Matlock (4pts) 161 all out (B De Wett 67, R Pretorius 3-47, A Leonard 4-21) lost to Eckington (22pts) 163-4 (M Spencer 55, P Camm 3-41) by 6 wickets
Matlock went into this game with great expectations, winning the toss and choosing to bat on a docile wicket, but the bubble burst in first over when Ed Lowe was bowled, to be followed by Kevin Leatherday (15) and John Aspinall, all to Eckington’s South African overseas player Pretorius.
The presence of Matlock’s own South African professional Burton de Wett prevented alarm even when Fletcher fell at 49-4.
His sound defence was punctuated by glorious attacking shots and he had found support in a partnership with Minesh Keshwala.
The pair even survived a run out when, with both batsmen at the same end, they were spared as a quick return was fumbled by bowler.
The De Wett flair, now including four sixes, was rebuilding the Matlock confidence.
The final six crashed onto the players’ changing room roof but a next ball repeat effort had excessive height and insufficient length and he was caught on the boundary for a classy 67.
The wobbles returned when first Keshwala (16) was stumped off the next ball, then Andy Rogers and Rob Lowe were lbw victims and a subdued Peter Camm was stumped when advancing down the wicket.
Nine wickets down and only 131 runs scored meant Matlock were well short of the envisaged 200-plus target.
All was not lost though as this brought the final pair of Eddie and David Lander together to add 31 important runs which included some of the best ground shots of the day from 16-year-old David until, having scored 19, he was bowled by Leonard (4-21) leaving brother Eddie on 10no. So the innings closed at 161 in the 45th over, but was it enough, with Eckington needing just 162 in 55 overs?
To succeed, Matlock needed early wickets but the characteristic blast of pace and aggression failed to make the desired breakthrough. Nor did the addition of Aspinall’s more subtle pace or de Wett’s leg breaks and googlies. An injury to wicketkeeper Rogers didn’t help and 66 runs were on the board before the first wicket fell to the left arm spin of Keshwala (1-22).
The drinks break at 25 overs, with the score at 101-1, gave skipper Camm the opportunity deliver a morale-boosting briefing and then, on the restart, to lead by example. First he took the wicket of danger man Pretorious (23), then he had Dawson (21) caught by Rob Lowe, followed by an amazing one-handed take by Leatherday to dismiss top scorer Spencer (55).
Matlock’s hopes were soaring but the score had reached 148-4. The wickets dried up, leaving Camm the pick of the bowlers with 3-41. Eckington’s Staniforth (8no) and Fields (6no) patiently got the required runs and secured a six-wicket victory and 22 points.
Matlock’s four points may not prove to be as disastrous as first expected, due to the performance of the other teams with promotion ambitions.
The fifth place in the league was retained, with just over half the season left.
This weekend, Matlock visit bottom club Clay Cross twice in two days, first in the league (Saturday) and then in the Marstons Smooth Trophy (Sunday) with skipper Camm’s words of “no complacency” still ringing in their ears.