The business end of the Nottinghamshire Premier League cricket season is fast approaching with only five games remaining for sides to push on with their title hopes or secure their top-flight status.
Leaders Clifton will be in confidant mood but face a tough test as they travel to Sookholme to take on Welbeck Colliery.
The visitors are in outstanding form having won their last six games and their match last weekend demonstrated their confidence as they rushed to overcome a meagre Papplewick total in just 22 overs at a rate of more than seven runs per over.
Dan Birch was the key player in that win, scoring 101 from just 68 balls.
Welbeck’s recent form has been less sparkling with last week’s win against Kiveton Park being their first victory in eight games.
The corresponding fixture between these two last year resulted in a win for Clifton despite runs for Martin Dobson and Rob French; Martin Weightman will want to reprise his outstanding bowling return from that match when he grabbed 7-44.
Matches between West Indian Cavaliers and Papplewick have been some of the most keenly contested throughout the Premier League’s history but the formbook suggests that pattern may be interrupted when the Cavs travel to Papplewick.
The home side have had probably their worst season in their Premier League history after many changes in personnel; but they are still capable of pulling out a performance, most recently demonstrated when they beat Kimberley two weeks ago.
Papplewick won this fixture last term when Philip DeFreitas and Dean Headley took eight wickets between them but will need to rely on their much-changed roster to repeat that result.
The Cavaliers are looking for their eighth straight win and skipper Usman Afzaal is in cracking form, averaging over a 100 at more than a run-a-ball.
At the other end of the table, bottom club Kiveton travel to Caythorpe to take on a side beginning to find some consistent form; they have won their last two, securing good wins at home to Cuckney and away to Wollaton.
Jim Hindson has been in fine form with the bat and the ball and Josh Mierkalns’ astonishing ton last week at Wollaton demonstrated that despite the challenges that he has faced with such courage, he has not lost his appetite for the game.
Kiveton have only one win to their credit, against fellow strugglers Belvoir, and they need to a massive turnaround in fortune if they are not to return to the Bassetlaw League. But the season has not been without highlights with Premier League centuries for Matthew Cartwright and Christopher Hadley and Lee Brooks taking 25 wickets.
Belvoir are in a similar position to Kiveton and this weekend welcome Cuckney to Knipton, also looking for a miraculous turnaround in form.
Darren Bicknell has carried the batting for much of the season, as evidenced by his 728 runs and Lee Fazackerley has undoubtedly enjoyed his first year at the highest level with 29 wickets.
Cuckney’s season could be classed as disappointing to date after successive third-placed finishes and an early exit from the T20 competition. They currently lie in seventh and will see this match as an excellent opportunity to push on.
Richard Stroh leads the club batting and bowling stats but with only 16 wickets, showing the relative lack of firepower for the Langwith Lane club.
Mansfield Hosiery Mills are another club going through a transition and are searching for their first win since 28th May.
This weekend they host a Wollaton side having a roller coaster of a season.
The visitors early season form was dire but they pulled this around with wins against Kiveton, Papplewick and Welbeck.
They went winless during July and will want to secure at least a couple more victories this term. David Smith has had another good season with the bat and Alex King (25 wickets), Rhys Owen (25) and Ben Savage (22) have all been leading the attack with some vigour.
The Millers’ batting unit has been built around Gareth Curtis (732 runs) with solid support coming from Fernando and Jayasinghe.
The final game of the weekend sees the Nottinghamshire Academy travel to Kimberley; the home side hat a hot streak during June and July but last their last three including tough matches against Clifton and the Cavaliers.
They will want to start winning again this weekend and hope to emulate the four wicket win in this fixture last year when George Bacon took 3-84 against the Academy, the side he now plays for.