BACK in league action after the euphoria of the previous week's cup win, CHESTER COUNTY OFFICERS stumbled in their quest for winning points when Radbroke Hall hung on to make a draw at Upton on Saturday.
Skipper Steve Johnson lost a vital toss and Chester were inserted on a hard, dry wicket. A lively pair of opening bowlers fizzed the ball down at a fair lick but caused the wicket-keeper as much trouble as anyone by spraying the ball on both sides of the wicket.
Lenient umpires kept their arms firmly crossed while Radbroke's gloveman gave a fair impression of David Seaman!
Tony Collard (16) was the first to go, chasing a short, wide delivery, but only getting enough bat on it to be caught at second slip.
John Taliana (4) came and went lbw to Anhu Sinha, but John Gilbody joined Tony Hattersley to take the score to 92 before Hattersley departed, bowled by Sinha for 45.
Sinha was causing problems with his left-arm spin and took four more wickets as Gilbody (37), Ian Barlow (21), Mike Caulfield (13) and Johnson (6) took CCO up towards maximum batting points, although it was left to Graham Wilks to hit two off the last ball with the final score of 175-7.
Extras totalled 30 as Radbroke's wicket-keeper was unluckily credited with 20 byes while Sinha took 6-32 in 16 overs.
After tea, Radbroke also batted resolutely and only two wickets fell in the first 20 overs, both bowled by Andy Barlow (2-29). With the score on 60, Radbroke had a fair platform, but the introduction of Mike Clarke (2-17) changed everything as he took two wickets in an over, including dangerman Les Forsyth for 41.
Shuttleworth was out at the other end to Wilks (1-19) to put the score at 66-5 with 20 overs left.
Spinners were introduced and the game opened up with Sinha now showing his prowess with the bat. Sweeping at everything, he played a marvellous innings of 50 and Radbroke got up to 144-6 with five overs left to get 32.
However, when Sinha and Atef were stumped, Radbroke gave up the chase and settled for a draw.
Spinners Geordie Winn (2-38) and Taliana (1-28) had given Officers a chance, but it proved impossible to snatch victory and they took 14 points and dropped to fourth in the table.
Officers go to Trafford MV tomorrow. Half centuries by openers James and Martin Huxley, followed by an excellent bowling display and four wickets from paceman Lawrence Gotts, gave SAUGHALL maximum points in victory against Wirral Mersey Park.
After being inserted to bat first, Saughall got off to the best of starts with a twin-pronged opening stand of 97, before Martin Huxley drove straight back to the bowler for 52 runs.
There was little let-up for the visiting bowlers as Ben Salisbury strode confidently out to the crease and played some powerful strokes before he was bowled for a well-compiled 48. Skipper James Huxley ended on 80 not out as the declaration arrived on 191-2 after 40 overs.
Saughall's new ball pace attack of Lawrence Gotts and Pete Tunnicliffe, bowling to an attacking field reminiscent of the Aussie test team when they sniff victory, picked up three early breakthroughs.
Gotts found a thick outside edge to claim the first wicket, with Les Perkins taking a neat catch at third slip then bowling the visiting skipper with a yorker, while Tunnicliffe also got his name in the wicket column in an impressive opening spell.
But then a stubborn 20-over fourth-wicket part-nership frustrated Saughall, although tight bowling meant the visitors were never able to seriously threaten the hosts' lofty target.
Perkins, Chris Andrews, Mike Andrews and Richard Tomlinson all bowled miserly spells which lacked only one ingredient - wickets - as Wirral Mersey Park showed mid-order resilience.
The return of Tunnicliffe (2-12) into the attack reaped early dividends as the stubborn Maher was trapped leg before for 17, while Gotts (4-31) continued his recent good run of form by claiming two more wickets, including an expertly-taken catch at fourth slip by Brian Huxley.
With just five overs remaining, Wirral could have dead-batted, but the lure of batting bonus points proved too much and Perkins (2-14) took a simple catch off his own bowling off a top-edged drive as Wirral were dismissed for 94.
Skipper James Huxley was delighted with the victory: 'Batting was never easy, but we managed our best total of the season which really enabled us to go on the attack when it was Wirral's turn at the crease,' he said.
'I thought we bowled superbly in reply, especially the opening attack, and as a result we thoroughly deserved our victory.'
Saughall travel the short distance to Eastham tomorrow before finishing off their campaign against two familiar opponents from their Wirral League days, Capenhurst and Liscard.