Ilkeston Rutland first XI kept their slim hopes of promotion alive on Saturday by beating Division One’s bottom side Ambergate despite another unconvincing display with the bat.
July 4 was the last time Rutland batted well but with 27 points being essential captain David Smit chose first use of a track which, despite being dry, offered movement to the bowlers after overnight rain.
July 4 was also the last time the skipper passed 50 and he disappointed again – the first wicket to fall as he picked out point with a cut on 17.
Ian Banks, moved up to number three in place of the mis-firing George Moulds, was dropped before he’d got off the mark but then began to time the ball sweetly.
He and Kevin Leatherday cleared the boundary four times as the score skipped along to 82 in the 15th over before Ambergate struck back.
Leatherday miscued a pull to depart for 31, the seventh time this year he has been out between 20 and 50, and Banks was then bowled through the gate by seamer David Nightingale.
In his next over, the same bowler nipped one through Luke Marriott’s defences and Rob Green, so often Rutland’s rock this season, was also bowled cheaply to make it 106-5.
The pressure was now on Moulds to work with the lower order and build a defendable total but after grafting for 46 balls he picked out mid-wicket with a whip off his legs and was gone for 17.
Some useful late runs from Adam Slater (13) and Aidan Smith (23) lifted Rutland to 161 all out but the game and their season were now in the balance.
Their response with the ball was overwhelming. Ambergate struggled to lay a bat on the opening pair of Green and Chris Trueman Jnr and both openers were removed with the score on just six.
Banks, enjoying his best spell since June and backed by wonderful slip catching from Smit, removed numbers three, four and five and by the 24th over Ambergate were 40-6 and staring defeat in the face.
Relegation looks inevitable given their position and they needed the win as much as Rutland so there was no blocking out for a draw.
Their tail did rally, briefly, but they were finished off by Smith (2 for 14) and Slater (2 for 45) to give Rutland a 48 run win.
They now need three more wins to keep their interest alive beginning on Saturday with a home game against another relegation threatened club, Matlock.
Were it not for a run of three consecutive defeats in late May and early June, Rutland’s second XI would now be in an imperious position in Six South.
Their horrible hiatus began with defeat against Derby Congs and this was avenged on Saturday…but only just.
Choosing to bowl on a very green wicket, Rutland discovered it wasn’t quite the minefield that it looked and Congs’ captain Waheed Ali managed a careful half-century.
Rutland’s bowlers, led by Chris Trueman Snr (3 for 56), kept a lid on the Congs’ innings and their run-rate stayed stubbornly below four an over throughout.
The beneficiary of this pressure was Bryan Smith, coaxed into the second XI for the first time this season, who responded by clean bowling Ali for 60 and taking 5 for 30 as Congs’ innings tailed away to 153- 9 from 46 overs.
Openers Ross Slater (46) and Vic Pilbeam cut the target in half with an efficient opening stand but Pilbeam’s departure for 39 sparked a collapse which briefly threatened disaster as spinner Sajid Aziz took 4 for 34.
They still needed 20 to win when the sixth wicket fell and there was relief all round when captain Richard Siddons pulled a rare on-drive out of his locker to seal a three-wicket win.
Rutland’s third XI would appear to be relegated from Division Nine North after conceding their match to local rivals Stanton Elks.
It was the first time in over a decade that Rutland have been forced to concede due to a lack of available players with injuries, holidays and the start of the football season all sharing the blame.