Sizzling Sandiacre Town, inspired by an incredible innings from Dan Birch, kept their closest title rivals, Eckington, at arm’s length after a match of more than 600 runs that was a credit to the Derbyshire County League.
After Sandiacre had posted a huge total of 329-2, with Birch blasting 139no off 52 balls, hosts Ekington did hold on for a losing draw in reply, making 282-8. But the leaders gained nine more points from the showdown between the top two in the Premier Division and now head their rivals by 34 points with four to play.
Eckington were soon made to regret their decision to put Sandiacre in as openers Scott McNeill and James Chapman embarked on a first-wicket stand of 149. Chapman was first to fall for 73 (two sixes and eight fours), but then Birch joined McNeill for a an explosive partnership worth 169 for the second wicket.
The polished opener fell three runs short of his century after firing 12 boundaries, but Birch completed his and went way beyond, smacking no fewer than 15 sixes, plus nine fours, in an extraordinary onslaught that had to be seen to be believed. Most of the home bowlers suffered but particularly Nathan Musselwhite, who was jettisoned for 109 in 14 overs.
To their credit, Eckington were hardly lily-livered themselves when they batted. Archie Gleadall made 81, Matt Sonczak 52 and Joe Bullimore 41, but they were never quite up with the required run-rate as wickets fell at regular intervals, including four to Matt Newbold (4-70).