PROMOTION has always been the only stated aim for Uttoxeter Cricket Club this summer and they took a huge step towards claiming the Division Five South title on Saturday.
Hosting second-placed Yoxall at Abbotsholme – with the Racecourse unavailable – they cantered to a 48-run victory to open up a 40-point lead at the top with three games remaining.
The toss was an important one due to the gathering storm clouds, and with the pitch also very green after some heavy overnight rain, visiting skipper Dan Welch had no hesitation in asking Michael Skelham's men to bat first.
Uttoxeter got off to a reasonable start with openers Ben Brown and Gavin Hall being very watchful in the early exchanges as Joshua Foster and Naeem Raja struggled to bowl the areas that were required on a helpful pitch.
Foster did start to tune his bowling in and he removed both openers, clean bowling Brown and then having Hall caught at slip by Welch.
Mick Hall was in at three and batting with Adam Johnson, and the runs began to accumulate without having to push too hard as Yoxall continued to give the home side plenty of extras.
Mick Hall played a superb cut shot for four before Raja got one to keep low and he was bowled for six.
Tony Hayes joined Johnson at the crease and both decided attack was the best tactic on this wicket, Hayes driving Foster all along the ground to the fence.
Johnson started to find his momentum, hitting Raja back over his head for three well-struck boundaries, and then lofting the spin of Muhammed Nadeem for a huge six.
Hayes was next out, caught in the covers for 14, bringing the returning Tom Hall to the crease.
Hall started well, looking in very good touch off his pads, but went for one shot too many and was also walking back to the pavilion for six when he looked set.
Marcus Mellor was bowled for a golden duck and all of a sudden Uttoxeter were in slight turmoil and needed to show some fight.
A good partnership by Ashley Young and Johnson ended when Johnson was bowled trying to sweep Nadeem – he had made 33, which included five fours and a six.
Uttoxeter continued to fight and Kasperowicz was next to go as a vicious delivery jumped off a length for six.
Skelham was going well but the Uttoxeter innings fizzled out when Young was caught in the deep and Rory Middleton was bowled for a duck.
Uttoxeter finished on 113 and would probably admit they were 50 runs light of where they were hoping to be given the conditions.
Johnson and Skelham opened the bowling and the latter clean bowed Nadeem for a golden duck off the first ball of the reply.
Johnson soon joined the party when he had Stephen Watson expertly caught in the gully by Brown, and this was followed up instantly by the same pair removing James Knighton in the same fashion to have Yoxall reeling at 8-3.
Johnson then clean-bowled Watkins for a duck, and Skelham trapped Martin lbw for four to leave their visitors in dire straits.
Tea gave Uttoxeter's bowlers chance to rest and be ready to go again, and though Yoxall danger men Foster and Welch were at the crease, a suicidal run straight after the break saw the former run out after some excellent work from Mellor and Skelham in the field.
The big wicket had been taken and Uttoxeter knew they had an end to bowl at, and they did this brilliantly as Johnson took Raja and Archer.
Skelham wanted the wicket of Welch and got his man when he eventually found the edge of the bat and Mick Hall took a diving one-handed catch at second slip.
Johnson completed the rout, bowling Holland second ball to ensure all 27 points were going to Uttoxeter, dismissing Yoxall for 65 runs.
Johnson finished with 6-22 and Skelham 3-40.
Uttoxeter 2nds won the top-of-the-table clash in Principle Wealth Solutions Division Nine South to move 23 points clear with just two matches remaining.
Rosehill Methodists 2nds posted a challenging 225-7 thanks to runs from Mark Stallard (98), Dave Webb (44) and Mark Hodges (34no), but Uttoxeter were more than up to the task in reply, cruising home by six wickets with more than eight overs to spare.
Stan Maxwell was lost early but Tom Wheeldon (68) and Pete Atwell (46) steadied the ship and a Tim Powell (63no) unbeaten half-century capped a good afternoon’s work for the Uttoxeter second string.