Chris Sanders kept a packed house at a sun-drenched Moss Lane entertained until the very last ball of the match on Saturday, striking the four runs needed off the last ball of the game to seal victory for Alderley Edge First XI in their Cheshire County Premier League fixture against Widnes.
Winning the toss and electing to bowl first Alderley's new ball pair of Sanders and Andrew Windle kept the Widnes scoring in check as the visitors reached 66-1 in the first 20 overs. Widens reached 105-3 in the 30th over with Sanders striking twice (2-28) and Jimmy Naylor removing opener Aaron Sohni for 23.
Number 3 Aaqib Uppal provided the spine of the Widnes innings in hitting 108 from 148 balls and combining in a partnership of 143 for the fourth wicket with Luke McCoy who struck 77 from 81 balls as Widnes began to pick up the pace in the second half of their innings as the pitch flattened out in the hot and sunny conditions.
Naylor returned to claim the wicket of McCoy and trap opposition overseas Eric Botha lbw in taking 3-80 as Alderley began to curb the scoring rate in the closing overs, Dan Fesmer finally accounting for Uppal in the final over of the first innings in registering 1-21 from 4 tidy overs with the batsmen swinging freely to close on 240-6.
Alderley's top order recovered from the early setback of losing skipper Sam Perry with the score on 20 as Subhaan Mahmood and Ben Kohler-Cadmore added 108 for the second wicket before Kohler-Cadmore was adjudged lbw for a blistering 79 off 64 balls. Only four more runs had been added to the total when Mahmood followed in the next over for a well made 46 as Widnes rallied behind the spin of Uppal and captain Tom Evans.
The experienced pair of Richard Wilkinson and Ed Foster showed all their composure and craft to add 46 for the fourth wicket before Wilkinson became the next to go, lbw to Uppal (2-50) for 27 and when Foster fell to Evans for 39 with the score on 203-5 Alderley still required 60 runs off just 9 overs.
An early sign of intent came from Alderley's number 6, Sanders, who clubbed a couple of maximums off spinner Matt Burns early in his innings and with Tom Foreman plundering a pair of boundaries the Alderley batsmen began to put the pressure back on Widnes' attack as the game continued to twist and turn.
The pairs' 32 run partnership was ended when Foreman was caught on the long-on boundary attempting another six giving Evans his third wicket of the afternoon (3-65). With 28 needed off the last 4 overs Charlie Reid contributed a run-a-ball 9 and with Sanders having dispatched another delivery on to the tennis courts the game was building to a dramatic climax.
With Reid run-out from a superb direct hit from the deep by Luke McCoy, Sanders retained the strike with 4 runs needed to seal victory off the final ball of the match which he duly delivered with a sweet strike to the long-on boundary, past the diving McCoy, to send the crowd in front of the old pavilion into raptures.
Sanders finished unbeaten on 40 from 38 balls with the 25-point victory maintaining Alderley's 21-point lead at the summit of the table going into the final weekend of the season.
Alderley's Second XI endured a tough afternoon at Grappenhall on Saturday going down by a margin of 109 runs. Batting first after winning the toss the hosts recovered from 24-2 to compile 198 from just short of 49 overs, number 5 Iain Wright top-scoring with 42 with steady knocks throughout the order as 4 batsmen registered scores between 25 and 30.
Liam Yahathugoda led the way for Alderley with the ball taking 3-50 from 15 overs with Joe Bailey-Heald, George Valentine and Alfie Usher each taking 2 wickets in a strong showing from the visiting attack.
Alderley's troubles with the bat began from the second ball, losing Yahathugoda with the score still on 0 as Ross Arrowsmith (3-26) and Arthur Pennington (2-17) quickly ran through the visitors' top order reducing them to 37-5.
Shahbaz Qasim resisted for 78 balls in hitting 22 to hold back the tide but with the only significant support coming from number 10 Simon Pickering, who notched a defiant 22 not out, Alderley were bowled out for just 89 with Steve Rooney sweeping away the tail in a spell of 3-19 off 2.2 overs. The 4 points Alderley took from the game consolidated their mid-table position with a chance still to secure a top-half finish from the final round of matches next week.
On Sunday Alderley's Third XI fell to a 4-wicket loss away to league leaders Sale. Winning the toss and batting first Alderley amassed 203 from their 40 overs with Tejas Rao hitting 35 from number 8 and Daniel Woolf hitting 6 boundaries as he also registered an unbeaten 35 from the number 10 berth, Grant Whittaker leading the Sale attack with 4-54.
In reply Sale's top order built a solid platform to get to 78-1 before Jeremy Dunn (2-31) and Liam Yahathugoda (2-45) led the Alderley fightback to reduce the hosts to 87-4 but the league-leaders showed their strength in depth with number 5 Shachi Pai's 39 not out and number 7 Gareth Watterson's 42 the telling knocks to take Sale to their target for the loss of 6 wickets with 3 overs to spare.
Match report by Andrew Windle.