For a bitterly cold and mostly grey April Saturday, the day had started well for Ilkeston Rutland’s new captain Luke Marriott.
A team had been assembled, the Rec had again proved its resilience to the rain, the toss had been won and Elvaston had been put in to bat on what looked a seamer’s paradise.
Rob Green had just sent down a maiden and then it happened. The first ball of the second over, delivered by Chris Trueman jnr, brushed the edge of Nick Briars’ bat but the regulation chance was spilled by the captain behind the stumps.
It looked for all the world as though George Moulds at slip would hold the rebound but he juggled it as he fell and it rolled off his chest to roars of fury from the bowler.
Agonisingly for Rutland, it proved a pivotal moment. Thereafter, Briars and opening partner Mitch Bradley, successfully saw off the new ball.
Neither of them ever looked particularly well set – unsurprising given the seaming wicket, and their run rate stayed at a patient three per over, but they defied the best seamers Rutland could offer for 34 overs in a 140 run stand. Nothing else in the match compared.
Bradley (65) was the first to go – caught at mid-on by a diving David Smit as he tried to pummel Ian Banks down the ground.
What followed underlined the importance of the partnership. Elvaston fell away, finding it impossible to accelerate against some canny seam bowling from Smit and Green in his second spell.
They lost nine wickets for 67 runs - Smit finishing with 5 for 47, his first five wicket haul since the same fixture in 2012.
Having led their bowling attack, Smit and Green soon found themselves doing the same for the side’s batting.
Ross Slater was efficiently snaffled at slip as he poked forward to Steve Bull’s energetic seamers and then the luckless skipper Marriott was run out without scoring when Smit called him through for an ill-judged single.
That brought Green to the crease and for the next ten overs he and Smit counter-attacked superbly adding 61 before Bull found a way through Green’s defence to bowl him for 37.
The bowler did the same to Moulds in his next over placing the burden for chasing squarely on Smit’s shoulders.
He threatened, but, having made 49, his attempt to run the left-arm spin of Clayton Floyd to third man ended in keeper Bradley’s gloves.
At 100 for 5, with all their frontline batsmen gone and 26 overs remaining, Rutland’s hopes of escape seemed likelier to come from the clouds above than their tail.
But with wickets falling around him, teenager Matt Parry showed real grit in making 21 from 84 balls and taking the game into the final 10 overs.
His heroics were then continued by 3rd XI regular James Fearnside, who blocked out 50 deliveries, and last man Trueman Jnr until the latter was adjudged stumped with 10 balls remaining.
The loss leaves Rutland at the foot of the early Division One table but they and captain Marriott can take heart from the record books – they always beat Elvaston in July (while losing in all other months) and this year’s reverse fixture is on July 16.
Rutland’s 2nd XI will have been encouraged by their performance at Quarndon where two new signings shone.
Franklin Henshaw, 16, recruited from Stanton Elks ahead of the clubs’ merger next year, took 5 for 53 as Rutland restricted the home side to 197 for 9.
Another new recruit Terry Gainey then made 60 before rain washed out the game with Rutland on 103 for 5 with 12 overs left. They took 11 points to Quarndon’s 12.
The 3rd XI’s game at Buxton was cancelled due to the weather.