Louth Taveners took on newly promoted Holton Le Clay on Sunday in their opening match of the East Lindsey Cricket League Division One.
After coming so close to winning the league last year, Louth captain Zubair Ahmed would have been keen for his side to make a good start after being put in to bat and begin their innings well.
However, on a particularly green-looking wicket, Louth struggled early on, and after 5.2 overs, both openers had been lost to the skilful bowling of Carter (8-0-42-2) and Ford (8-0-59-2). This brought together at the crease batsmen Zeeshan Ahmed and Matthew Hamilton, with the score slightly precariously standing at 21-2.
At the beginning of the partnership, the scoring rate seemed fairly reasonable. The pairing ticked over consistently at around six runs per over until drinks, with Hamilton far the aggressor as Ahmed played himself in carefully in his usual fashion.
At the halfway mark with the score on 123-2, it was decided that it was time to push the scoring rate on with plenty of batting to come. The runs began to come quickly, and the two began striking boundaries almost at will with Holton Le Clay powerless to stop the onslaught.
Louth’s only real concern was the deteriorating fitness of Ahmed, who seemed to have pulled a muscle in his leg and was finding running difficult, though in no danger of needing to be retired.
Regardless, the charge continued. Hamilton was an unstoppable juggernaut dispatching the bowling all around the ground until his dismissal.
With the score on 233 off 33 overs, his advance down the track proved a mistake when he was bowled for a memorable 112 off 90 balls, including 17 fours and one six.
Not long after, Ahmed was caught on the boundary attempting to maximise the Louth score. He departed in the final over with the score on 290 after accomplishing his own stunning century of 115 off 103 balls after hitting 12 fours and one six of his own.
It was therefore left for Phil Nicholson and Will Allis to see out the remaining three balls of the innings which they did, with scores of 16 and 1 not out respectively each with Louth closing on 293 off their 40 overs.
In reply, Holton Le Clay responded with a furious opening partnership of their own. For the first 16 overs, it didn’t seem to matter how high quality the bowling was; the ball was being constantly dispatched to the boundary.
With techniques based more on raw power than technical finesse, Holton Le Clay openers Marshall and Cook took on the Louth bowlers to great effect. It was at this point though, when Cook offered a simple chance off the bowling of leg spinner Laurence Scott, to depart caught by Nicholson for 63 including 11 fours with the score at 124-1.
At drinks then, after Holton Le Clay had moved on to 150-1, it was very possible to make the case that Holton Le Clay were in fact favourites.
However, wickets soon began to fall regularly with Zubair Ahmed (7-0-47-2) and Hamilton (4-0-31-2) proving the hardest bowlers to face.
While they still just about kept up with the required rate, the fatal blow was perhaps struck when Marshall was run out following a mix up with his partner resulting with both batsmen at the same end. He departed for 93 after hitting 9 fours with the score on 244-6 off 35 overs. Louth knew at this point victory was in touching distance.
Louth bowled Holton Le Clay out for 265 to win by 28 runs and pick up the maximum 20 points in a thrilling contest.
With no game next week, Louth will look forwards to travelling to Brocklesby Park the week after where they will hope to win again, and start to mount another serious title challenge which they know they are capable of.