Hemel Hempstead Town’s promotion-chasing first XI were left scratching their heads on Saturday when a match against Letchworth Garden City looked to be in the bag before slipping from their grasp.
Hemel were well in control in this Herts Saracens Championship clash, winning the toss, batting first and closing on a healthy 275-8.
They then had Letchworth teetering at 110-6 after 20 overs, with Mukesh Bhatt taking 5-34.
Earlier, Hemel’s Lewis Hodgins had hit 55 to bring his season total to 569 and Brett Penny struck 91 for 401 overall runs this term.
Jack Bailey secured his second half-century of the campaign with 54.
But along came Letchworth’s Sam Kendle, smashing 83 from just 57 balls, including eight fours and six sixes, who with wicket-keeper Jos Randall (24) put on a staggering 110 for the seventh wicket.
They were needing to motor along at 5.5 runs per over but were always ahead of the rate thanks to opener Will Aitkenhead’s 70 off 52 balls.
Hemel still had a trick up their sleeve with Penny snaffling both Kendle and Randall.
But Praveen Bhatti (26 not out) and Harry Aitkenhead (22) came in at the end to secure an unlikely win for the visitors by two wickets with five overs to spare.
It leaves Hemel’s promotion hopes looking slim as they remain in fourth spot in the Saracens Herts Championship table and 29 points adrift of Reed in the second and final promotion spot.
They will be hoping for penalty deductions on other teams and results going their way with two games remaining to keep any hopes alive.
This Saturday they visit bottom side Leverstock Green.
Hemel 2nds tried to nab a win against leaders Potters Bar II in Division 3B by batting first and it almost came off but they ended up going down by three wickets.
Only Aaron Wilson (51), Tom Waterton (32) and Rory Fraser (15) made double-figure scores for Hemel, with the 53-run effort between Wilson and Waterton for the third wicket being the only partnership of note.
Charlie Hoskins tore into the Potters’ openers to leave them on 30-3 after 10 overs.
But Hunter (30) and Owers (36) dug in to see Potters across the line – but only just.
A rattling win for Hemel 3rds keeps them in with a shout of promotion in Division 6A with two games to play.
Old Cholmelians batted first but could not withstand the power of usual 4ths mainstay Darryl Barnett (4-24), John Peppett (2-17) and veteran Bryan Davies as they were all out for 115.
Max Clark, the eldest son of skipper Graham, snaffled his first league wicket in his second game.
It took just 13 overs for Rhys Fowler (68 not out) and Tim Wright (16 not out) to see off the runs, helped by 35 extras.
There was a second win on the trot for Hemel 4ths to consolidate their place in midtable in Division 9A.
Will Stokes hit a century and worked well with Rohit Patel (64). A rapid 21 from Dil Khan down the order helped them up to a formidable score of 251-8 from their 45 overs.
Hertford IV had no reply.
Khan took 2-24, including both openers, before Ajay Savania ripped through with 3-11 from seven overs and Nic Benson took 2-32 as Hemel won by 104 runs.
On Sunday, Hemel ended their Lords Chess Valley League season with a win over Uxbridge. It moves them into second place in Division Two, needing Watford to lose this weekend to earn promotion.
Aaron Wilson top-scored with 76 and skipper Lewis Hodgins added 52. Ryan Merell was the pick of the Hemel bowlers with 2-52.