Alderley Edge missed a golden opportunity to virtually guarantee their survival in the Cheshire Premier League last Saturday when they lost against fellow relegation strugglers Grappenhall from a seemingly impregnable position.
They now find themselves in a desperate battle to avoid the drop with just two games left to play.
Edge batted first at Grappenhall on an overcast day with rain forecast and with an immediate aim to secure as many batting points as possible on a wicket that looked as though it was going to remain slow but with variable bounce, and make it difficult for the batsmen to score quick runs.
Edge put on 88 for the third wicket with an important stand between opener Alan Day and skipper Jason Whittaker. Whittaker made a useful 46, with Day making a crucial 50 off 112 balls to steady the Edge innings and build a platform to try to accelerate the scoring rate.
From a relatively strong position of 140 for 3 with Adam Wildig contributing a fine 33, Edge’s middle failed to fire for the second successive week and it looked at one time as though they might be all out for less than 170 - but some aggressive late hitting from number 10, Tom Atkinson with 20 off 17 balls, enabling Edge to post a reasonable 196-9 off 55 overs.
Grappenhall were always struggling in their reply with Atkinson again in the forefront of the action taking a superb five wickets, including the top three in the Grappenhall batting order all out clean bowled. The game looked all over with the home side 83 for 7, and again 139 for 9, with the result a seeming formality.
A rain break didn’t help Edge with the ball thereafter very greasy and the bowler’s footholds somewhat treacherous. Incredibly Grappenhall’s numbers 9 and 11 somehow managed to put on nearly 60 for the last wicket to sneak home for a victory that never looked on the cards until the final 15 minutes of the game.
Grappenhall’s number 9, Tony Hurdley, certainly gave a man-of-the-match performance with 39 not out with the bat after taking 3 for 42 with the ball in the Alderley innings.
The result transformed Grappenhall’s prospects as they moved off the foot of the table and to within 17 points of Edge in the fight to avoid the drop with Oulton Park now at the bottom, with two of these three clubs to be relegated.
Next week Edge are at home to champions elect Nantwich in a game that Alderley must take a decent points haul from if they are not to play the last game of the season the following Saturday needing to win to survive.
Final score: Cheshire Premier League
Alderley Edge 196-9
Grappenhall won by 1 wicket.