Openers’ blast not enough to save Hucknall in sun-baked runfest

Hucknall openers Jake Libby and Josh Downie on the attack.
Hucknall openers Jake Libby and Josh Downie on the attack.

A second century partnership of the season between openers Jake Libby and Josh Downie was not enough to save Hucknall on a sun-baked, run-drenched afternoon at Kimberley.

Nottinghamshire man Libby and local find Downie put on 134 to help Hucknall to a formidable total of 286-9 in their allotted 50 overs.

Hucknall opener Josh Downie on the way to 87.

Hucknall opener Josh Downie on the way to 87.

But Kimberley proved why they are challenging for the Notts Premier League title as they chased it down to perfection and bagged a five-wicket victory with just five balls to spare.

The defeat was a damaging one for Hucknall because they slipped into the bottom-two relegation-zone. But they can take comfort from the fact that they played their part in a thrilling game in glorious weather.

Captain Robin Maxwell had no hesitation in taking first use of the Kimberley strip when he won the toss. And Downie in particular quickly justified his decision with a rapid knock of 87 from just 56 balls.

He was in brutal mood, hammering the ball to all parts of the ground and clubbing five sixes and nine fours. Neither of Kimberley’s new-ball bowlers was spared, with Dominic Brown leaking 28 runs in four overs and Martin Weightman 43 in eight.

Man-of-the-match Downie was finally bowled by third-change bowler Chris Glover, but Libby continued to pile on the runs and moved to 80 (two sixes and fine fours) before he was stumped by Somair Chaudry, dancing down the pitch to Zain Ramzan to bring to an end his 99-ball innings.

Libby had put on 58 for the second wicket with Joe New but, unfortunately, the second half of Hucknall’s innings was not quite as powerful and dominant as the first as the Kimberley bowlers battled back.

New did make 27, while Vinay Landa added 23 and skipper Maxwell 30 (four fours). But wickets also fell regularly, including four to Glover (4-58 from 12 overs) and three to George Bacon (3-66 from ten overs).

Hucknall lost momentum and only 59 runs came from the last ten overs, which were littered by a series of catches on the boundary.

The final total was still one they would have taken at the start but, at one stage, they looked as if they would run riot and head towards something spectacular like 350.

Not that it appeared to matter when Hucknall’s bowlers made early inroads after tea. Keith Dudgeon removed Tom Rowe for six and then Libby, opening the visitors’ attack, linked up again with Downie, who caught Dominic Wheatley for nine, leaving the hosts 21-2.

When Weightman also went for 16 with the score on 69, caught by Libby off Matt New (1-58 in 12 overs), there was serious hope that Hucknall could spring an upset.

However, Kimberley slowly began to find their feet and expertly turned the match on its head -- thanks largely to a wonderful partnership for the fourth wicket between all-rounders Brown and Bacon.

They put on 138, being particularly harsh on Suhail Ahmed (ten overs for 72 runs), before Brown was finally trapped lbw by Libby (2-56 from 12 overs) for a run-a-ball 89, which featured one six and 12 fours.

Such was the duo’s measured aggression that Kimberley went into the last ten overs with a very gettable target of 89 to win, and Bacon found another willing ally in his captain, Alex King.

They added a further 44 to lift the total to 251 and although Bacon finally perished to Dudgeon (2-64 in 11.1 overs), King was unstoppable, cracking a blistering, unbeaten 67 from only 33 deliveries, which included three sixes and nine fours.

Hucknall now sit next to bottom in the table, although they are well clear of basement team Mansfield Hosiery Mills and only four points behind their closest rivals, Radcliffe-on-Trent.

In the coming weeks, they face some crucial games against sides in the bottom half of the league, starting this Saturday at home to Attenborough.

RUNS were also the order of the day in promotion-chasing Hucknall 2nd’s match at home to Cavaliers and Carrington 4th in Division B of the South Notts League.

But they didn’t necessarily come when they were expected because, at one point, Hucknall were struggling on 113-6 after a five-wicket haul for the visitors’ opening bowler Shuaib Khalil (5-58 from 16 overs).

Aaron Simpson (24, five fours) and Aaron Freeman (22, four fours) had threatened to get to grips with him, but when Khalil removed Andy Carden for 27 (four fours), the game looked up for the hosts.

Enter captain Adam Scott, who saved the day with a century partnership alongside wicketkeeper Tom Walters. Together, they put on 120 for the seventh wicket, a record for the ground, as Scott struck 58 (seven fours) and Walters whacked 67 (one six and nine fours).

It was stirring stuff that lifted Hucknall to a final total of 271-9, which was enough to earn them a winning draw and 16 valuable points.

Cavaliers replied with 215-5 on the back of an unbeaten 80 by opener Rizwan Iqbal, who anchored the innings as wickets fell at the other end to Max Thompson (2-57 in ten overs) and that man Scott (3-68 in 13 overs).