All hope of Ilkeston Rutland’s first XI making it back to the Premier League vanished on Saturday as the required miracles failed to materialise.
Both the teams ahead of them secured 27 point wins to all but seal promotion while their under-strength side lost by a solitary run at Alrewas.
Given that only six of their usual line-up were available, and that one of them, Rob Green, was playing with two broken ribs, it turned into a fabulous match.
Put in to bat, Alrewas began aggressively with opener James Burton hitting Chris Trueman Jnr for three boundaries in a row before Trueman claimed his revenge – bowling him for 26.
David Smit, with only two overs to his name this season, was first-change and he struck immediately to remove the other opener Gareth Woolley.
The feeling that Rutland could perhaps get away with their lack of bowling grew when Green, no more than turning his arm over, bowled their number three, Josh Jones and then George Moulds trapped Joe Eaton LBW.
At 69-4, Alrewas were wobbling but they have not become a top five side without having a competent lower order.
First Stephen Cole (60) and Tom Chapman (15) steadied the innings with a 58-run partnership before Matt Friend (70 from 53 balls) exploded with four sixes to lift Alrewas to 246-8.
It was asking a lot of a side with only five first team batsmen and the task grew bigger once Kevin Leatherday, who hit 94 against Alrewas in June, fell in the second over.
His replacement Green, whose batting has improved significantly over the last three years, then added 92 in partnership with Smit before the captain (45) was caught driving spinner Sam van Daesdonk.
Another half-century stand followed before Moulds had his fluent knock of 27 cut short by a run out.
Still, Green, pumped on pain-killers, was powering on to his first ever league century and in Luke Marriott it appeared he had the perfect partner to help Rutland cross the line.
Just 21 were required from eight overs when Green’s 108 was ended when he missed a straight one from opening bowler Joel Stewart.
In the next over van Daesdonk had Richard Kelleher adjudged caught behind and then, crucially, Marriott, who’d made 32, hit the seam of Tom Chapman straight to cover.
A further clatter of wickets followed and, with eight balls remaining Rutland, eight down, needed 14 more.
They didn’t lack for experience at the crease. Jane Smit, who made the last of her 134 England appearances in 2008, may not play as much these days but she’s still got it and swept van Daesdonk for a boundary before chipping him over the infield for two more.
The first ball of the final over saw Trueman bowled by Chapman bringing number 11 Aaron Smith, better known as an athlete than a cricketer, to the middle.
To the astonishment of his team-mates (and Alrewas) he drove his first ball through the covers for four and then calmly cut the next one passed point.
Given a few more inches it would have reached the rope and won the game but it produced just two.
Smith missed the next three deliveries and Smit was run out attempting a bye to the keeper which would have tied the scores.
Rutland’s second XI secured a winning draw against Hartshorne at the Rec after posting 212-6 with half-centuries from Vic Pilbeam (59) and David Robinson (80).
Missed chances in the field cost them dearly as their opponents clung on at 164-7 with Bryan Smith taking 4 for 51.
They must now win both their final matches next weekend and hope that other results go their way if they are to gain an unlikely promotion.