The Uppingham Town juggernaut hit a few bumps on the road to promotion in the Everards Leicestershire League on Saturday.
Town’s first team have been among the early pace-setters but did just enough to avoid defeat at Ashby Hastings, clinging on to second spot in division four in the process.
Uppingham couldn’t have dreamt of a better start with Alex Ashwin, Uppingham’s only available opening bowler, tempting Ashby’s opener, who edged the ball to Tom Hubbard off the first ball of the match. That was followed up by a world class, one-handed catch from Martin Bennett at first slip a couple of overs later to reduce the home side to 10-2.
With both openers gone for a duck, Ashby began to stage a recovery, helped in part by a series of dropped catches - mostly off the bowling of Jamie Dumford. Town’s skipper had relinquished the wicketkeeping gloves so desperate was the need for bowlers - and a return of 0-33 from 12 overs was a fair effort for a full-time wicketkeeper.
From the other end, Ashwin nipped out the hosts’ skipper Perkins (survivor of three dropped catches) with Godfrey taking a good catch to remove him for 26.
Billy Beaver chipped in with 1-26, but Uppingham were starting to look ragged as Ashby pushed on towards 200 - with Adcock (71) scoring the bulk of the runs.
That was until 14-year-old Donald Butchart was introduced for a superb spell of 4-28. All four wickets were bowled, with stumps cartwheeling at regular intervals thanks to pace and accuracy that points to a bright future.
Ashwin returned to complete his five-wicket haul with 5 or 68 off 16.4 as Ashby finished on 194 all out.
In reply, Uppingham lost their Bennett early on and Dumford shortly after to leave the score at 40 for 2 from 9 overs.
David Fish (31) started to time his shots sweetly and the scoreboard began to tick over nicely but Uppingham continued to lose wickets regularly with Sykes (3-49) removing much of the middle order. Hubbard joined Fish at the crease with the score at 70-4 off 14 overs, and the target looked achievable if wickets remained in tact. But Fish was snared by a smart, diving catch at second slip and Uppingham’s hopes of victory began to fade.
Butchart looked composed and it was a surprise when he departed for 15 after a 34 run partnership and with two wickets left, Uppingham were adrift at 142-8 with 14 overs to bat out.
Club legend Billy Beaver then strolled to the crease and he and Hubbard dug in for the draw. Believe in Beaver was the cry from the dressing room and that was even more important when Hubbard departed for a composed 33 that was ended with an excellent diving catch at point.
Genuine number 11 Jamie Morton, who has never batted for longer than three overs, joined Beaver with 52 balls of the innings remaining.
However, the last man stand looked solid and Beaver pushed the score along with the odd boundary, collecting a couple of bonus points on the way.
As Ashby became increasingly desperate, a thoroughly filthy full bunger caught Morton in the face, cutting him above his left eye - yet his stoic rearguard resolve could not be broken.
When Beaver slashed hard off the final ball of the match, it was heart in mouth all round but it flashed between 3rd and 4th slip to the boundary to leave Uppingham 174-9 and Beaver (17no) and Morton had rescued an unlikely draw.
l Town’s 2nd slipped to third in the division eight table after losing at home to Dunton Bassett 2nd XI.
The visitors posted 211-7 at Castle Hill but Uppingham were dismissed for 193.