Despite a strong start with the bat, Empingham were defeated by Bottesford in their opening game in the Grantham League’s top flight.
Following back to back promotions in their previous campaigns, Empingham arrived, after a winter of limited preparation, ready for a stern test against stronger and unknown opposition.
Skipper Tom Cooper lost the toss and Empingham got off to a poor start with the loss of Freddie Turner but his departure brought Baz Sharp to the crease. Sharp was soon joined Graeme Cooper and the two formed a brilliant partnership which settled any nerves.
Cooper was stoic in defence but pounced on any loose deliveries and with a fine array of off drives and cut strokes soon brought up his fifty. Sharp meanwhile, was reserved to begin with by his standards, but he crafted a beautifully controlled innings with anything in the ‘Baz Sharp arc’ still disappearing to the boundary. He soon looked in fine fettle bringing up his 50.
Cooper eventually departed for 61 but the partnership laid the perfect foundation for Empingham to kick on in the last 10 overs, with the score at 135-2.
However as Empingham attempted to accelerate and push on towards 200 and full batting points there was a flurry of wickets. Mark Coburn (15) hit a couple of fine shots in his new middle order berth but he and the rest of the middle order couldn’t stay long.
Sharp remained the mainstay of the innings with a few more fearsome blows before being selflessly run out in the last over on 92, in an attempt to get Empingham to 200. They ended just short on competitive 198-8.
In the field Empingham got off to the best possible start with Dave Mckevitt picking up a wicket with the very first ball of the innings.
However this brought Bottesford’s star batsman to the crease and he immediately began a counter attack, picking his spots in all parts of the field and Bottesford soon raced towards 100.
Matt Osman was brought into the attack to stem the flow of runs and his introduction did the trick. He built pressure which allowed Rick Cooper to find the breakthrough, thanks to a fine catch from Jo Stafford.
Osman twirled his fingers with great aplomb, mixing up his pace and flight superbly. He soon rattled through the middle order picking up four wickets, finishing with figures of 10-4-35.
However Bottesford’s main man continued the onslaught and his solo act soon hurried to three figures.
Sharp continued his stellar performance, picking up two wickets at the other end leaving Bottesford eight down and needing 20 more runs to win. It became a tense finish but despite the reintroduction of Mckevitt, Bottesford got over the line thanks almost entirely to one man.
Empingham’s Turner said: “Overall a defeat was a disappointing way to start the season especially after a strong start with the bat. Hopefully the bowling will be strengthened in coming weeks.”