THERE were no centurions, not even any half-centuries this week, but Uttoxeter still wrapped up a comfortable six-wicket victory to keep the Derbyshire County League Division Five South title firmly in their own grasp.
There were four-wicket hauls from Adam Johnson and Jan Kasperowicz, as hosts Alrewas 2nds saw their opening six batsmen taken for just 31 before eventually being skittled out for 134 - a total Michael Skelham’s side surpassed with just four wickets and 33 overs down.
The victory was all the sweeter considering Uttoxeter were missing first team regulars Mick Hall, Ashley Young and Rory Middleton, and they will head into Saturday’s crunch clash with second-placed Yoxall very much on a high.
In cloudy conditions were cloudy and on a green wicket, Skelham had no hesitation in inserting the home side when he called the toss correctly.
Johnson and Skelham opened the attack, the former bowling with a lively pace, and soon getting his man as Gareth Lewis seamed one away from the left-handed captain and Ed Browne made no mistake behind the stumps.
This brought the dangerous Chris Chapman to the crease and though Johnson found the edge first ball, a full-stretch dive from Skelham in the gully did not quite get there.
In the next over though, Chapman misjudged the length and tried to pull a reasonably full ball, shattering his stumps and sending him back to the pavilion for just one.
Johnson’s tail was up and he soon removed Steven Jones with a vicious swinging yorker, knocking his leg stump out the ground.
Alrewas were struggling and two balls later Johnson took Ross Burr second ball for a duck.
Johnson claimed his fourth wicket with another away swinging delivery hitting the top of off stump for yet another duck.
Skelham was looking back to his best - a welcome return of form for both opening bowlers with some massive fixtures on the horizon - and he snaffled his second by clean bowling Tim Watson for five.
Alrewas were in dire straits when in came James Mitchell and Mark Williams, who decided on a plan of attack which was to see the opening bowlers off and collect quick singles where possible – and they both have to be admired for the grit and determination they showed.
Johnson finished with figures of 4-23 from his ten overs and Skelham with 2-20 from his eight.
Ben Brown replaced Skelham and really worked hard to get something out of the pitch but with the ball going softer, found it difficult to get the elusive next wicket.
Gavin Hall replaced Johnson and nearly struck straight away, with Skelham putting down a very difficult chance, after he looked like he caught it.
Though Brown and Hall failed to take a wicket, they conceded just 17 runs from their 11 overs before being replaced by king of spin Jan Kasperowicz, who proved to be the partnership breaker once more as he snared Mitchell lbw for 32 before trapping Williams lbw for a gritty 34.
Uttoxeter were into the tail and Kasperowicz grabbed his third wicket, clean bowling Sam Sutton for a duck with a ball the spun sharply taking the off stump.
Ryan Ware looked in an attacking mood bludgeoning a number of boundaries in a quick fire 23 not out, but Kasperowicz grabbed his fourth to complete the innings when Hall took a running catch to remove Matthew Inglis (8).
Kasperowicz finished with 4-33.
In reply, Brown opened the innings with Hall, and it was the former who looked in fine form, opening his account with a thundering cut to the boundary for four.
Hall provided a solid platform for his side once more, looking very assured of himself while Brown was making the run chase look easy.
He was particularly enjoying his battle with opening bowler Ryan Ware as he hammered an exquisite back foot cover drive to the fence and followed it up with a front foot drive through the offside, also registering four runs.
Ware had his moment though when he got one to seam back at Brown, clean bowling him for 23 and bringing Johnson to the crease.
Hall was still batting with caution and his innings was clearly ruffling a few feathers with the opposition as they crowded the bat in an attempt to force a hasty shot.
Hall’s improvement over the season was clear to see though as he did not allow any of the bravado to get to him and stuck about his task as the glue of the innings.
Johnson was off the mark in typical fashion, hammering Ware back over his head for a one bounce four before lifting a pull over square leg for a maximum.
Hall was picking the length well and soon decided anything full would be dispatched over mid-on or mid-wicket and he also started to find the boundary.
Johnson took 15 off Watson’s next over, timing a lovely cover drive to the fence before sweeping two more boundaries and a well-run three.
A change of bowling introducing Inglis got Alrewas two controversial wickets as he trapped Johnson lbw for 26 and Tony Hayes for a duck when both had clearly pitched outside leg stump from the left-armed bowler.
These quick wickets with 60 still required for victory heaped even more pressure on Hall and he thrived, continuing to hit boundaries – eight in total – on his way to 43.
Marcus Mellor looked in fine form even though he had not batted for a number of weeks as he was also finding the boundary with regularity, his first four scoring shots all disappearing to the fence.
One of the best cutters of the ball around, Mellor waited for any width and then obliged when given the opportunity to dispatch the bad balls.
Hall eventually fell with only 12 runs required, which was a disappointing end to a superb innings.
Peter Attwell got off the mark with a well run two, before Mellor (27no) crashed a couple of fours to see his side home.