NORTON Lindsey & Wolverton suffered setbacks to their league campaigns last weekend as all three teams lost to lower teams in their respective divisions.
The Firsts travelled to mid-table Overbury in the hope of kick-starting their Cotswold Hills League Premier Divisio title challenge but narrowly failed to chase down their target.
Norton had won the toss, choosing to field first despite missing their four front line bowlers, and it looked like it had come off when they had restricted their opponents to 152-6 in the 33rd over.
Their optimism then leaked away as a stand of 105 runs for the seventh wicket effectively put the hosts in the driving seat as they posted 259 at tea.
Sunny Nijjar was the most successful bowler, taking 3-39 off his 10 overs, but a total of five dropped catches and 29 extras did not help the overall cause.
Despite the score, there was some hope that the total was manageable on a small ground, and the score advanced in line with the required rate.
A good base laid by brothers Gavin (26) and Stuart Shephard (53) was complemented by James Pyatt (34) and Conor Green (78).
At 226-5 at the end of the 40th over, the chase was exactly on target and Norton were confident that the last few runs would come.
However, the loss of Green on 242 just two overs later started a panic, and when just nudges around the field were needed, batsmen swung wildly.
Despite wickets in hand, Norton added just 14 in the last three overs as Overbury bowled tightly, and could only manage 256-8 at the close, an agonising three runs short.
Over at Wolverton Road, the Seconds were pitted against The Lenches, a team without a single Division Two win all season.
Once again, players lost to the first team, injuries, and unavailability led to a difficult selection process with players forced into unfamiliar roles.
Skipper Dan Fell won the toss and chose to bat, delegating opener duties to Mark White (57) and Kieran White (44) as he was suffering from a damaged wrist.
The bowlers started proceedings with tidy spells but the pair accumulated runs steadily, reaching 93 together by the 20th over.
White departed six overs later, and number three Andrew Cooke (4) soon after, but on 121-2 this brought the powerful James Robins (53) to the crease.
He initially struggled to get into a scoring rhythm as he was distracted by the departure of Kite, then John Maundrell and Rob Howard for ducks.
Fell (2) joined him to play a supporting role as Robins then managed to concentrate on dispatching the few loose balls that were on offer, and after 42 overs he was the sixth wicket to fall on 186.
The last three overs added just ten runs as Norton posted 197-9 at the break, with Brookes the tidiest bowler taking 3-24 off his full spell.
After tea, The Lenches’ opening batsmen took the home team completely by surprise as they came out with all guns blazing, racing to 77 off the first eight overs.
Fell was forced into a bowling change as his normally reliable pairing of Varun Goel and Steve Webber failed to settle and were dispatched all round the park.
Steve Dellow and occasional bowler Cooke took over to try and stem the tide, and had immediate success, dragging the score back to 110-6 just ten overs later.
Good work behind the stumps by Ian Baber, and excellent catches from White and Howard turned the game, and when Dellow had No.9 bat stumped with the total on 125 in the 23rd over, they felt that the work had been done.
A win seemed like a formality as Steve Webber returned to take the ninth wicket with 53 runs still required, but middle order bat McNally (48 not out) and number eleven Brookes (12no) had other ideas.
They then frustrated Norton for over 14 overs as they edged towards what had seemed an improbable victory.
Defying all sorts of bowling and fielding changes to take the final wicket, they stood firm and the line was crossed with three overs to go to scenes of much celebration.
Dellow returned excellent figures of 5-35 off his full spell, but as a result of the disappointing defeat Norton slip to third in the table.
The previously unbeaten Thirds string met Kenilworth Wardens Fourths, hopeful of extending their 50 point lead at the top of Division Seven.
After winning the toss and inserting the visitors, things ultimately didn’t go to plan as Norton faced what turned out to be probably the best batting attack so far this season.
Nonetheless, there were periods of success for both bowlers and batsmen as runs were made and wickets were taken, but neither side managed to get completely on top.
The Wardens top order made good scores, totaling 137 between them as number four Arun Sekhar (58) finished the most successful.
At tea, they had reached a healthy 173-7 as Richard Yendall took the bowling honours, finishing with 4-25 off his ten overs, but crucial dropped catches turned out to have a significant effect.
The total proved nearly 60 runs too many as the Norton reply was never really on track, and they crumbled to their first defeat, mainly undone by injuries to key players.
Experienced campaigners Steve Berry (16), Stuart Prout-Richardson (40) and Simon Hathaway (18) battled against the pain barrier to keep the game alive.
But the introduction of slow bowler Sam O’Connell finished things off as his deliveries were just too tempting, resulting in a collapse from 104-4 to 116 all out in the 40th over.
Norton remain at the top of the table, but see their lead cut to just 47 points.
Sunday’s friendly fixture saw a visit from Leek Wootton, which is seen as an opportunity for the younger members of the club to test their skills in the bigger arena.
On this occasion, the Norton team included youngsters Gaby Waite and Sasha Green, two of the most talented girls from the Junior Section.
Leek Wootton were invited to bat first and reached 182-9 off their 40 overs.
The home team bowled confidently, with Gaby (2-30) and Sasha (3-27) right amongst the wickets, bowling eight overs each.
After the tea Norton made good progress chasing down the total with Martin Perfect (69 retired), Conor Green (35), and Kieran Kite (27) leading the way.
They reached the target in the 38th over as Gaby Waite (7no) and John Maundrell (14no) finished off the job to win by six wickets.