NOTTS PREMIER LEAGUE Preview: Mansfield Hosiery Mills look to return to winning ways

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Mansfield Hosiery Mills welcome bottom club Belvoir to The Fieldings and will be keen to return to winning ways as they have not won since they beat Cuckney at home at the end of May. Gareth Curtis seems to have made the right choice to return after his brief association with Clifton, having scored 375 runs in 8 innings at an average of more than 50. They are struggling to bowl sides out though and will hope that the sometimes brittle Belvoir batting gives them an opportunity to improve their figures. For Belvoir, Gurpej Landa is beginning to find his feet at this level after his close season transfer from Notts Unity Casuals. Lee Fazackerley is also putting in some good spells but Belvoir have rarely had both batting and bowling units performing well in the same match.

Premier League leaders Clifton travel to Wollaton this weekend hoping to build on their nine point lead and move into the second half of the season well-placed to make it three consecutive championship trophies. The visitors have one all but two matches this season and are looking in menacing form. Dan Birch and skipper Richard Harris are both bring good form into the match and Birch has fond memories of this fixture, having blasted 143 in last year’s game. Wollaton are in eighth place having found some consistent form in the last few weeks; last week’s win away at Papplewick showed that both batting and bowling units are in reasonable form, with Ian Dodd and Alex King starring with bat and ball respectively.

Papplewick’s half-season report will definitely read ‘could do better’ and they will hope to start on a winning trend as they visit Kiveton Park; the visitors sit one place and 23 points above the home side and will see this game as an opportunity to widen that gap. They haven’t won since their defeat of bottom club Belvoir in May but in Mark Nelson they have one of the best-performing batters in the league, having scored 422 runs at more than a run a ball. The home side will want to bounce back from last weekend’s loss at Kimberley but will be heartened by skipper Lee Brooks’ form with bat and ball.

Kimberley are in fourth and travel to Caythorpe, two places and sixteen points behind them in the table. The visitors batting unit is performing well with strong performances from Jon Terry, Nick Langford and skipper Sam Ogrizovic. They will be hoping to have Akhil Patel available for more cricket this term as they strive to build on their promising start to the season. Caythorpe just missed out on their second victory last week when Belvoir hung on for a draw when nine wickets down; the leading Caythorpe bowlers are their spinners Jim Hindson (20 wickets at 14.9) and Steve Randall (18 at 22.2).

Welbeck are in second and will hope to be catching the Academy at the right time when they meet at the John Fretwell complex this weekend. The county side are having a bit of a mid-season wobble after a strong start to the campaign; they lost heavily to Clifton two weeks ago at Lady Bay and managed to hang on for a draw when nine down against the Cavs last week. Tom Rowe and Sam Kelsall have been the league’s best opening pair this term but the middle order needs to be more consistent. Welbeck are in second place just nine points off the top spot and will be keen to keep the pressure on Clifton. Matt Higgins, Martin Dobson and Robert French have all passed the 300 run mark and Jonathan Ball and Luke Waterhouse have both bagged 24 wickets; it is no surprise that they are continuing to flourish with five players in such ripe form.

The final game of the day sees the West Indian Cavaliers travel to Langwith Lane to take on Cuckney; the Cavs are in third and were frustrated that they were unable to complete their match against the Academy last week due to time lost to rain. They have bounced back after losing to Clifton and will see this match as an opportunity to put more pressure on second-placed Welbeck. Skipper Usman Afzaal is one of only two players in the league to have topped 500 league runs (the other being the Academy’s Tom Rowe) and Saqlain Mushtaq heads the league’s wicket takers with 26. Cuckney lie in seventh and will hope to make up ground on neighbours Caythorpe. The team’s performances still rely on the experienced pair of Will Butler and skipper Richard Stroh but they are keen to demonstrate that their policy of developing younger cricketers has been successful with 22 year old Tom Ullyott and 15 year old Luke Wood catching the eye. Cuckney have been without doubt the strongest side in the league’s Twenty20 competition for the last couple of years and they begin their defence of the trophy this Sunday.

Four grounds will host matches; at Welbeck, the home side kick off against Kimberley, followed by a clash between Mansfield Hosiery Mills and Wollaton. Caythorpe start at home with a match against Cuckney followed by Papplewick versus the West Indian Cavaliers.

The final group is split over two venues; Clifton take on the Nottinghamshire Academy at the Clifton Oval with the winners travelling to Kiveton later the same day to take on the winners of a match between Belvoir and Kiveton Park. The action starts at each venue at 10.30 am (except Kiveton where the first game will commence at 1.15pm) and the play offs between the winning side starting at 4 pm.