Determined Ambergate frustrate Sawley in bid to defy relegation

Sawley opener and captain Gary Birley, who shared in two healthy partnerships.
Sawley opener and captain Gary Birley, who shared in two healthy partnerships.

A battling rearguard action by relegation-threatened Ambergate denied Sawley and Long Eaton Park outright victory in a tense Derbyshire County League, Second Division clash.

Ambergate were never in a position to chase down the visitors’ total of 156-5 in a contest reduced to 30 overs per side. So they chose to go for the next best thing by seeing out a losing draw, which they managed by finishing on 57-7.

Their tactics were epitomised by opener Jonathan Heath, who carried his bat and stayed at the crease for 73 balls for just 13no. Heath’s vigil helped his team pick up three points, which kept them just above the bottom two in the table, with three games to play, while Sawley collected 17 points to remain in fourth spot, although well adrift of the top duo.

Put in, Sawley made a solid atart in the hands of skipper Gary Birley (37), who shared stands of 59 for the first wicket with Paul Brunton (35, five fours) and 50 for the second wicket with Marius Conway-Jones (12).

Kaine Balgowan later added 16no and Jeff Glover 15, but Sawley’s main contribution actually came from the extras column, which totalled 40, including no fewer than 27 wides. Of the Ambergate bowlers, the most successful was Umer Mustafa, who finally removed the stubborn Birley and took 4-26 in only 24 deliveries at the death.

The hosts’ reply hit the rocks from the off because both captain Tom Holmes and number three bat Paul Thompson were bowled by Carl Cruz (2-16 in ten overs) for ducks. From then on, it was a backs-to-the-wall operation as Liam Wallace (13no) helped Heath defy the Sawley bowlers, the pick of whom was Balgowan with 3-20 from 11 overs.