SINCE joining Widnes at the start of the season, former Lancashire and Derbyshire all-rounder Steve Titchard has had a relatively quiet time, often sitting with his pads on watching his team's star batsmen performing and playing second fiddle to successful bowlers Bapa Mukherjee and Gareth Dyson.
But the popular Lancashire Academy chief coach came into his own on Saturday when he took advantage of a responsive Alsager pitch to return 7-39 and enhance Widnes' prospects of winning the Murray Smith Accountants Cheshire League County League First Division title.
Alsager had no answer to the accuracy of Titchard's deadly accurate medium pace and were all out for 78. Widnes had the match won by seven wickets at 5pm, Aussie batsman Adam Landry contributing an unbeaten 34 to take his tally for the season to 753.
With divisional leaders Poynton stalled by Congleton's last pair, Widnes reduced their arrears in second place to 13 points, 31 ahead of third-placed Winnington Park, who were held to a high-scoring draw at home by Toft.
At the other end of the table, Warrington grabbed 17 points from a winning draw at Upton to open up a gap above the relegation zone. Warrington openers David Baxter (80) and Mal Agar (63) put on 125 before skipper James Hughes declared at 208-4. Upton made a good fist of their reply and with Lee Dixon scoring 33 and Ian Potter 31 they closed just two runs short at 206-9. Promising young Warrington spinner Liam Heaphy took 3-34.
Grappenhall stay firmly at the bottom after a high-scoring draw at home to Cheadle Hulme, who amassed 251-6, with Miles Tufft scoring 86 and Neil Titchard taking 4-59. Grappenhall's usually suspect batting came off with Roy Slater 61, Will Sharp 54 and Ian Jackson 51 all topping the half-century in a reply of 219-7.
In Division Two, Christleton needed a crucial all-round performance from stand-in skipper Gary Newall to squeeze a one wicket victory from their visit to Sale, who totalled a modest 140, Peter Allum 60, Newall 5-26. Christleton lost wickets rapidly after tea, but Newall's sound 30 steered them home at 141-9.
Second-placed Birkenhead Park almost came unstuck at home to Stock-port Georgians, but their 12 draw points kept them comfortably in second place. Australian left-hander Damon Livermore was again the force in Park's 176-9, an innings of 81 taking his tally to 878 and he looks certain to become the first league batsman to reach four figures. Stockport replied with 179-8, John Costain 3-31, Gareth Evans 3-57.
Irby's demise continued when they were again dismissed cheaply, this time for 68 at Bollington, who knocked off the runs rapidly to win by eight wickets and establish themselves in third place.
It was all change at the bottom where Marple and Sale now occupy the positions which would plunge them into the Meller Braggins League next season if they fail to improve.
Marple lost hy 22 runs at Timperley, while Tattenhall pulled off a handsome two-wicket home win against Cheadle, thanks to Mel Dobson's 4-65 and sound batting from skipper Graham Harper (38), Rob Murray (32) and Andy Phelan (27).
Cheshire batsman Nafees Din slammed 80 in Mobberley's high-scoring draw at Bredbury St Mark's.