LEADERS HARTFORD lost their first game since the opening day of the season on Saturday.
Visitors Grange won the toss and elected to bat but seemed to rue the decision as their star batsmen were soon dispatched, leaving them reeling on 19-3. A partnership of 60 got them back on track but even finishing on 151-9 shouldn't have presented a problem for the league leaders. Brian Harkin collected 3-48 and Matt Shinkfield chipped in with 4-30 at the death.
Hartford's reply was pretty shambolic to start with as they were reduced to 36-5 in just 11 overs. The rebuilding of the innings was left to Rob Whittle, with 41, and Harkin, 30, who dragged the hosts to the brink of an unlikely victory. But as those two fell closely together, it was just too much for the tail to hold out for the draw, as the last wicket fell to the first ball of the final over. nNORTHWICH'S two Johns continued their fine form to steer their side to victory against Chester County Offices. Captain John O'Sullivan followed last week's century with an unbeaten 68 as Northwich extended their lead at the top of Division One.
Chasing 182 to win, he received solid support once again from John Cartwright (36no) as the pair put together a fifth-wicket partnership. John Hughes also contributed with 31 and Ant Shaw 35 to set up the win against a strong home side.
After losing the toss, the Northwich bowlers toiled to make inroads. However, it was surprising that Chester never attempted to increase the run rate with so many wickets in hand. Mark Wrench bowled superbly to take a miserly 1-32 in 15 overs, but missed chances could have proved costly. Six catches were dropped, run-outs missed and two wickets taken from no-balls as the fines treasurer had a productive day.
The result might have been different had the home side's two not-out batsmen been more adventurous, but they appeared content to nudge the score along rather than take advantage of the situation, posting 182-1 from 48 overs. It was a decision that proved costly against a Northwich batting line-up that is starting to show some form and scored 183-4 from 40.4 overs.
Northwich seconds were rocked by the shock resignation of veteran captain Steve Riley just hours before the match. With his team sat comfortably on top of Division A, Riley pointed to personal problems that prompted his decision, but that didn't affect the performance of the team, who posted 232-5 (40 overs) against Chester County Officers who made 137-8 from 50.