Title hopes left in limbo after Kings Langley shock champions-elect Preston
PUBLISHED: 12:56 28 August 2019 | UPDATED: 12:56 28 August 2019
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A second defeat of the season for Preston has left the champagne on ice and the gap at the top of Herts Cricket League Division One reduced to just seven points with two games to go.
This one, away to relegation-threatened Kings Langley, was a complete surprise and means Langleybury are hot on their heels with the pair set to meet on the final day.
Promotion would have been wrapped up with a Preston win and the likelihood is that they will still be in the top two come the end of the season but there will be nerves ahead, as they look to claim the title.
The winning margin in the end was just one-wicket but the truth of the matter is Preston just weren't good enough on the day.
And full credit has to go to an under-strength home side for producing a consummate team performance, with captain Harry Sambrook's 59 in 45 balls a big part of the chase.
The visitors had started well enough but once they lost the in-form Lewis Balcombe for 14 followed by George Biggs and a well-set Pete Gooden the innings took on a different complexion.
A score of 59-3 in the 13th over soon became 98-6 and a scramble to push above 150.
The lower order chipped in with their usual runs, particularly Peter Murrell (23), to eventually close the innings at 162 but that was well under par on a wicket ripe for a big innings.
Preston still had confidence going into the field but Sambrook had other ideas and he scored freely, making 59 of Langley's first 101 runs. With 62 runs required and seven wickets in hand it appeared the game was sliding away from Preston but with Murrell and Max Anderson bowling well, the runs dried up.
Tim Collins returned to claim two wickets and when the stubborn Liberty Maher was run out, Preston had a sniff of victory.
In the very same over as the Maher run-out, Balcombe also hit the stumps directly but as the vain appeal was sounded, the ball ran away for four runs.
There was still time for two more wickets to fall and it left Langley needed two to win with five balls and one wicket remaining.
And the number 11 did enough to see out the game and leave Preston contemplating what might have been.
They host Ickleford on Saturday before that potential winner-takes-all clash.