Rutland open their season with a draw

Ilkeston Rutland 2nd XI bowler Ainsley Hallam comes in to bowl against Clowne on Saturday, a match in which he took two wickets.
Ilkeston Rutland 2nd XI bowler Ainsley Hallam comes in to bowl against Clowne on Saturday, a match in which he took two wickets.

The start of the cricket season and not a cloud in the sky. What a difference from last year’s soggy start.

On the pitch, meanwhile, it was 2012 all over again for Ilkeston Rutland 1st XI, competing strongly for most of the game before ending in the anti-climax of a losing draw.

Elvaston was the picturesque setting and Rutland invited the hosts to bat after winning the toss.

They were without the speedy Sam Moulds (delivering a baby rather than a ball) and on a slow wicket, the Elvaston openers carefully saw off the new ball.

It was the 16th over before Nick Briers (76) attempted anything bold - launching Ian Banks for six - and despite the blank in the wickets column, Rutland felt they had some control with the run rate never advancing much beyond three-an-over.

A score shy of 200 looked likely until the 44th over when the momentum of the game was changed by Naeem Akhtar.

Two decades ago he was at the start of a first class career for Rawalpindi that brought him 322 wickets. A decade later his bowling was the talk of the Derbyshire Premier League and now, aged 45, his batting can be brutal.

An unbeaten 53 from 34 deliveries lifted Elvaston to 223 for 5. It looked a par score and with David Smit and John Trueman easing themselves into an opening stand of 69, the game was up for grabs.

Elvaston’s Australian left armer Zak Howard sprayed 14 wides but he did catch Smit (24) on the crease with an inswinger.

Trueman looked untroubled and by the half-way point, he and Michael Chambers had taken the score to 112 when seamer Simon Lillie had Rutland’s star recruit drag one onto his stumps for 52.

Although Chambers (41) found his rhythm, none of the middle order stayed with him as the left arm spin of Kash Hussain bogged the batsmen down.

Hussain’s 14 overs cost just 35 runs at a time when Rutland needed to maintain their momentum and his spell saw the required run-rate double as six wickets went down for just 48 runs.

In the end it was left to Ross Slater and Jane Smit to see out the final six overs with Rutland ending on 175 for 8 and gaining eight points to Elvaston’s 17.

Only three regulars remain from last season’s Rutland 2nd XI and for a side so inexperienced in Division 4 North, Clowne Town represented a huge challenge.

In the final game of last season they helped themselves to 312 against an all star 2nd XI attack and on Saturday they would have bettered it had they not declared on 294 for 4 from 43 overs.

For Rutland, Ainsley Hallam struck twice and captain Bryan Smith restricted the scoring to some extent.

What was pleasing was how the team responded to such a daunting target. Rather than fold, the batsmen applied themselves with David Robinson holding the innings together with 84.

He was helped by fellow opener Ryan Clarke (17) and Adam Slater (23) who shared a lengthy second wicket partnership to frustrate Clowne’s victory push.

Rutland closed on 178 for 6 taking seven points to Clowne’s 19.

Rutland’s 3rd XI lost their local derby against Stanton’s 2nd XI at Gallows after being bowled out for 103 with only Grant Robertson (29), Kyle Madison (16) and Baljinder Singh (14) reaching double figures.

Mark Aldred then guided Stanton home with an unbeaten 45.