THE Groves suffered their eighth consecutive loss, but not without a fight, when they travelled to fellow Meller Braggins League strugglers Bowdon Vale.
With seven first-team players out, vice-captain Mike Caulfield took charge and welcomed Steve Aldcroft and Damian Walters back into the side with young Jack Finlay stepping up from the second team.
A spirited display saw Groves battle hard and come agonisingly close to winning the match in the final over.
After taking an early Bowdon Vale wicket, Dale Cook and Finlay struggled to get any rhythm so Aldcroft (4-52) and Tom Garratt (4-14) were brought in to the attack.
Barrett (47), with some clean hitting, enabled the home team’s score to tick along. However, Aldcroft chipped away before finally snaring the Bowdon Vale man and the hosts were eventually all out for 148.
A hard working bowling and fielding performance needed to be backed up with a solid batting display, but the Groves innings got off to a bad start when Nathan Evans walked after the second ball.
Dominic Green and Walters stabilised things until Walters chipped one to mid-off, soon followed by Green, adjudged lbw. Dale Cook (38) and Darren Green managed to add 43 for the next wicket.
The fatal collapse began as Daz Green was bowled by Hussain (3-11), sparking an implosion as Cook, Tom Garratt and Josh Lyth all were out with just 78 on the board.
It was left down to Caulfield (41) and the three remaining batsmen to lead the revival – and take Groves to the brink of an unlikely win.
Caulfield’s partnership with Aldcroft took Groves to 21 runs from victory until Aldcroft scooped one to square leg. Finlay looked comfortable until he misread a delivery hitting off-stump.
Last man Rob Jones (2no) came to the wicket and, going into the final over, Groves needed four to win. However, Caulfield smashed an off-drive into the waiting hands of a fielder, giving the home side a three-run victory as Groves were all out for 145.
Caulfield said: “It was a much-improved, hard-working and gutsy performance from all the guys. We’ve come away with our heads up as I think it was the strongest team performance so far this season. The lads who’ve come in can be proud.”
The Groves entertain Chelford at Chester Road on Saturday (1.30pm).