UTTOXETER stayed top of the table after a fabulous display with bat and ball from Adam Johnson earned them victory at Risley on Saturday.
Johnson took their hosts’ first four wickets as they were skittled out for 177 inside 40 overs, and then hit a match-winning knock of 77 – 48 of which came from the boundary – as his table-topping side won by five wickets.
It was no surprise that, when skipper Michael Skelham lost the toss, Uttoxeter would field in what looked perfect batting conditions on a hard bouncy wicket with what looked to be a very fast outfield.
Twenty-seven points were still on offer though and Skelham demanded a good start from his bowlers.
Johnson and Skelham opened the bowling and it was actually Skelham who started the better, finding the outside edge on a number of occasions and being unlucky not so see the ball go to the slip fielders instead of disappearing to the boundary.
Johnson was bowling at a lively pace and he made the breakthrough with a vicious delivery which Risley captain Marc Addison could only edge to gully, where Ben Brown made no mistake with a spectacular one-handed diving catch.
Johnson soon made it two as Will Halford edged behind, with Mick Hall snaffling up with the gloves.
The Uttoxeter bowlers had their tails up, and Johnson bounced Fitchett out second ball as he chipped an easy catch up to Marcus Mellor when taking evasive action to leave them three down with only 20 on the board.
Skelham was toiling away with not much luck and decided to give Brown an early bowl.
Uttoxeter had to work hard for their next wicket as Shaw was batting with authority, clubbing Johnson for four boundaries in an over, however playing and missing at Brown with regularity.
Johnson did strike next though, with another well directed bouncer which the batsman could only glove through to Hall to leave the home side 60-4 and finishing his spell with 4-42.
Shaw and Bayliss then started to build a solid partnership as Shaw went past his 50.
Wickets were needed and the introduction of spin twins Gavin Hall and Jan Kasperowicz saw the latter tempt Shaw in to one shot too many as he skied a catch to Johnson at deep mid-wicket for 51 before Hall bowled Bayliss for 42 in the next over.
Kasperowiz was to strike again, Ashley Young taking a good catch in the gully to remove Hawley for 13.
Hall was replaced with Rory Middleton, who clearly had a spring in his step and he bowled some unplayable deliveries with great pace and accuracy.
Middleton quite simply blew away the tail, snaring Shilton lbw for 12 and then clean-bowling Pinkett for the same score.
A little rally for the last wicket crept the home side to another batting point before Middleton castled another to end the innings for 177 and finish with figures of 3-6.
Young and Tony Hayes opened the batting against a lively Hawley, who was tearing in off a long run up.
Young got off the mark with a confident shot for two, only to top edge a hook shot two balls later and be caught at square leg.
Hayes’ bad luck continued as he was adjudged lbw in the very next over, leaving Uttoxeter in the mire at 7-2.
Mick Hall and Johnson were in the mood to steady the ship, with the former looking to pinch singles and the latter keen to find the boundary.
Hawley was soon replaced by Shilton and Johnson took an instant liking to him, hitting 20 off his first over with two maximums and two fours.
Elford was bowling a nagging line and length from the other end but Hall was rotating the strike well, finding the gaps for singles.
Elford was soon replaced by Shaw to bowl his off-spin and looking to continue his good game after his earlier success with the bat.
Johnson elected to sweep the spinner and found success in doing so, whilst Hall hit two lovely cover drives to the boundary.
The boundaries started to dry up as home captain Addison started to restrict the bigger shots, but both batsman were content in collecting singles to keep the scoreboard ticking in the right direction.
Johnson reached his 50 shortly before drinks and then decided to hit the accelerator as Hawley was bought back into the attack for what seemed like a final throw of the dice.
Unfortunately for the home side, Johnson was in terrific touch and took his return over for 18, dispatching four lovely shots to the fence.
At drinks, Uttoxeter were cruising at 110-2, but a ball after sweeping a six over mid-wicket, Johnson perished, caught at point, with he and Hall having added 109 runs for the third wicket.
Brown was also looking in good touch, dispatching four lovely shots to the boundary – the pick of them a lofted drive over the spinner’s head which bounced just inside the rope.
Hall was the next to go with the score on 132 caught at cover-point off Lewis for 35.
A mini wobble ensued as Brown followed Hall back to the pavilion, caught behind off Shaw for 21, but the ever-reliable Mellor (16no) and John Millward 22(no) brought the victory home.