NPL weekend preview - top sides take on strugglers

NMAC Rolls Royce Leisure v Farnsfield'Rolls Michael Millwood
NMAC Rolls Royce Leisure v Farnsfield'Rolls Michael Millwood

The business end of the NPL season is fast approaching and this weekend’s fixtures see the top two sides take on the teams currently at the foot of the table.

Leaders Cuckney travel to Farnsfield looking to increase their current one point lead.

Since their solitary loss at Rolls Royce at the end of June, Cuckney have bounced back with two wins and a winning draw although their victory last weekend against Clifton was a close one; former Farnsfield player Lewis Bramley was the star dismissing the Clifton top four in returning figures of 4-43.

Farnsfield did secure a draw in the match earlier this season between the two when they hung on nine wickets down for 110 chasing the Cuckney total of 246.

Jamie Wagstaff was the stand-out performer for Farnsfield that day when he took 3-48 from 13 overs.

Papplewick are the bottom side, 32 points behind Farnsfield, and they have an equally tough tie as they welcome Rolls Royce to Papplewick Hall.

The home side are struggling, but have drawn two of their last three games, so they will hope to go one better.

Former England one day opener Mal Loye made his debut last weekend in the losing draw at Caythorpe, but Mark Nelson did his best to earn his team a second win with an innings of 66 not out from just 63 balls.

Luke Fletcher is the form Rolls batsmen after his knock of 94 from 91 balls in last weekend’s comprehensive 130 run victory over Farnsfield.

His side will be cautious of his former side Papplewick after they were dismissed for just 114 by them earlier this year before Adam Shepherd took 4-32 to win the game.

Two other sides with an eye on the relegation spots meet when Clifton host Kimberley; they both have 127 points and are therefore only 13 points ahead of 11th-placed Farnsfield and the winning side on Saturday will start their climb away from the drop zone.

Clifton won the corresponding game last year when Dominic Harvey’s innings of 84 and Alex Turner’s return of 4-29 secured a 79-run victory.

Kimberley have lost their last two games and will be keen to halt that run.

Sam Johnson has had an excellent season so far, highlighted by his unbeaten 103 from just 68 balls in last weekend’s defeat at Mansfield Hosiery Mills.

Welbeck sit in 10th, just two points ahead of Farnsfield, and this weekend they welcome Caythorpe to Sookholme.

Their visitors are having a curate’s egg of a season, having beaten both the Cavaliers and Rolls Royce but also suffered losses to sides below them, Clifton and Farnsfield.

Darren Bicknell is rumoured to be in his last season in the NPL, and he will be sorely missed by Caythorpe; 386 runs so far including four half centuries plus his vast experience of the game will be hard to replace.

Only Papplewick have lost more games than Welbeck (8) and they will be trying to avoid their fifth straight defeat this weekend.

They will hope to have Notts star Jake Ball back at the end of the Friends Life T20 campaign but that is some weeks away.

Another close game can be expected at Lady Bay where the Nottinghamshire Academy host the West Indian Cavaliers; the Cavs are 15 points ahead of the county side and one place above them in third and are keen to maintain the pressure on the top two.

They are in fine form with wins in each of their last four games including an impressive seven-wicket win over Welbeck last week.

Akhil Patel remains a key performer with the bat having scored 463 runs, with skipper Usman Afzaal leading the bowling stats with 30 victims at an average of 14.5.

The Academy have won their last six completed games and will relish the opportunity to test their mettle against a side that beat them earlier this term.

Sam Kelsall (457 runs) and Hassan Azad (436) are their leading batters, demonstrated by their 76 run stand for the second wicket in the win over Plumtree last weekend.

The final game sees Mansfield Hosiery Mills travel to the PCG to try and do a season double over Plumtree.

The home side might argue that their loss against the Millers in May was largely down to losing the toss and having to bat first on a wet wicket, but a points differential of 24 confirms that the Mansfield side are having a better season.

Plumtree’s Matt Milnes fired back to form last weekend with a return of 3-35 in the defeat to the Academy and the star of the 2012 win over Mansfield was Wasim Rana who took 4-18.

The only visiting player to remember that game with any fondness is Sudesh Fernando, who struck 53 out of a total of 165.