NPL taking shape at halfway mark - weekend preview

Royce's opener Dan Birch lofts Cuckney's Kieron Garside over mid on.
Royce's opener Dan Birch lofts Cuckney's Kieron Garside over mid on.

The NPL season is at the halfway point and the races at the top and bottom of the table are taking shape.

Rolls Royce lead the table by 11 points over Cuckney and this weekend the reigning South Notts champions have a home fixture against Kimberley at Watnall Road to look forward to.

Their previous encounter this season resulted in a three-wicket win for Rolls despite a century from Kimberley opener Paldip Sidhu.

Dan Birch has not had his best season with the bat but will have enjoyed his innings of 51 against his former employers in that opening game.

Kimberley are in ninth spot only 11 points from the relegation zone and searching for their third win of the year.

Alex King and Atif Sheikh have been good additions to their squad and left armer Chris Glover has been effective with a best of 3-28 in the drawn game at Caythorpe.

Cuckney have a tough fixture as they welcome Mansfield Hosiery Mills to Langwith Road.

The Millers are in decent form with three wins in their last five outings, and their keeper-batsman Tom New is in tremendous nick.

He has recorded six half centuries in his league-leading haul of 526 runs, and he followed his match-winning 86 not out against Welbeck on Saturday with an innings of 120 in the Derbyshire Premier Cup against Sandiacre on Sunday.

Cuckney lost their unbeaten status in the defeat at Rolls Royce last week and will want to bounce back a secure the double over their local rivals after they recorded a comprehensive nine-wicket earlier in the year when Richard Stroh top-scored with 66 not out.

West Indian Cavaliers are in third but are now 34 points off top spot, so will want to get back on the winning trail when they welcome Farnsfield to Birchover Park; the visitors secured a rousing nine-wicket win over Plumtree last week when Graeme White snatched first innings figures of 6-21 from just over 10 overs and Matthew Sisson smashed 80 not out from just 69 balls.

The Cavs need to build some consistency, demonstrated by a win, draw and a defeat in their last three completed games.

Akhil Patel has shown great form in 2013, with four half centuries in his 390 league runs, and Bilal Shafayat showed his all-round capabilities when taking 5-16 in the win over Clifton last week.

The Nottinghamshire Academy have won their last three completed games since losing at home to Cuckney last month, and they hope to continue that streak as they welcome Welbeck to Lady Bay this weekend.

They looked in good form last week as they inflicted a 94 run victory over Papplewick with hundreds for the two Sams, Kelsall and Wood with Hassan Azad securing his first NPL five-wicket haul.

Welbeck are another side searching for consistency. Iin the first game of the season, they reduced the county side to 118-6, chasing 163, before the rain curtailed the game.

But the chief destroyer that day, Jake Ball, is likely to be absent as he will be with the Nottinghamshire squad playing Saturday in Durham.

Plumtree’s season has been one of highs and lows, and they remain the only side in the league who have yet to draw a game - a run they will hope to extend as they welcome bottom-placed Papplewick to the PCG.

Four impressive wins, including an opening day victory at Papplewick Hall and a first ever win over the Cavaliers show their potential, but they have also specialised in huge defeats, characterised by their nine-wicket defeat against Farnsfield last time out.

Sam Storey and Matt Wood are both in good form with 317 and 304 runs respectively. Papplewick’s season needs a kickstart soon if they are avoid relegation, but they will recall an impressive win at this venue in 2012 when Mark Nelson scored a rapid-fire 55 not out to see his side home.

Saturday’s final game sees Clifton travel to Caythorpe. The visitors secured all this season’s victories in a three-game streak in Jun,e but have since lost both completed games on the away trips to the Academy and Cavaliers.

Their batting failed in both those games, being dismissed for 99 and 122, and they will hope that Jarrod Coombe (305 season runs) will continue his leadership of the batting unit.

Caythorpe have secured some memorable scalps this year, including the Cavaliers and Rolls Royce, and they will be keen to secure a season double over their opponents to follow up their four-wicket in April, when Jim Hindson took 4-38 and Josh Mierkalns and Matt Dowman both scored 56.