If you judged the final weekend of Ilkeston Rutland’s cricket season by results alone then it was a disaster.
Six games played and five defeats and yet somehow fate conspired to bring the whole club together to cheer home the one victory of the weekend.
That event was loaded with irony, for here were the club’s second XI, the day after suffering their second successive relegation, calmly overhauling a target of 200 having been unsuccessful in 13 out of 14 previous chases.
On the balcony, roaring them on, were the first and third XIs who had returned early from spectacularly bad attempts to end on a winning note.
The 1st XI crashed at Quarndon who sealed their promotion back to the Premier League.
Needing only 22 points to go up, Quarndon asked Rutland to bat on a blameless pitch and they were soon in trouble at 34 for 4.
David Smit, who had dropped himself down to number five, and Rob Green, hampered by a groin injury, tried to rally but they were pegged back by Nathan Dumelow and Raja Sohail Haider.
Dumelow bowled 29 dot balls before he conceded a single, while Haider sent down 11 overs for 11 runs.After Green was caught and bowled by Haider for 18 from 42 balls, the rest of the order hung around while contributing almost nothing in terms of runs. Smit (39 not out) eventually ran out of partners.
Needing just 97 from a depleted attack, Quarndon batted like they didn’t want the season to end, stretching out their victory parade for almost 20 overs before registering a nine wicket win.
A day earlier, the Rec had witnessed an extraordinary innings from a Rutland player who made 130 out of 205 as his colleagues collapsed around him.
For several seasons now, Luke Marriott has threatened to do something like this and it was typical of his aggressive style that his maiden century came at better than a run a ball.
Put in to bat by Clifton, Rutland lost two early wickets bringing Marriott to the crease to join Smit. The captain was bowled for 27 and by the 28th over Rutland were 108 for 6.
They added 97 from there and Marriott, the last wicket to fall (run out), made all but ten of them – hitting powerful drives and savaging anything short with 19 fours and a six.
Defending 205, Rutland lacked the potency of recent weekends and Clifton cruised to victory by seven wickets with Faisal Khan hitting an unbeaten 89 from 73 balls.
Rutland end 2014 in eighth place but momentum generated in the second half of the season with their best run of results for a decade means they can look forward to 2015 with optimism.
The 2nd XI can look forward to Division Six in 2015 after they failed to realise the great escape. The trap door slammed shut on Saturday when they were thrashed at Allestree as relegation rivals Sandicare 3rd XI beat Belper Meadows.
Put in to bat on a juicy wicket, only Darren Cundy coped, but after whacking 44 in no time he padded up to a straight one and was sent on his way.
The score of 80 for 2 quickly became 99 for 8 in all too familiar fashion and Allestree raced to their target of 123 for the loss of only one wicket.
With all hope gone, they played well on Sunday, beating Sandiacre’s third string by five wickets.
Sandicare batted first and with 11 overs to go they had reached 177 for 4 and appeared to be out of sight. Richard Siddons changed all that with an inspired spell of 6 for 53. Aided by Joe Bird (3 for 43) Sandiacre collapsed to 199 all out.
The surprise win was set up by a third wicket stand of 64 between Ross Slater (54) and Adam Slater (20), both of whom departed with half the job done and the score on 99.
Aidan Smith (50) then picked up the baton and together with captain Gary Hickinbotham (45 not out) they engineered a perfectly-timed chase.
Having missed out on promotion last week, Rutland’s 3rd XI ended with two defeats.
They should have won on Saturday, throwing away a glorious opportunity to beat the champions Eckington when they needed just ten runs with three wickets in hand and plenty of overs to spare.
Grant Robertson was the hero who turned villain - bowled for what should have been a match-winning 63 and prompting an immediate collapse as Jack Radford took three wickets in four balls to end the contest.
The next day, Allestree flogged them for 278 runs on their minimalist ground with Tony Dempsey hitting 145. Rutland evaporated for just 40 in response - almost competitive until the last.