Ilkeston Rutland’s struggling 1st XI entertained Rolls Royce on Saturday, the only side they have beaten this year and the team they need to overtake if they are to stay in the Premier League.
It was, by any measure, a must-win game but it ended in a losing draw and the gap to safety extended from 55 to 64 points.
There are still seven games to go so the fat lady is not yet singing but this weekend she entered her dressing room and started gargling.
Back in May, Rutland skittled Rolls Royce for just 112 and after winning the toss they were looking for a repeat performance.
Openers Bilal Ejaz (40) and Sahd Shafiq (50) had other ideas, putting on 74 for the first wicket in good time.
James Lockhart’s removal of Ejaz was the start of Rutland’s most successful period of the game.
By the 36th over, Rolls Royce were in trouble at 141 for 6, their run-rate lowered to under four-an-over and in need of a strong finish.
Their inspiration was Mohammed Waseem, who had quietly picked up 11 singles before suddenly unleashing four sixes, as he rallied the tail to add 90 from the last ten overs.
A target of 245 was far more than Rutland wanted to be chasing but it was a big hill rather than the Mount Everests they have seen of late.
They started badly. By the 20 over mark, they had reached only 50 for the loss of three wickets and already they needed to score at more than a run-a-ball.
David Smit’s presence at the crease was the main cause of optimism. He had eased his way to 50 and his partnership with Darren Cundy (19) threatened to become the basis of a revival.
The recovery was stopped by the slow bowlers. Off spinner Raja Sohail Haider’s 3 for 35 from 15 overs included Cundy, tied down, before being caught at deep square leg.
Captain Rob Green came in next hoping for a repeat of his boundary bonanza of the previous weekend. The Rec’s rope had been primed for this moment but he too struggled against spin and the run-rate soared to ten every over.
Smit was then caught at long-on for 60 and another defeat looked the most likely result.
Honour, of sorts, was restored by the fluent Luke Marriott whose unbeaten 32 came off just 29 deliveries and Andy Flindall who hit the final three balls of the game for two sixes over cover and a boundary.
It was the cricketing equivalent of a boxer saving his three best punches for the last ten seconds of the last round whilst losing massively on points.
Rutland now face local rivals Sandiacre, minus their main run-getter David Smit, at Longmoor Lane next week.
Any thought that Rutland’s 2nd XI would comfortably avoid relegation from Division 4 North evaporated on Saturday.
As they crashed to an embarrassingly one-sided defeat at league leaders Clowne Town, their relegation rivals Allestree were beating high-flying Chesterfield.
Mass absenteeism meant a weak side travelled to Clowne and they were soon enjoying their tea without the need to play cricket afterwards having collapsed to 61 all out with only the battling captain Alan Chambers (12) and Adam Slater (18) reaching double figures.
A nine wicket defeat earned them nil points.
The 3rd XI too look destined for the drop after being thrashed by the only side to sit below them in Division 8 North.
Grant Robertson (23), Lewis Jones (13) and captain Lee Bradley (24) all got in but none went on to play a telling innings.
Chasing just 98, Clay Cross savoured their moment, taking a long time to win without losing a wicket.
There was success for Rutland’s Under 13s in their final game of the season against Shipley Hall.
The visitors made 74 for 9 with Tom Lowe taking 3 for 5 and the chase proved very exciting.
Rutland still needed two to win from four balls when their seventh wicket fell but little Luke Moore held his nerve and calmly pulled a full toss for four to set off the celebrations.