James McCluskey was the hero for leaders Boxmoor first XI on Saturday, as they pulled a victory from the jaws of defeat in a nail-biting one-wicket away win at second-placed Potters Bar III in Saracens Herts League Division 6B.
McCluskey’s all-round display kept The Moor’s seven-game unbeaten run going to start the season.
Asked to bowl, skipper Richard Crowther’s side struck in the first over with paceman Shaun Nichols pinning the opposition captain plumb in front. McCluskey then settled into a rhythm at the other end, getting the Bar number three bat to nick one to first slip.
He followed with two more wickets as he reduced the hosts to 44-4, returning figures of 8-0-24-3. Joe Hall and Crowther got in on the act as they continued to put pressure on with regular wickets. Crowther’s off-breaks nipped three batsmen as finishing with 9-3-15-3. Hall finished off the innings with 2-14, as Bar ended up all out for 110.
Only National League referee David Rock (33) played with any authority for Bar.
Crowther was the happier of the two captains at the halfway point but had no idea of the drama to come.
The reply started uneventfully as The Moore reached double figures, but the game was turned on its head in the fifth over when Chris Boyce took a hat-trick with his medium pace swing to knock over the visitors’ top order.
Crowther’s team found themselves at 10-3 and knew they were in for a fight to keep their unbeaten run intact.
Matt Smalley-Harris and Sam Pimm (22) steadied the innings but regular wickets fell as Boxmoor’s batsmen struggled to make an impact.
First at 39-6 and then at 59-8, the game looked up for the leaders. It needed a big display and McCluskey, coming in at number nine, followed up his bowling performance with a match-winning innings with the bat.
He and Nichols first inched their way to the target with some watchful batting. The partnership got to a match high of 36 when Nichols was adjudged lbw, one of seven in the game, to leave The Moor close to defeat at 95-9.
Last man Prateek Malhotra joined McCluskey as Boyce (4-45) returned for his final over in a last-ditch attempt to win the game, only for McCluskey to swing the game in The Moor’s favour with a few boundaries and a single off the last ball of Boyce’s over.
This meant the big Aussie was facing the start of what turned out to be the last over needing two to win. A near mix-up with the running resulted in a poor throw, followed by an overthrow to get Malhotra on strike with the scores level. A potential tie looked likely in this bowler-friendly match but Malhotra made sure of the 30 points when he squirted one through gully, much to the relief of his teammates.
McCluskey’s unbeaten 35 earning him the man of the match plaudits.
Boxmoor now lead the table by 18 points and host fifth-place newly-promoted side Watton-at-Stone on Saturday.
Boxmoor’s 2nds lost by 34 runs when hosting Cheshunt Rosedale II in Division 9B.
The 3rds lost by a huge 241 runs when entertaining runaway leaders Markyate & Luton Town in Regional Division B West.
It was a long afternoon in the field as Markyate scored 312-6 off their 40 overs.
A returning Gaby Pimm (2-40) was the pick of the Boxmoor bowlers.
Boxmoor hoped to add some pride with the bat but a mid-order collapse under very accurate bowling put paid to that ambition.
Only Phil Lovell (15) and Gary Hampson (15) provided any resistance as Boxmoor were bowled out for just 71.
They visit Harpenden VI this Saturday in a must-win game if they have any chance of gaining promotion.
Boxmoor’s Sunday 1sts won by five wickets when hosting The Lee inn a friendly.
The Lee were two wickets down by the fifth over, but skipper Julian Swain (94) added runs on their way to 192.
The wickets were shared between Lloyd Larkins (2-21), Josh Low (2-24) and Kelly Low (2-1). The Moor opening pair of Ben Mannering (69 not out) and Matt Smalley-Harris made an opening stand of 42, and Keith Low built a 61-run partnership with Mannering.
A quick-fire unbeaten 30 from Larkins then got Boxmoor over the line.