A MUCH-IMPROVED display still ended in Crewe's third defeat of the season.
They showed signs they can recover from their disappointing start in Division One, despite suffering a three-wicket reverse in an exciting match at Hem Heath on Saturday.
Their batting game looked up to scratch with Tom Gower in particular excelling. But new professional Irfanuddin was again disappointing in the bowling department as he was clattered for 70 runs in his 12 overs, for the return of just one wicket.
After heavy rain had caused a delay of more than two hours, Crewe were put in to bat and lost wickets for just 25 runs. But Jo Boyle and Gower showed resolve to move the score on to 67 before Boyle was out for 21, caught and bowled by Indian test star Akash Chopra who went on to claim figures of 5-37 off 10.1 overs.
Gower was in sparkling form and went on to make a superb knock of 77 off just 52 balls, which included five fours and seven sixes. He received good support from Richard Marsh who cracked three sixes in his 29 before both were dismissed just before tea at 161-6. A couple of dubious decisions meant Crewe were all out for 167.
Chopra opened the Hem Heath innings with some fine shots before Mike Holt dismissed fellow opener Robbie Walker for 16. With Chopra looking a class apart, the score was 111 before Anu Sinha made the next breakthrough.
He bowled Crewe back into the game with a fine spell of 5-30, including the vital wicket of Chopra (69). It set up a nail-biting finish with the home side edging to victory with 55 balls to spare.
A disappointment for Crewe was Irfanuddin, who was clattered for 70 runs in his 12 overs.
Crewe seconds picked up their second win of the season after Phil Marsh (4-20), Martin Webb (3-15) and David Hurst (2-10) bowled Hem Heath out for 67 to set up a five-wicket win.
Also in Division One, Haslington were undone at home by a slick Norton side on Saturday.
Batting first, they closed on 112-8 with Richard Bebbington top scoring on 31. But Taz Hussain's 68 inspired the visitors to victory as they lost just two wickets on the way.
nPremier Division side Elworth were undone by a batting masterclass from Leek's Steve Bailey.
Playing at home, Elworth won the toss and elected to make first use of the crease. But their decision looked poor as opener Mike Robinson (6) was ousted by the bowling of Lee Slater, while Peter Davies (0) was undone by Robert Mozelwski.
But the reliable South African Ian Mitchell (49) proved he can play under pressure yet again with a commanding display which took him close to a half-century.
Unfortunately, he was the only one to play near to potential as others fell around him.
Lee Slater claimed the wickets of Rob Beech and Dave Palin for no score. While Phil Cross (18), Russell Ballard (15), Matthew Buckley (12) and Jim Higgins (17) made contributions, Elworth were 134 all out.
In reply, Bailey needed little assistance, hitting 10 fours and five sixes in a breathtaking unbeaten innings of 102. Paul Crompton spurred brief hope by bowling Mozelewski (5), but the visitors eased to a nine-wicket win.
A resilient Betley side held on for a draw at Stone.
The hosts had declared on 152-6 after a decent innings in which Simon Reynolds (2-20), Adrian Butler (2-40) and Nasser Mahmood (1-34) were forced to work hard to penetrate.
Terrorised by Mo Hussain, who added bowling figures of 4-54 to his 36 runs gained earlier, skipper Simon Cork (18), Butler (24) and Richard Cooper (19) kept their side in contention as they finished on 102-8.