Welbeck need to get cricket title challenge back on track

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Welbeck’s early-season Notts Premier Cricket League title challenge looks to have gone off the rails slightly in the last couple of weeks and they will want to return to winning ways as they host Cuckney at the John Fretwell Complex.

After the onslaught of former player Darren Bicknell in last weekend’s draw with Belvoir, their bowling attack needs to rediscover some form; Jon Ball and Luke Waterhouse have shouldered most of the burden this year with 29 and 27 wickets respectively but will need to be supported by the rest of the attack.

Cuckney have suffered three losing draws and an outright loss in their last four matches and need to find the winning formula that last worked when they beat Kimberley at home in early June.

They will have fond memories of the ground after inflicting a five wicket win on Welbeck last year when Richard Stroh starred with four wickets and an unbeaten half century alongside a century for Adam Burgess.

Belvoir so nearly recorded their first Premier League win last weekend when Welbeck hung on for a draw and they will hope that the positive spirit from that game continues as they travel to an in-form Kimberley.

The Belvoir batting unit has been performing more strongly in recent weeks with Gurpej Landa supporting Bicknell’s return to form. On the bowling front, Lee Fazackerley has continued to look more comfortable in the Premier League and now has 22 wickets to his name. Kimberley have won their last four games and they are only 12 points behind Cavaliers in second.

Captaincy is obviously not affecting Sam Ogrizovic’s form; his 366 runs this season are second only in the Kimberley stats behind the ever-consistent Jon Terry who has 372.

Matt Wright and Akhil Patel are heading the bowling figures with 21 and 19 wickets respectively.

Papplewick play host to Mansfield Hosiery Mills with the home side still searching for some consistent form; the only two sides that they have beaten this season are the two that are below them in the table, Kiveton Park and Belvoir, with only 24 points between the home side and the drop zone.

They have also lost the services of long-standing ‘keeper and opening bat John Wakeling who has returned to Ellerslie.

Their season would have been even more of a struggle without the outstanding form of Mark Nelson whose 449 runs have come at more than a run a ball.

The Mansfield side are in a similar rebuilding phase to Papplewick, both sides trying to bring through home-grown talent; the Millers won the match earlier this season against Papplewick with Gareth Curtis starting a fine run of form that day with 103 and 71 not out from Sudesh Fernando.

Leaders Clifton host Caythorpe at the Clifton Oval this weekend as they look to extend their lead at the top of the table; they are currently 29 points ahead of West Indian Cavaliers and looking favourites to retain their title and remain as championship club for the third successive season.

Martin Weightman, Richard Harris and Dan Birch have all logged more than 300 league runs this term and obviously relish playing on the batsman-friendly surface at the Oval.

Caythorpe struggled in the corresponding fixture last term when they were dismissed for 137 when chasing 207 but have James Hawley in outstanding form, with two hundreds in his 455 runs and will be keen for Notts’ Ben Phillips to continue his recent good run.

The Nottinghamshire Academy will want to keep the pressure on the top four and they host Wollaton this Saturday at Lady Bay.

The county side will be missing three key players for the next month with Sam Kelsall, Sam Wood and Brett Hutton included in the England U19 squad.

This creates an opportunity for others such as Hassan Azad, Adam Tillcock, Adam Dobb, Simon Webster and Bobby Gamble and they will all get their chance to impress in the coming weeks. Tom Rowe is extending his run of good from and Michael Robson and Olly Swann will be keen to impress.

For Wollaton, their season has improved after a poor start but they are far from safe of relegation. Skipper Ed Savill hit form last weekend with a ton in the loss to the West Indian Cavaliers and will want to continue that form for the remainder of the season.

The final game of the day should be odds-on for a home win as bottom club Kiveton travel to Birchover Park to take on the West Indian Cavaliers.

Since back-to-back losses to Kimberley and Clifton last month, the Cavs have won their last three completed games which included a very impressive 92 run defeat of then leaders Welbeck Colliery.

The Birchover side have a wealth of former test-playing talent to call upon with Usman Afzaal, Alex Tudor and Saqlain Mushtaq all in outstanding form and the visitors will find it a tough ask to get a positive result.

They did however manage to grab some draw points the first time these two sides met earlier in the season with Matt Cartwright and Richard Grainger both scoring fifties while trying to chase down 319.