Empingham on verge of title triumph

Mark Stephenson bowling for Empingham
Mark Stephenson bowling for Empingham
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Empingham have one hand on the Grantham & Melton Cricket Association Division One title thanks to their 17th league win of the season on Sunday taking them to within just three points of glory.

They travel to third-placed Thorpe Arnold on Sunday, hoping to get the all-important three points to secure their first trophy since winning the Golding Cup in 2007. It would be their first league title in 31 years.

The Rutlanders were, however, made to work harder than in recent weeks for the points on Sunday as they battled to a three-wicket win against Rothley Park.

Captain Henry Stephenson said: “We were all delighted to get the win and edge nearer to the title.

“The most pleasing thing was that there was no real stand out performer, lots of people contributed when they needed to and showed the strength in depth in this side.

“We now want to win the last two games and make it 19 league wins from 20 games this year.”

Rothley opted to bat first and got off to a solid start as the opening pair of Rikhil Vivekanand (30) and Sandesh Vivekanand (29) saw off the new ball threat of Mark Stephenson and Stew Naylor to put on 65 for the first wicket.

For only the fourth time this season, league leading wicket taker Naylor (0-43 off eight) went wicketless despite a typically probing spell.

Instead, it was left to his partner Stephenson (1-23 off eight) to eventually make the pivotal breakthrough, as he picked up his 19th scalp of the campaign.

With a strong platform Rothley looked on course to post an imposing total but a standout spell from Rob Mckevitt (3-38 off eight) swung the game back in Empingham’s favour.

The first change bowler bowled sharply to pick up three crucial wickets. He now has 20 for the season.

Meanwhile, another stalwart Mark Coburn (1-39 off eight) again played a key role for the side, as he kept a lid on the scoring rate with a tidy spell. His wicket coming courtesy of some sharp work from Charlie McKenzie with the gloves.

Rothley’s lower order rallied well though and making use of the excellent batting conditions they pushed on towards 200.

An important spell at the death from skipper Stephenson (1-19 off four) restricted them to 199-6, just short of maximum batting points.

Empingham’s response got off to the worst possible start when the skipper was dismissed to the first ball of the innings.

However, in typical fashion John Chell (28) and Tom Cooper (54) went on the offensive and shifted the momentum.

Their 48-run partnership came within seven overs before Chell was dismissed looking for his seventh boundary.

Cooper and Coburn (28) then combined to continue the onslaught with a 58 run partnership that seemingly set Empingham on course for victory.

Cooper’s half-century was his fifth of the season to go with two centuries which have taken him to 745 league runs this year.

Just as the game looked won, Empingham had a wobble, as both set batsmen were removed.

However the third key partnership of the innings came from Matt Denny (38) and Jordan Haworth (30no).

The combination of youth and experience calmed any nerves with both batsmen at their free flowing best, hitting 14 boundaries in a rip roaring partnership that took the Rutlanders to within reach of the total.

There was just time for another couple of wickets as first Denny and then McKevitt looked to end the game in style.

But Howarth stroked the winning runs and Empingham had secured a three-wicket victory in under 28 overs, with 80 per cent of those coming in boundaries.