Stevenage kept alive their title hopes with a comfortable seven-wicket victory against Hoddesdon. The day got off to an inauspicious start, with early showers limiting the pre-lunch entertainment to the Hoddesdon team s warm-up game of football and the St

Stevenage kept alive their title hopes with a comfortable seven-wicket victory against Hoddesdon.

The day got off to an inauspicious start, with early showers limiting the pre-lunch entertainment to the Hoddesdon team's warm-up game of football and the Stevenage team's volleyball equivalent.

A series of negotiations between the team captains and umpires finally overcame concerns about a damp patch on a good length at the Old Town end of the wicket.

Play got underway after an early lunch with captain David Carr winning yet another toss and asking Hoddesdon to bat.

Hoddesdon made a steady start, benefiting early on from a below pace Gareth Berg who struggled through three overs having suffered a slight muscle strain in his first over.

This forced Stevenage to pair up their opening batsmen with the new ball, Gary Brown taking over to join regular opening seamer Tanweer Sikandar.

This pair bowled with good sense and thanks to some good catching picked up three wickets by the time Hoddesdon had posted their fifty.

A stabilising partnership between Hoddesdon's batsmen of the season, the South African Rory Coutts and Balkham, stopped the tumble of wickets.

But the runs - in a game reduced to 46 overs for Hoddesdon and 38 overs for Stevenage - slowed down to a trickle as Syed Ali Kazmi and Azhar Ali paired up.

Ali clung on to a caught and bowled chance to remove Balkham and when an alert Carr ran out Coleman at the non-striker's end, Hoddesdon found themselves on 115-5 with nothing but inexperienced batsmen to offer any support to Coutts.

A further three wickets fell in the remaining overs with the addition of 36 more runs to bring the innings to an end on 151-8.

Ali Kazmi found the ideal pace and length to bowl to finish with 3-45. His wickets included clean bowling Coutts who was last out for 65.

Stevenage's reply got off to a careful start with only the loss of Sikandar who was stumped for 10 with the score on 17.

The dismissal of his opening partner seemed to galvanise Brown and he opened his shoulders to good effect.

He was particularly destructive against Coleman who he dispatched for boundaries to pretty much every corner of the ground.

The controlled aggression by Brown and Ali Kazmi forced Hoddesdon to take the new ball.

This did not slow the run rate but did coincide with Ali Kazmi (14) getting run out as a result of a direct hit.

Nas Ahmed (31no) joined Brown at the crease and the pair batted seemingly effortlessly until a shooter from the pick of Hoddesdon's bowlers, Byrne, trapped Brown leg before for 84.

This was little more than a consolation for Hoddesdon because with 30 minutes of the game remaining, Berg hit the winning runs.

P The seconds were easy winners by eight wickets over Wormley in the Saracens Herts League Division Three.

Wormley batted on a wet wicket as Stevenage totally dominated the game.

Ian Brown bowled all the way through to finish with figures of 20.5-4-42-6, while Martin Nevill finished with 3-23 in 18 overs.

Wickets also fell at regular intervals to leave the home side bowled out for 79.

Saeed Ali and Barret Ganji started the Stevenage reply as if they had a train to catch by putting on 46 in six overs.

Ganji was out but Ali continued the onslaught and completed his fifty with the winning runs in only the 15th over.

All-rounder Steve Cooley was the star as the thirds beat Bayford and Hertford 2nds.

Laurie Brown (30) and Scott Davies (41) put on 68 for the first wicket.

Cooley then made a brilliant 104 as Stevenage survived a middle order collapse to reach 230-9 from 53 overs.

He also opened the bowling and picked up two early wickets with Bayford and Hertford eventually falling 100 runs short and six overs from a draw.

Pick of the bowlers were Cooley (5-44 in 13 overs) and Tony Start (2-16 from seven).

The fourths won by six wickets against Monken Hadley 2nds.

The home team struggled to 46-6 before a mini revival saw them limp to 107 all out off 45.2 overs.

Skipper Phil Ashby led the way with 3-28 from 8.4 overs and he was well supported by Matt John (2-31 from 13) and Kevin Jones (2-15 from 11 overs).

Stevenage were 17-2 but Craig Whitworth (41) and Neil Hockey (32) shared a stand of 88 before falling with the finishing line in sight.