Hemel Town earned three wins on Saturday but the first XI went down to leaders Luton to miss an opportunity to steal a march on their rivals.
It was a third consecutive home loss for Hemel in the Herts Saracens Championship, not the form required to have a shot at winning the title.
Leaders Luton Town & Indians I have only lost one game in the league so far this year and that was against Hemel at Wardown Park in the first league game of the season.
The strength of Luton’s bowling was initially their strength, opening bowler Khizer Manzoor starting off with six maidens and a wicket at the expense of just one run in his first seven overs.
He ended up with seven maidens and two wickets for just 22 runs, stopping up one end for some time, in 13 overs.
Hemel opening batsman Hem Ilangaratne plugged away for 67, but Luton’s vice grip was maintained as Hemel were left on only 105 with their top five batsmen out after 40 overs Hemel.
An undefeated sixth wicket partnership of 85 between Matt Dale (54 not out) and Will Langley (27 not out) did see Hemel reach 190-5 after their 60 allotted overs.
The other side of Luton’s measured approach then came into play as their opener Fayaz Homyoon batted through their innings to make an unbeaten 117 to see them to victory with eight overs to spare at 191-4.
Hemel’s wicket-takers were Shidhu Kanade, Brett Penny, Nick Hodgins and Parth Mehta.
The win saw Luton stay top of the Championship, having been relegated from the Premier Division last year.
This Saturday they will hope to return to winning ways when they visit bottom-but-one club Sawbridgeworth.
At the beginning of the season, Hemel’s first XI beat Luton away at Wardown Park while the second XI lost at home to Luton II.
At the start of the second half of the season, a reverse of the fixtures on Saturday saw the results flipped, with the first XI losing at home but the second XI secured an epic away victory at Luton II.
The seam pair of Charlie Hoskins (3-39) and Will Hodgins (3-30) did the damage for Hemel as Luton were bowled out for 230 in their 50 overs.
In reply, Hemel were soon in trouble after losing four wickets for only 34 runs.
But then Aaron Wilson (34) and Ed Langley (96 not out) came together to steady the innings. Langley remained there and when Aaron departed, Ryan Wilson (36) came in to keep the chase going.
In the end Langley and Anjam Khan (5 not out) saw Hemel to 231-7 with just one over remaining. Hemel II still remain just one place off the bottom of Division 3B but they are now a lot closer to the three sides above them.
They host bottom side Sawbridgeworth II on Saturday.
There was a top of the table clash between Hemel and Letchworth in Division 6B, with Hemel coming out on top after a tremendous battle on a blazingly hot day at Letchworth.
Batting first, the hosts made 240 for the loss of just three wickets, Mike Hughes top scoring with 79 and skipper Russell Hann hitting an unbeaten 69. Bryan Davies was the pick of the Hemel bowlers with 1-30 from his 10 overs.
Hemel set about the chase with Suren Perera and Graham Clark putting on 58 for the first wicket before Perera was out 41. Clark went on to make 67 before Davies came in at number four to score an undefeated 74 to guide Hemel to victory for the loss of three wickets with five overs left.
Letchworth dropped down to fourth while leaders Hemel’s nearest challengers are now Bushey II, who are just one point behind and one of only two sides to have beaten Hemel so far this term.
They host sixth-placed outfit Allenburys & County Hall II this Saturday.
There was another big home score for Hemel IV on Saturday and another century from their skipper Mike Samuels (110), his third this season at home.
They made 304-7 which was always a big score to chase at Division 9 level and it proved too tough for London Colney II, who made only 186.
As well as the skipper’s ton, Daryll Barnett hit 63 as Hemel piled on the runs.
Barnett also came on to bowl at the end of the Colney innings to remove their last two batsmen for figures of 2-22. Matt Scears turned in 3-43 in his 10 overs and John Peppett 2-35 in his 10.
Hemel remain in fifth place, but moved closer to fourth place side Preston III, and further away from Boxmoor in sixth.
This Saturday they host leaders Leverstock Green III in a local derby.
On Sunday, Hemel’s first XI were beaten by Bishop’s Stortford in the semi-final of the Readers Herts 20/20 Cup at Potters Bar on Sunday. Stortford were then trounced by Potters in the final.
Matt Dale top scored for Hemel with 32 and Jack Doodson (20) and Tom Elborn (23) made it into the 20s, but no other batsman troubled the scoreboard unduly as they made 121 in their allotted overs.
Stortford reached the target with the loss of just one wicket, Eddie Ballard (68) and Dom Chatfield (26) seeing them over the line.
Hemel’s only wicket came from Nick Hodgins.