Flying start for champions Sandiacre as Curtis cracks century

CURTAIN-RAISING CENTURION -- opening bat Gareth Curtis on his way to a century on the opening day of the new season for champions Sandiacre Town.
CURTAIN-RAISING CENTURION -- opening bat Gareth Curtis on his way to a century on the opening day of the new season for champions Sandiacre Town.

Inspired by an curtain-raising century from Gareth Curtis, reigning champions Sandiacre Town began the defence of their Derbyshire County League, Premier Division title in style.

Opening bat Curtis fired 118 as Sandiacre thumped Eckington (Derbyshire) by 98 runs at Longmoor Lane in a convincing performance that suggests they will again be the team to beat at the elite level of domestic cricket.

On being put in, the hosts not only survived the early loss of James Chapman, who was caught and bowled by Nathan Musselwhite (2-53 in 12 overs) for just three, they also recovered with aplomb. Curtis found his stride immediately and added a solid 86 in little more than 20 overs for the second wicket with Bill Anderson, who made 31 (five fours) before he was second man out on 97.

The opener then found an even more willing partner in Dan Birch, who cracked a 41-ball half-century, smacking three sixes and three fours in an entertaining 51. The pair shared 86 for the third wicket and Sandiacre found themselves cruising on 183-2 as they went into the last ten overs.

Eckington’s South African spinner Johan Davel (5-64 in ten overs) bowled Birch and went on to claim four more scalps as the hosts upped the tempo. But Sandiacre remained in control as Curtis forged on in an innings that spanned 156 balls and contained two sixes and 14 fours.

Further support came from skipper Dan Wheeldon (16) and Oliver Saffell (15) as the champions posted a daunting total of 268-8 at the end of their allotted 50 overs.

After tea, Eckington’s reply was soon in trouble following early strikes for Wheeldon, who returned excellent figures of 4-26 from 15 overs. Wheeldon dismissed opener Danny Stake for one and then Archie Gleadall for a duck, while his new-ball partner, Ryan McFadyean (3-38 in 12.1 overs), was also successful as the visitors slid to 22-3.

All-rounder Davel did his best to turn the tide, hitting a fine 62 (ten fours) from 88 balls. But Sandicare kept the pressure on via change-bowler John Jordison (3-53 in 12 overs), who wreaked havoc with the middle order.

Wheeldon returned to dislodge Davel and although Lewis Staniforth defied the inevitable for Eckington with a rapid 46 (one six and eight fours), McFadyean removed both him and last man Adam Leonard to clinch victory for Sandiacre with 11 deliveries to spare.