Aidan O’Brien leads by example as Elmstead consolidate top spot in Two Counties Championship
Captain Aidan O’Brien led from the front as Elmstead maintained a healthy lead at the top of Division One of the Marshall Hatchick Two Counties Championship, with a five-wicket victory at Frinton 2nds on Saturday.
O’Brien had won the toss and elected to field first, a decision he may have been regretting when Frinton openers Alex Price (76) and Blake Reed (59) put on 115 for the first wicket.
But once the breakthrough was made, with Ian Evans dismissing Reed and then John Hambrook (6), on his way to impressive figures of 10-1-20-2, Elmstead took a cluster of late wickets.
Frinton’s final total of 219 for nine, off their 50 overs, always looked a little light, and Elmstead’s six top order batsmen all scored well to ensure victory with five wickets and 17 balls in hand.
Skipper O’Brien top-scored with 83, accrued off 104 balls, although it was fellow opener Jordan Elliott who set the early tone with a brisk 35 off a mere 30 deliveries.
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O’Brien was the fourth wicket to fall, with the score on 179, but Mark Perrin struck six fours in a quickfire 30 not out to wrap up victory.
Elmstead have now won six of their first seven fixtures, a fine start to the season for a club who were promoted as runners-up to Maldon in Division Two last summer.
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And it is Maldon who are Elmstead’s closest challengers at present, sitting 15 points behind in second spot after a hard-earned two-wicket win at Worlington, who are also nursing top-three ambitions this season.
Brothers Richard Ford (41) and Graham Ford (42), together with opener Tom Newell (37) were the chief contributors to Worlington’s 195 all out in 49.5 overs.
The Suffolk hosts lost their last seven wickets for just 57 runs, Chris Harris doing a lot of the late damage with four for 29.
Maldon lost captain Chris Harris (4) early on in their reply, bowled by Charlie Tunstall, and when Cody Golding accounted for opener Max Bryant (13) and Alex Baldwin (31), the visitors were struggling on 55 for three.
However, Ian ELliott (63) and wicketkeeper Jimmy Ainscough (30) shared a stand of 72 for the fourth wicket to wrestle control.
Maldon lost wickets at regular intervals, when that partnership was broken, thanks to James Watson’s three for 25, but they inched home on 196 for eight in the 47th over.
Woolpit, relegated from the East Anglian Pemier League last season, are sitting pretty in third slot after a commanding win over Braintree by 115 runs.
Woolpit captain Will Parker won the toss and opted to bat, and his side responded by compiling 224 for eight off their 50 overs.
Nathan Crudeli top-scored with an unbeaten 68 at No. 5, after Tom Whiteman (40) and James Deeley (48) had put on 94 runs for the second wicket.
Braintree were soon in trouble in their reply, Crudeli bowling the influential Dean Bass (3) with just five on the board, and the Essex visitors slumped to 55 for seven, before eventually limping along to 109 all out in 41.2 overs.
Barry Collins was the star performer, with figures of 10-1-37-5, having made short work of slicing through Braintree’s middle order. Only skipper William Jackson offered any resistance with 33.
Elsewhere, there was an exciting tied match at Haverhill, where the hosts replied to Wivenhoe’s 265 for five, with 265 all out.
Fourth-placed Wivenhoe were indebted to a big partnership of 139 for the second wicket between in-form opener Matt Durrell and Liam Hope-Shackley.
It was Hope-Shackley who took on the aggressive role, striking four sixes and nine fours in his superb 77, while Durrell stayed at the crease to complete his century. Durrell was eventually the fifth wicket to fall with the score on 251, having helped himself to 15 boundaries and a six in his knock of 113.
Haverhill opener Adam Dellar bagged a century of his own as the home side made an excellent start in their reply. Dellar and Anthony Phillips (58) added 139 for the first wicket, but the Suffolk side lost wickets in their chase for runs to try and record what would have been only a second win of the campaign.
Skipper Dellar struck four sixes in his innings of 107, before he was the eighth wicket to fall with the score on 231.
It looked all over for Haverhill on 247 for nine, but Ben Wilkins (23 not out) and last man Harry Harding put on 18 runs for the final wicket, until Harding was run out on the second ball of the last over to leave the match tied.