Notts CCC star Jake Libby lifts improving Hucknall off foot of table

TROUBLE FOR MILLS -- Jake Libby, who fired 77 to help Hucknall to a winning draw against Mansfield Hosiery Mills.
TROUBLE FOR MILLS -- Jake Libby, who fired 77 to help Hucknall to a winning draw against Mansfield Hosiery Mills.

In-form Notts CCC all-rounder Jake Libby played a starring role as fast-improving Hucknall leapt off the bottom of the Notts Premier League with another eyecatching result and performance.

On a day when only three of the six NPL matches even started, newly-promoted Hucknall defied not just the rain but also the critics who have been labelled them relegation fodder. With Libby firing 77 and taking a key wicket, they battled to a winning draw at home to Mansfield Hosiery Mills that lifted them, remarkably, to within eight points of a place in the top half of the table.

Perhaps the best achievement of all, though, was removing no fewer than 3,500 litres of water from the New Gatehouse Ground to enable the match to go ahead after heavy rain had relented only half-an-hour before the scheduled 12 noon start. It was reduced to 38 overs per side, but a fascinating contest ensued as Hucknall, put in, posted a total of 209-9 before Hosiery Mills replied with 199-6.

Libby, whose knock included five boundaries, shared a superb and highly entertaining stand of 139 for the second wicket with South African Dale Campbell, who cracked 60 (one six and nine fours). Campbell eventually became the first of three victims for Sri Lankan Irosh Samarasooriya (3-63 in 11 overs), sparking more wixkets for Kyle Garside (2-43) and Matt Wright (2-57), who bowled Libby to reduce the total to 170-6. But a splendid cameo from Richard Greatorex (26no) took Hucknall past the 200-mark and left everything to play for after tea.

The outcome was in the balance throughout the Millers’ innings as both sides went for the win. A first-wicket partnership of 53 between Kamal Manek (35) and Samarasooriya (25) gave the visitors the upper hand, but then the hosts fought back, led by spinner Max Thompson (3-44 in eight overs), whose scalps included dangerous captain Tom New.

Joe New (52) and Mark Smallwood (33) raised Hosiery Mills spirits again, taking the score to 136-3 with a stand of 56 before Libby (1-39 in 11 overs), who had taken the new ball earlier, returned to bowl the latter. Another profitable partnership followed, this time worth 58, leaving the Millers needing 25 from 12 balls. But then high drama as Greatorex pulled off a stunning catch on the boundary to remove Joe New, and after Matt New had been run out for 19, Josh Downie held his nerve to bowl an excellent final over for Hucknall.