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Victory for Lordswood
Victory for Lordswood

On an afternoon when their footballing neighbours came so close to an FA Cup upset, the cricketers of Lordswood closed in on their very first Kent Cricket League title with victory over relegation threatened Sevenoaks Vine.

The home side went into the game as the League leaders and with only two more rounds of matches knew that victory would give them a guaranteed edge, albeit of just two points, over their main rivals Bexley (who Lordswood had beaten just a week ago) and a further six in front of third placed Tunbridge Wells. 

After skipper Connor Dale won the toss under breezy but ultimately bright Medway skies, he had no hesitation in batting first and it was a collective effort from the League leaders as they posted what proved to be a daunting 238-9, with four batsmen topping thirty!  

Max Wood and Owen Palmer gave the hosts a good start with an opening stand of 36 in good time, Palmer indeed hitting a towering six which landed in the centre circle of the adjacent Martyn Grove as the Football Club were preparing for their own big day. 

The introduction of the tall spinner Andrew Reid-Dick slowed the innings for a while as the home side slipped to 85-4 in the twentieth over before a stand of 47 for the fifth wicket between Joe Gordon and Jack Laraman, who went onto top score with 44 (with one towering maximum into the Lordswood Leisure Centre), stabilised the innings around the midway point. 

This allowed Edward Taylor to come in at number eight to smash 43 off just 28 balls to keep the innings impetus going, a total of five sixes being struck and allowing the target to be posted as Reid-Dick and Sam Jones both claimed three wickets a piece. 

The Vine reply started steadily, After Laraman had removed Ben Price early on. Chris Vernon and Harry Bevan Thomas took the score past fifty, with opener Vernon going onto complete the games only half century. His dismissal, again to Laraman (who finished with 2-22 off his ten overs) with the score on 83 then saw the game for the only real time begin to drift away from the home side.

Vine skipper Luke Schlemmer and Evert Bekker added sixty-two priceless runs and it was only a moment of brilliance from Tando Ntini that broke the stand as the South African bowler took a sensational diving catch as the ball seemed to be dropping over his head in the covers. 

With some really tight slow bowling, the required rate was rising all the time and the end was nigh for the Vine when Bekker departed with seven overs to go, one of Callum MacLeod’s three victims.

And when Jones holed out to MacLeod off veteran spinner and Club Chairman Darren Scott, the end was nigh and the win by forty-five runs and the eighteen points keep Lords top by just the two points as Bexley kept up the pressure by beating Blackheath. Meanwhile at the bottom, Holmesdale win over Hayes moved them to within just six points of the Vine and safety. 

With two rounds games to go, its advantage Lordswood by the smallest of margins but the Medway side know that victories over Minster at home and at Holmesdale on the last day of the season will see them crowned Champions for the very first time after three agonising second places, whilst failure to do so could open the door for Bexley (who next week travel to third placed Tunbridge Wells before ending at home to Sandwich) to win their second title in three seasons, it really is that close as the race to be Kent Cricket League Champions of 2023 goes to the wire! 

Images courtesy of Allen Hollands