Stevenage keep the title race alive

Stevenage kept the title race alive by inflicting a first league defeat in 2008 on leaders Potters Bar. After winning an important toss, Stevenage chose to bowl first on a wicket that had got an early morning soaking from a huge rain shower. However, thei

Stevenage kept the title race alive by inflicting a first league defeat in 2008 on leaders Potters Bar.

After winning an important toss, Stevenage chose to bowl first on a wicket that had got an early morning soaking from a huge rain shower.

However, their early efforts at making the most of the bowler friendly conditions were undermined by some lacklustre fielding, including dropping opener Gale twice at slip, and some uncharacteristically inconsistent bowling from Amit Dattani and Tanweer Sikandar.

The opening batsmen prospered as a result and 47 was posted in good time.


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Azhar Ali was introduced into the attack earlier than would have been hoped but the change was successful as he won a leg before appeal against Jeyeratnam on 28, which paired up De Silva and the fortunate Gale.

The run rate remained good for a few more overs, but when Gale (29), looking for his favourite pull shot against an Ali faster ball, skied a top edge that was well held by Navin Seneviratne, the innings crumbled from the apparently strong foundations of 69-2.

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Dattani, who was struggling with a side strain, bowled on long and well enough to have Stead well held at leg-slip by Nas Ahmed with the score only progressed to 71.

This was followed two runs later by the real body blow to the Potters Bar innings with Ali inducing an edge from De Silva to David Carr behind the stumps.

Ali, who was in the middle of arguably his best spell of bowling for Stevenage in the last two seasons, delivered an immaculate line and length and was at times unplayable.

He regularly fizzed the ball past the outside edge of the bat into Carr's gloves, and was rewarded again as Cooper slapped a flat catch to Sikandar who made no mistake at mid-off.

The Norman brothers offered a period of resistance that took Bar beyond the 100 mark, but a Syed Ali Kazmi yorker uprooted the number five's leg-stump and in his next over he extracted spin and bounce to present Ali with a simple slip catch off Breeze's glove.

The experience of Palmer and Jarrod Norman got Bar to the safety of the lunch break but from 69-2 their innings had been reduced to the relative ruins of 111-7.

After the break, Stevenage gave little away in the field and Ali Kazmi (4-29 in 11 overs) continued to prosper. He had Palmer caught by Ahmed at short cover and then produced the ball of the day to remove a dumbfounded Owers for nought.

McGee and Norman provided a shortlived flurry of runs but Ali ended the 17-run partnership by having Norman caught by Seneviratne at long on to finish with a deserved five-wicket haul (5-43 in 22.2 overs) and leave Stevenage with a chase of 143 from 59 overs.

The first half dozen overs of Stevenage's reply set the tone for their pursuit of the small total.

Sikandar, in combination with Gary Brown, fresh from an unbeaten 125 for Essex seconds in midweek, raced to 35 from the first seven overs.

Brown was removed bat pad for 13, but Ashley Bayes joined Sikandar and the pair shared a stunning 84-run partnership.

Sikandar led the way early in the partnership racing to a fifty and in doing so he absolutely destroyed the Bar spin attack of Owers, McGee and DeSilva.

With Sikandar in cruise control, Bayes batted with ease and in keeping with his recent form timed the ball beautifully down the ground against spin and seam alike.

It was only over-confidence that presented Bar with their two other wickets, with Sikandar bowled for a classy 77 as he looked to launch a huge drive over long off, and then Ahmed caught at long on for 16 aiming to end the game in style with a six.

In the end, which came in the same over - the 26th - it was Bayes that had the honour of hitting the winning runs and he did so by smacking a straight drive for a one bounce four off Jeyeratnam to finish on an unbeaten 37.

* The seconds lost by four wickets to Ickleford, while the thirds went down by six wickets to Offley and Stopsley.

Ian Brown (72) and Simon Cooley (53) laid the foundations for a good total of 201 but the visitors showed why they are unbeaten this season in chasing the runs in 30 overs.

The fifths had to settle for a draw against Old Albanian fourths despite having nine balls at the last pair. Skipper Richard Sullivan's fifty was the backbone of their 204-7.

The sixth team (106-6) held on for a valuable draw against top side Broxbourne fourths (241-8). Fourteen-year-old Jack Nevill batted 30 overs for his 26 runs.

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