CRICKET: Sharp denied a century

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EMPINGHAM fell just short of ending Tilton’s three year unbeaten run despite an unbeaten 97 from returning talisman Baz Sharp.

The Grantham and Melton League Division Two leaders won the toss and asked second-placed Empingham to bowl first.

Dave McKevitt and Freddie Turner created chances to claim an early scalp but they all went begging, and once the Tilton batsmen had seen off the early onslaught they soon looked at home with aggressive strokes.

Rick Cooper came on and was able to stem the run rate, with spin sorcerer Dan O’Kane introduced at the other end and the two were able to keep Empingham in the game after 20 overs.

After the drinks break, however, Tilton’s batsmen launched a brutal attack on the bowling and Empingham were chasing leather for the first time this season.

O’Kane finally made the breakthrough, outwitting the Tilton star man but Tilton had a fully loaded top order and as one was removed, another big hitting strokemaker entered the stage. Even though O’Kane (10-2-49) was able to strike again the run rate carried on soaring as the sheep around Tilton were put in grave peril from the hearty blows.

Sharp bowled impressively at the death of the innings, picking up a couple of wickets before veteran Gary Cooper picked up a rare dismissal, the only one for the Cooper clan all day as Tilton ended on 279, an immense total from 40 overs, thanks in the main to Dan Snaith who finished with 151.

Facing the unenviable task of chasing this total, Empingham got off to the worst possible start losing opener Freddie Turner cheaply.

Graeme Cooper and Mark Coburn however batted fluently, keeping in touch with the run rate. Yet when Graeme went to a good delivery, followed by nephew Tom, Empingham’s hopes of getting close seemed to be fading - until this is, Sharp came to the crease.

The star man of a few seasons ago brought all the shots out of the locker with a signature lofted cover drive, a powerful square cut and even a newfound leg glance as he raced to his half century.

Coburn who had supported him ably eventually fell and the mantle was taken up by Adam Ireland with a number of fine strokes. The pair formed an eye-catching partnership before Ireland fell with Sharp eyeing a three figure score. Needing nine runs from the last over he started well hitting a boundary but Tilton’s bowlers limited him to an unbeaten 97.

Empingham made over 200, to win full batting points, but at 206-8 were still 73 short of Tilton.

Opening batsman Freddie Turner said: “A sharper bowling and fielding performance with a greater portion of luck, may have shifted fortunes on the day, but on this occasion the stronger team prospered. Hopefully the batsmen and in particular Baz can keep up the work and keep the promotion push on the cards.”