THE 2018 Cotswold Hills League reached its conclusion last weekend, with all three teams at Norton Lindsey & Wolverton celebrating achievements.
The Firts recovered from a difficult mid-season period which saw significant changes within the squad to finish in a strong mid-table position in the Premier Division.
Meanwhile, the Second and Third teams demonstrated the impressive depth within the Club by becoming champions of Division Two and Seven respectively.
The Firsts visited Leek Wootton, a team already relegated to Division One cricket next season.
Norton skipper Richard Pozzi called wrong at the toss and the hosts chose to bat first.
He then took the new ball with David McInnes and the pair demonstrated why they are considered one of the best attacks in the division.
Their relentless pressure meant Wootton took five overs to get off the mark, and by the 16th they had struggled to 25-3.
Pozzi conceded only seven runs off a spell of seven overs while McInnes bowled straight through his ten, finishing on 3-24.
Batting at three, Zesh Kahn (25) was holding the home side’s innings together and he went after change bowler Richard Blythe to try and improve the rate, with 17 coming off one over.
The flurry was short-lived, though, as wicket-keeper Stuart Shephard took his third stumping, allowing Blythe and Sunny Nijjar to regain control of the rate once again.
However, from 54-4, Stuart Budd (36) and Martin McKenna (53) held firm and they put together a solid partnership of 43 until the former was removed by Andy Dewar in his first over.
McKenna then stuck around long enough to hit some lusty blows as the innings drew to a close, lifting the total to 157.
The Norton reply got off to a bad start when Gavin Shephard recorded a ‘diamond duck’ for the second time this season.
It got worse as both Nijjar (8) and Pozzi (0) had short stays to leave the score on 16-3 but this brought Conor Green out to join Shephard.
The pair saw off the new ball and then really slotted into gear to take control of the game, putting on 90 in only 12 overs.
As the line was crossed in just the 25th over, Shepard’s unbeaten 74 was a real masterclass in shot selection as he stroked the ball all around the ground, recording 13 boundaries.
Green (60) had suffered a dislocated finger in the warm-up and battled bravely to give good support but was bowled just before the close.
Already promoted from Division Two, Norton’s second team finished their league season with a home game against Wellesbourne Seconds.
After the win against Kenilworth Wardens the previous weekend, a final victory would see them go up as champions.
Winning the toss, skipper Dan Fell elected to bat first, opening with himself and Martin Perfect.
The pair made a steady start, putting on 87 until Perfect (32) was bowled in the 18th over, misjudging a ball down the leg side.
A small wobble over the next few overs then saw three more wickets fall – Fell (47), Kieran Kite (6) and Rory Baker for a golden duck – leaving Norton on 100-4 with the innings requiring a jump-start.
This came in the form of Andrew Dellow (34) who launched into his usual game, finding the boundary seven times during his short stay.
Continuing the momentum generated by Dellow, Andrew Cooke (42) and Ian Baber (35) kept up a brisk scoring rate and a respectable total was in reach.
Baber had struggled with a knee injury all season but made a significant contribution as the next 13 overs saw the pair put on 76.
They took the score past 200 and then with help from Marcus Gregory (13no), a target of 227 was set for Wellesbourne’s ten men.
Andrew Dellow took the new ball and produced some excellent pace bowling in reply.
Dellow rattled the stumps of James Wilson (6) while Kite took a smart catch
at mid-wicket off Rory Baker.
At the end of their opening spells, which included periods with three slips and two gullies, Wellesbourne were on 62-4 as Norton turned to their change bowlers to finish the game.
Up to that point, Matthew Boyle (25) was the only batsman to have had a profitable stay at the crease, but he then became the first of Varun Goel’s two victims.
Steve Dellow took over at the other end, removing Noah Rose (4) with his fourth ball to maintain the procession of batsmen back to the pavilion.
Wellesbourne skipper Phil Rothwell (5) held out for six overs but after he was bowled by Goel, Dellow finished off the game and they were all out for 95 as Kite took the final catch to confirm Norton as champions.
Baker took 3-23, Goel 2-13 while Steve Dellow’s 3-14 saw him reach 33 wickets for the season to receive the Division Two bowling award.