A MEMORABLE season reached the perfect crescendo for Hucknall when they lifted the Gunn And Moore South Notts League’s Popkess Cup for the first time.
Hucknall had to do it the hard way — against league champions Plumtree and without one of their star players, Josh Buckley, because league rules dictate that club professionals are not allowed to play in the competition.
But they also did it in style, disposing of Plumtree by the convincing margin of 70 runs after yet another influential all-round performance by their inspirational skipper, Robin Maxwell.
Maxwell hit 87 (one six and nine fours) off 94 balls with the bat and then returned figures of three for 23 from seven overs with the ball.
So it was fitting that he received the prestigious trophy, plus the man-of-the-match award, from Alan Croome, of sponsors Mapperley Sports.
Hucknall’s glorious win, achieved at the blustery neutral ground of Attenborough, capped a remarkable season not just for the first team, who also finished third in their debut season in the league’s top flight, but for the whole club too.
The second team were Division E champions and Raleigh Cup winners, the third team missed out on promotion by a whisker and several of the club’s youth teams basked in success too. The under-17s were league runners-up, the under-13s were league champions and cup runners-up, the under-12s landed a league and cup double and the under-11s were unbeaten in their kwik cricket tournaments.
The club are riding the crest of a wave — and the biggest splash of all came against shellshocked Plumtree.
No matter that Hucknall lost the toss and were asked to bat first. OK, talented opener Richard Cross fell in the fourth over. But his dismissal merely rolled out the red carpet for Maxwell, who proceeded to share two superb stands, worth 82 and 117, with Aaron Lee and Scott Harris.
Opener Lee struck six boundaries in his 48, while the in-form Harris hammered three sixes and five fours in his typically ebullient 70-ball 60.
Plumtree’s wayward bowlers could never get a grip on the scoring rate, which always hovered around five an over. And as Hucknall let rip, one Harris boundary flew through the pavilion window!
The momentum was surrendered a little when Harris was bowled by the champions’ best bowler, Matt Milnes, and Maxwell’s superb innings was brought to an end by a run out. But 74 runs still came from the final ten overs and Hucknall’s total was more than presentable.
When Plumtree replied, in the absence of Buckley, Maxwell took a huge gamble in handing the new ball to young William Spray, who had begun the season in the third team.
But Spray responded by claiming the prized wicket of highly-rated opener Hassan Azad with his second ball, flattening his leg stump. And after a fightback to 45 for one, Spray went on to remove batsmen two and three, Steve James and Sam Storey, in successive overs.
They were blows from which Plumtree never recovered, particularly when change-bowlers Maxwell, spinner Adam Scott and Tim Buckthorpe got amongst the middle order.
Maxwell and Scott picked up the wickets but Buckthorpe also deserved credit for a respectable, economical spell.
Plumtree were held together only by a defiant 61 (one six and six fours) from Paul White. But when he was caught off Scott, the end was nigh and the sound of Hucknall popping champagne corks was only minutes away.