A magnificent unbeaten century from Mark Cox helped set Uppingham up for a winning draw in a match that they dominated from start to finish against their local, Leicestershire League Division Three table-topping rivals Oakham.
With Oakham winning the toss and fielding first, it gave them control of the match but openers Martin Bennett and Jamie Dumford set the tone for Uppingham by forcing the pace of the innings from the very first ball.
Although Bennett and then Hubbard fell to the incisive bowling of Jones, who was swinging the ball prodigiously, Dumford was keeping the board moving with regular boundaries.
Jones would go on to record 3-66 from his 11 overs.
That brought Cox to the wicket, to join skipper Dumford who seemed determined to set up a platform for his team. Dumford was in a punishing mood, capitalising on some wayward Oakham bowling and splaying 10 sumptuous boundaries on his way to 47, before the first controversial moment of the match. Cox had driven fiercely at a Calvin Flowers delivery, and as the ball cannoned into the stumps at the non-strikers end Flowers claimed he’d touched the ball to run Dumford out. Nevertheless, the umpired disagreed and Dumford survived.
However, the reprieve did not last for long, as Dumford was adjudged LBW for 49 off the bowling of Flowers to a ball that appeared to be missing leg stump. Three balls later the rain arrived with Uppingham 86-3 from 18 overs and with honours very much even.
The short break, meant the match would be reduced to a 43 over per side match, and upon resumption the irrepressible Cox started to find his timing as he put on 61 in 13 overs with David Fish, before the latter was LBW to Oakley for 29. Nevertheless, at 147 for 4 from 31 overs, Uppingham now had the chance to set a competitive total, and Cox seized the moment brilliantly, having already scored 6 boundaries, he brought up his 50 with a six off Oakley.
When Flowers claimed his second victim (2-60 from 11), it merely brought the classy Patrick Latham to the crease and the pair scored at will, Cox finding 3 further sixes in quick succession and Latham contributing a cheeky scooped boundary in his 20 before he became Osman’s only wicket (1-28 from 4).
Yet by this stage Cox was looking in superb nick and was not to be denied his ton, achieving the milestone in the grandest of manners with successive sixes over the midwicket boundary in the final over of the innings to finish on 104 not out, and Uppingham closed on a season high total of 239-7.
The match seemed perfectly set up with Oakham possessing enough talent to chase down such a good total on an inviting wicket. Yet opening bowlers Danny Dumford and Patrick Latham are a handful on any wicket at any time - and although Latham would be bowling through a intercostal muscle injury - the pair put Oakham under pressure from the word go.
The breakthrough when it came, was quite brilliant. Opener Stuart-Jones tried to pinch a single off the bowling of Latham but only found the athletic Danny Dumford, who, fielding in the covers picked up and hit the one stump in sight to run Stuart-Jones out for 2.
From there, Patrick Latham found the edge of Oakham’s Larsen, but the ball fell just short of Jamie Dumford’s glove as Oakham looked to consolidate. That good work was undone though as Danny Dumford (1-35 from 11 overs) won a successful LBW shout against Larsen, when other appeals had arguably been closer and the Oakham opener was gone for 24.
With Oakham’s two key run getters, Flowers and Shukla now at the crease, the match was in the balance, although the tight Uppingham bowling, and superb ground fielding had left Oakham behind the run rate. Nevertheless, Shukla despatched Dumford for a straight six as they tried to up the rate, before trying to repeat the dose against Latham and only succeeding in picking out the safe hands of Alex Ashwin at mid off.
Then when Tom Wharton brilliantly executed a second direct hit run out for Uppingham to leave Oakham 52-4 from 18 overs, Uppingham were right on top. As Latham (2-31 from 11) picked up his second wicket on the stroke of drinks, courtesy of an outstanding one handed catch by Martin Bennett, diving high to his right at first slip, Uppingham were halfway to the 10 wickets they needed.
Yet, with Flowers still at the crease and joined by North, Oakham went on the defensive, and sought to take overs out of the game. That worked for a time, until the introduction of century maker Mark Cox to the bowling attack created to breakthrough. Having had a close lbw appeal turned down, he followed it next ball with a full ball that castled Flowers for 38, giving a glimmer of hope for Uppingham.
Yet with North unmoveable at the other end and with overs running out, Oakham looked well set to secure the draw. However Scott Green had other ideas, and when North’s disciplined innings of 14 was ended by an injudicous cut stroke Harry Butchart completed the catch at point.
This time, Uppingham would seek to capitalise, and with Alex Ashwin steaming in from the other end, Rory Brown was clean bowled for 14 by a brilliantly executed yorker.
Ashwin followed that up with his second wicket (2-18 from 7) as Osman gloved a delivery for Jamie Dumford to complete a great leg side catch. It meant that Oakham had 18 balls for their 10th wicket pair of Jones and Oakley to survive.
And it almost came for Uppingham as a difficult bat pad chance fell just short of the diving Ashwin off the bowling of Green, and even the reintroduction of Mark Cox for the final over could not yield the final wicket as Oakham survived with a losing draw closing on 126-9 from their 43 overs.
It means Oakham retain top spot in Division Three, but second placed Uppingham have trimmed their lead at the top by 15 points.