CHESTER Boughton Hall's Premiership title hopes were virtually scuppered when Wirral rivals Oxton inflicted their second successive defeat on Saturday.
Having already lost twice to Oxton this season, the Filkins Lane side made it an unwanted hat-trick, losing by 40 runs with five overs remaining.
Oxton, making first use of a good wicket, began slowly but kept wickets intact. Heath Pritchard kept a tight rein as runs flowed at the other end and, for once, Chester's ground fielding let them down.
The Aussie's 3-64 off 19 overs was scant reward on a hot afternoon. The introduction of Matt Griffiths was shrewd, and he bagged an early wicket and conceded just two runs an over.
The best bowling was reserved for Dave Shewring. Excellent variations in flight gave the batsmen a torrid time. Increasingly gaining turn, Shewring snared 6-54 in 13 testing overs. Pritchard wrapped the innings up on 199 and victory seemed a good possibility at tea.
But the Oxton bowlers found more swing, seam and life than their Chester counterparts. With runs hard to come by, Hall were soon in trouble at 41-4 off 21 overs.
For the second game in a row, Andy Bennion dug Chester out of a hole. He was the mainstay, but only James Powell (28) took the game to Oxton's spinners.
When Bennion was picked up for 45, the chance for victory was gone. And when Shewring went an over later at 159, so did Chester's title hopes for another year.
Hall are at home to Urmston tomorrow and their league cup semi-final at home to Bowdon is scheduled for Sunday week.
Chester bowled out Oxton to win the second-team match. Robinson hit 65 and Thomas 46 not out in a total of 202-9, and Harris claimed 6-58 in the Oxton reply to help Chester win with 10 balls left.
Chester thirds were beaten by four wickets in a high-scoring match against Upton. Chester totalled 248-6, which included a century stand between Mitchell (73) and Royle (82) after Walker had scored 39.
Bowdon look set to take their sixth title in eight years following victory over OULTON PARK at Little Budworth. Park were outplayed by Lancashire all-rounder Gary Yates, who scored 108 and took 7-27. A measure of his quality was that
this wasn't his best bowling performance of the season. He had already taken 8-18 against Alderley Edge!
Despite this, it was Park who made the early breakthrough when Jason Whittaker (4-41) removed the dangerous Crozier and the big-hitting Jon Bean with only three on the board.
Then Steve Ball (72) and Yates put on 124 for the third wicket and this proved decisive as Bowdon took maximum batting points in their 266-8 total.
With Paul Berry unavailable though illness, Park didn't have the firepower to cope with Yates after Kent was out for 10, and Yates bowled a magnificent spell of 19 overs - 11 maidens - to take 7-27.
Led by a determined Stewart Eaton (28no), Oulton Park almost saved the day when McIlroy was adjudged lbw with only three overs left.
Park seconds had a seven-wickets win over Stockport Georgians, Paul Murray hitting 52 and Simon Torlop 63, while the thirds beat Alderley Edge by nine wickets, Luke Heritage unbeaten on 68 and George Gray adding 50.
There were five wickets for Kyle MacPherson and four for David Clarke.
CHRISTLETON salvaged a draw from their clash with Division Two title rivals Birkenhead Park, but they will need to do better in the remaining games to hold off Park's championship challenge
Skipper Jim Gillson asked the hosts to take first knock, but the game plan went awry when Aussie batsman Damon Livermore helped himself to an impressive 111, going well past 1,000 runs for the season. His contribution was the mainstay of a useful total of 200-4 declared.
In reply, Christleton lost early wickets and were never favourites to reach their target, despite a controlled 37 from top-scorer Nick O'Connell.
Wickets continued to tumble with Park very much in the ascendancy and scenting the victory that would have brought them neck and neck with the visitors at the top of the table.
However, with 15 overs remaining, Jason Ash-croft and Matthew Parkinson came together with nine wickets down and set about producing a resolute display of measured defence to achieve the draw, with a score of 169, that retained an 18-point differential at the top for the Little Heath team.
Christleton seconds and Park seconds finished up with the same score of 166.
Park were bowled out and Christleton had two wickets left standing at the close.
Brian Wareing bagged another five-wicket haul, while Richard Morgan-Jones (41) topscored in reply, supported by Mike Hollindale (30) and Wareing (24).
The thirds had a nailbiting finish with Hale Barns before winning by five runs. Ben Turner hit 29 in a total of 173 all out and Chris Hollindale claimed 5-30 in Hale's 168 all out.
TATTENHALL moved up to sixth in the league with their third consecutive win, and if they avoid defeat at Sale tomorrow, they will secure their County League status.
On winning the toss, the home skipper had no hesitation in batting on a great-looking track. This was justified when the declaration came after 50 overs with the score on 203-5, with contributions from John Hope (50) and Graham Harper (47), who put on 90 for the second wicket in Tattenhall's best batting performance of the season.
Timperley got off to a steady start, reaching 55 without loss, but then Willie Clarke found his range and reduced the visitors to 63-5.
The Timperley captain then took the game to Tattenhall, scoring a quickfire 47, until the introduction of Gary Forster (2-3) turned the game again.
The reintroduction of Clarke saw the stumps broken with his first two balls and a 78-run victory recorded.
Clarke finished with 6-45, but while the wickets fell, Mel Dobson was causing all the batsmen problems, bowling 14 overs and conceding only 11 runs.
Gary Forster's second wicket was a caught and bowled that buried a few demons as a run of three consecutive drops was brought to an end.