further 22 points to be crowned champions.

They go into the crunch clash after a colossal opening stand secured victory away at Ashby Carrington on Sunday.

John Chell (103) and skipper Henry Stephenson (86) put on a 167-run opening partnership to lay the foundations for a 63-run victory.

Skipper Stephenson said: “It was a great win.

“It was really pleasing to get to 300 away from home. John was excellent with the bat and counter-attacked really well against some disciplined bowling early on.

“In the field, Stew Naylor was at his usual excellent best while Charlie McKenzie deserved special praise for doing a great job behind the stumps. With three games left, we want to finish the season in style.”

One week on from posting more than 400 runs, Empingham again batted first and straight away set about building another monumental total.

Despite some initial pressure from the Ashby bowlers, Chell and Stephenson rotated the strike well as they hit 54 off the opening 10 overs.

As ever, Chell was at his forceful best, as the diminutive opener climbed into any loose deliveries and dismissed them to the boundary.

Meanwhile the cultured Stephenson built an innings superbly as he showcased his array of strokes on his way to his highest score of the season.

Chell, who has already managed four half-centuries in a fruitful debut season for the club, went one better this time as he became the club’s third centurion of the season.

His destructive innings included 12 boundaries and one maximum, as he now sits fourth in the league runs statistics with 384 runs at an average of 48.

That’s just behind third placed Stephenson, who has hit 391 runs at an average of 30.08, both stellar returns having faced the new ball all season.

As the partnership passed three figures, the runs came in a flurry and by the time the first wicket did fall, 167 runs were on the board within 25 overs, giving the rest of the batsmen real license to attack.

Last week’s star Tom Cooper came to the crease with 402 runs to his name since his last dismissal and continued where he had left off, striking two huge blows out of the park. However, his fine run of form was brought to an abrupt end when he was controversially adjudged caught behind on 26, to the standout Joe Dyer (3-26).

Despite the flurry of wickets, Empingham’s middle order kept attacking and an excellent partnership from Mark Coburn (37no) and Mark Stephenson (15no) marshalled the visitors to an imposing total of 300-5. Coburn seemingly enjoying his new middle order berth, with 217 runs at 54.25 this campaign.

Ashby responded manfully with the bat, as they dealt with the expert returning opening partnership of Stew Naylor (2-32) and Mark Stephenson (0-44) better than most of their contemparies this season.

Naylor was still at his potent best taking two early wickets, to retain his position as the league’s leading wicket taker with 24 scalps.

First change bowlers Alfie Coward (1-44) and Mark Coburn (2-37) bowled with excellent control to stem the flow of runs and stop any chance of an unlikely chase.

Indeed, Coward was unlucky not to pick up more wickets as he again bowled with good pace, peppering the gloves of the very neat McKenzie behind the stumps.

With the game all but sealed and wickets now needed to secure extra points, Empingham turned to Chell who capped off a memorable day with three wickets in his rousing spell of (3-50), aided by some good catches from Cooper and Coburn.

Ashby Carrington eventually finishing on an impressive 237-8, still some 63 runs short of the target.