Title within touching distance for MAL
The destiny of this season's Middlesex Sunday League Division Two title lies in the hands of MAL after they claimed a nail-biting 11-run victory over title rivals SKLP in Northolt on Sunday.
MAL battled to a hard-fought victory despite persistent light rain for most of the day with the odd heavy shower. The game went ahead and even finished under sunny skies.
SKLP won the toss and put MAL in to bat. Mark Landau was fluent early on, despite the loss of Grant Traub, caught and bowled by Diresh for 2. Landau and Grant Pakter took the score to 42 in the 11th over before Landau left a ball from Mayur and was bowled.
Yoav Lebens came out in aggressive mood, striking six crisp boundaries in a 25-ball 34 before a ball that kept low from the spinner Arjan bowled him.
Pakter mixed careful defence with some crisply struck drives and cuts, during a 69-run partnership with Kevin Venter. Pakter went through to his fourth half century of the season, before Venter was caught for a well made 22.
Pakter's innings was eventually ended by a terrific catch behind when he was on 70 (98 balls, 7 x 4).
Charlie Sherrard added some impetus towards the end of the innings with some inventive strokeplay in his unbeaten 21 from 18 balls, MAL's innings closing on what looked like an excellent 195-6 given the conditions.
After tea, Lebens and Oscar Brodkin opened the bowling, and bowled well without being able to make the breakthrough. The game changed with the introduction of slow bowlers Sherrard and Traub. Both were outstanding, accurate and probing throughout.
Traub took the first wicket to fall, aided by an excellent diving catch at extra cover from Sherrard, removing Nare for 21. Koshik followed soon after, very well held at mid-on by Josh Goodman for 26 off the bowling of Sherrard.
SKLP were soon 63-3 as Sherrard got one to swing enough to beat the outside edge of Subi to bowl him for 5.
Sherrard and Traub bowled through, finishing with the outstanding figures of 2-21 and 1-21 respectively from their eight over spells.
SKLP were still in the game, needing around seven an over, and they tried to up the pace against Venter's medium pace and Gav Lebens' slow swingers.
Shane and Nayur put on a partnership of 83 to leave the target at 50 from 41 balls, but the returning Yoav Lebens swung things back MAL's way with Shane well held low down by Sherrard at mid-on for 37.
Later in the same over he burst through Nayur's defences, bowling him for 43. Gav Lebens was struck for an almighty six from the first ball of the next over but pulled things back well, having Chetan caught at cover by Matt Plax for 1.
Yoav then removed the big hitter Yagdish for 9 with Marc Mer holding the catch at short third man.
Some excellent death bowling by Yoav and Brodkin followed with Brodkin picking up the wicket he deserved, bowling Diresh for 8, to leave 17 needed for victory from the final over.
Venter bowled it and was excellent, taking a wicket from the final ball as only five were scored from the over, Mer again holding a good catch at short third man.
MAL had won a tight contest by 11 runs. Credit must go to Grant Pakter for his 70, and to the bowlers who were uniformly good, but this was an excellent fielding performance in difficult conditions.
MAL can now secure the league title by winning their two remaining games.