CHECKLEY edged further towards the North Staffs and South Cheshire League Premier Division relegation zone after a three-wicket defeat away to Stone on Saturday.
The visitors had looked in good shape after being put into bat, with openers Nick Hunt (pictured) and Josh Cartledge putting on 69 for the first wicket and Michael Allen’s side finally closing on 189-8.
In reply, Stone were struggling at 19-2 and then 35-3, but then skipper Richard Harvey took the innings by the scruff of its neck, leading by example with a fine, unbeaten 84 to guide his team to victory with an over-and-a-half to spare.
The result leaves Checkley five points off the bottom two, and they are without a win since mid-May.
It all started so promisingly at the weekend, with Hunt and Cartledge playing things nice and steady.
The latter was scoring more freely, hitting nine balls to the boundary for 33 of his 43 runs, made off 72 balls as Stone’s opening attack of Matt Wicks and David Womble struggled.
Steve Morgan soon made amends for his profligate bowling brethren though, taking Cartledge, with the catch made by Womble.
He also accounted for Allen who, with Hunt, had added 33 for the second wicket before being caught by Luke Cheadle.
Hunt was on 42 then, and passed his half-century alongside Amer Siddique, who did little else before becoming Morgan’s fourth having made just five dashes to the opposite end after facing 19 balls.
Nick Hubble fared little better, making eight before becoming Wasim Khan’s first scalp.
Andy Carr stuck around though – and was in fact unbeaten at the close – as he and Hunt added 20 together before the latter eventually fell, Morgan returning to claim one final victim, and the crucial one at that.
The Checkley opener was finally toppled having made 74 off 131 balls, with 10 fours and just one six.
Khan then took centre stage, rattling through the tail for only 34 runs, taking four wickets in the process.
Matthew Coxon’s stingy 21 runs from nine overs – four of which were maidens – was equally important.
Stone openers Cheadle and Dawson enjoyed none of the success of their counterparts, making only 11 and 20 respectively before falling.
Melis took the former lbw, and then bowled Womble next ball, meaning he was on for a hat-trick when Harvey came into bat.
The Stone captain was in no mood to be accomodating though, and denied Melis any further success as he stared down the next 132 balls he faced without falling.
Like Hunt, Harvey did not overly rely on boundaries for his knock of 84, but just steadily increased his side’s score while his underlings faltered around him.
His best partnership came with Coxon, who came in at five for 20 useful runs and a 52-strong partnership with his skipper to take Stone to 87-5.
He then fell to Richard Cooper, who also found himself on a hat-trick as he took Daniel Lunn for the match’s second golden duck next ball.
Wicks did not oblige though, making a quick 13 with three boundaries and a single before Siddique caught him out off Hubble.
Sam Graham became the third Stone player to go for a duck – although he at least hung around for 11 balls before departing, and at that point, Stone were 118-7 and looking in trouble.
Wicketkeeper Hickey joined Harvey at the crease though and together they batted their side to what had seemed an unlikely victory.
Hickey ended unbeaten on 32, off 49 balls.
This weekend, Checkley are at home to mid-table Whitmore, and need to start picking up points to move away from that drop zone.