The John Birch revolution at ROLLS-ROYCE LEISURE scaled new heights this week when his side hit the top of the Notts Premier League.
A couple of victories over the Bank Holiday weekend edged Rolls above West Indian Cavaliers, who suffered their first defeat of the season at Plumtree last Saturday.
Now former Notts CCC captain and manager Birch can start dreaming about leading his new-look Rolls team to the ultimate domestic title -- only a year after his first season in charge had yielded the Gunn And Moore South Notts League championship.
The Rollers rubberstamped their arrival in first place with a dramatic one-wicket win over 2012 runnesr-up Notts CCC Academy on Bank Holiday Monday.
The Notts side is made up of youngsters whom the county club hope will be the Trent Bridge stars of the future.
But the home team scrambled home, even though their own Notts pros, Luke Fletcher and Ben Phillips, had a minimal impact.
Fletcher didn’t bowl and was dismissed for a duck, going in at number three in the batting order, while Phillips was restricted to only five overs with the ball and made just 13 with the bat.
After Rolls had put Notts into bat, the new ball was shared by speedster Adam, Shepherd and another fresh signing, 33-year-old Tom Lungley, who spent 11 seasons on the books of Derbyshire from 2000.
Shepherd struck immediately, removing opener and visiting captain Sam Kelsall for a duck and providing wicketkeeper Adeel Shafique with the first of three catches against his former club.
Lungley (two for 51 in 15 overs) also pocketed an early caught-behind victim before Notts battled back in the hands of Hassan Azad and Sam Wood.
Azad made 49 (six fours) and Wood 38 (one six and five fours) in a second-wicket stand of 64 before both were dislodged by first-change bowler Steve Atkinson (two for 48 in seven overs).
From then on, Rolls held the upper hand, despite defiant knoc ks of 31 not out from Brett Hutton and 25 from Adam Tillcock.
Shepherd (four for 43 in 14 overs) returned to collect three more wickets, leaving the locals with under 200 to chase.
However, Rolls got off to a poor start in reply, losing skipper Dan Birch, Shafique and Fletcher with only 14 runs on the board -- two of them to Luke Wood (two for 32 in 7.2 overs).
Lungley (34, six fours), Phillips and Liam Andrews (13) tried to steady the ship. But at 89 for seven, with slow left-armer Tillcock (three for 54 in 15 overs) turning the screw, the odds were stacked against a Rolls triumph.
That they overturned those odds was down to determined tailend batting from Atkinson (26 not out, three fours), Wasim Karim (26), Shepherd (18 not out, three fours) and Mathew Roberts (12) -- not to mention a never-say-die spirit that has obviously been instilled by boss Birch.
Some wayward Notts bowling that gifted the locals 38 extras, including 21 wides, helped the cause. But victory was snatched in the 48th of the allotted 50 overs with just one wicket in hand.
Now Rolls face an awkward trip to Plumtree this weekend before entertaining Cavaliers the following Saturday ( June 8).