There were celebrations all round as promotion was clinched with three games to spare by Harlow Town seconds this week.
Their seven-wicket home win over Old Brentwoods on Saturday meant that Harlow cannot finish lower than the top two in Division Three of the Shepherd Neame Second XI League.
Old Brentwoods won the toss and decided to bat first. Their top three looked good as they reached 110 for one. Simon Rowell’s spin then confused the batsmen as they tried to hit him out of the ground and failed.
Nine wickets fell for 47 runs as Rowell took five for 55 and the visitors were bowled out for 157.
In reply, Town saw off the new ball for the loss of captain Jason Gladwin for 16. Town (160 for three) cruised to victory with Daniel Baldwin (41), Bilal Ali (33) and Charlie Coleman (34 not out) being the main run scorers.
Gladwin said: "To achieve promotion with three weeks to go is incredible and its been a great team effort.
"We have six of our top seven batsmen in the top 25 run scorers [in the league] and Graeme Eversden and Simon Rowell are in the top four league wicket-takers."
Harlow Town's first team arrived at Old Brentwoods on a sun-baked morning in high spirits for their league game on Saturday.
With a flat wicket dampened at one end due to overnight rain captain Alderson was asked to bat first.
Tight bowling from Shahid Iqbal meant a slowish start from Town punctuated with some lofted cover drives from Yates.
Ali fell for one, which brought Joe Holland to the crease, buoyed for the first time in weeks, with the opportunity to ply his trade on a wicket that had him bubbling from the moment he arrived at the ground.
In typical fluent fashion, Holland pulled with authority and along with Yates picked up the run rate only for this partnership to be broken when Yates missed a delivery from Sadaqat to be bowled for 23.
Town’s most consistent batter, Ramya Upadhyay, joined Holland and together the scoreboard kept ticking over, placing Town in a good position for the halfway stage.
Unfortunately, just before the mid-session drinks were taken, Holland managed to somehow be bowled through his legs by Old Brent’s leg-spinner and depart for an elegant 50.
Upadhyay and Gladwin knew they had to rebuild with the score on 100 for three with half the overs left, but still maintain the momentum of the innings and together they sensibly picked up singles at will against the Old Brent’s spinners.
Upadhyay was the next to fall, also bowled, but he had laid a decent platform with his fifth half-century of the season.
Gladwin and the returning Scott Alderson carried on the momentum, but with boundaries hard to come by due to the softness of the wicket, singles and two’s were the order of the day. With five overs left and having just reached his own 50, Gladwin was caught in the deep.
Harlow Town will look at the fact that numbers three, four and five all passed 50, but none went on to post a significant score as an area to improve.
The three Aldersons, Scott, Ashley and Shaun, pushed on for the remaining five overs to take Town to a competitive 235 for six declared off of their 52 overs.
Old Brent’s have a reputation of wanting to score runs quickly from the outset, but Town's opening bowlers of Calver and Ali didn’t allow this to happen and with both picking up a wicket apiece along with first change bowler Farmer also getting in on the act, Old Brent’s were soon three wickets down.
With wickets falling at regular intervals, Town remained on top for long periods of the innings. However with the wicket difficult to score runs on, but also difficult to take wickets,
Town were looking for some brilliance to remain in command and this brilliance came from their outstanding wicket-keeper, Pat Yates.
With captain Alderson bowling his fast medium swingers, Yates took the decision to stand up to his bowling. In the space of two overs Yates had taken two world-class leg-side stumpings to remove the stubborn Soomro for 21 and Baber for six.
Both dismissals would have had Sky analysts purring with praise. Remarkably Yates wasn’t finished and with yet another sensational leg-side stumping, this time off of Upadhyay’s quicker ball, Old Brentwoods found themselves nine wickets down with more than 16 overs remaining, with only 110 on the board.
To Old Brentwoods credit, they were still looking for bonus points instead of blocking for the draw and with some enticing deliveries and a few dropped catches, the hosts hit their way to 177.
Thankfully, for Town, tail-ender Lall struck a delivery from Upadhyay which soared into the sky. Daniel Farmer steadied himself under the delivery and with Town players and supporters waiting for what seemed like eternity he held the catch to see Town claim a maximum 25 points and reduce the gap at the top of the league to seven points, with a game in hand.
The match will long be remembered for a breathtaking display of wicket keeping from Pat Yates who changed the course of the game in Towns favour.
Harlow Town III 94-4 beat
Brentwood IV 93 by six wickets
Town lost the toss and were asked to field in what ended up being a totally one-sided match.
Town ripped through the Brentwood line up with ease, reducing the hosts to 32 for eight before a spirited knock from Andrew Maxwell (47) managed to at least make the score a little more respectable to reach 93 all out from 32 overs.
Vic Goddard did most of the damage with four for 11, and was well supported by Aaron Simpson (2-13), George Richardson (3-18), Alfie Elston (1-13) and four catches behind the stumps from stand-in skipper Stuart Alderson.
Town never looked in trouble in reply as Johan Cloete carried his bat for 43 seeing the Town home along with another good knock of 28 form Vinesh Patel. The Town lost a couple of late wickets but ran out comfortable winners to remain in the hunt for promotion with three games to go.
Hainault & Clayhall 5th XI 151-6 beat
Harlow Town 4th XI 149-6 dec. by four wickets
Town's openers struggled to score off both opening bowlers Scott and Anwar, and never really threatened to post a big enough score to defend.
They finished on a hard-fought 149 for six with Lee Richardson top scoring with 54 and a solid 32 not out from Daniel Gleeson.
In reply Hainaut & Clayall innings got off to a very slow start as towns openers Gleeson (2-31) Sreerag Radhakrishnan bowled good lines.
Evergreen Paul Smith (three for 56) bowled brilliantly giving the Town feint hope but Hainault got over the line with three overs to spare finishing on 151 for six.
© Cricket World 2014