CHECKLEY endured a mixed weekend as they were beaten by Hem Heath in North Staffordshire and South Cheshire Premier League on Saturday, but then saw off Longton on Sunday to reach the semi-finals of the Talbot Cup.
Against Hem Heath, they faltered early on, with openers Nick Hunt (9) and Josh Cartledge (1) both falling to Tom East, both caught by Liam Banks.
That left them struggling along at 18-2, but the third-wicket partnership was much more resilient.
Skipper Michael Allen and Amer Siddique faced more than 150 balls between them, the former hitting a fine half-century.
They put on 85 before Allen was bowled by Abdul Razzaq for 58, 40 of which came from boundaries.
Andy Carr went without scoring on his second ball, and Kyle Melis went one worse with a golden duck as both became victims of Razzaq.
Siddique hung around for long enough to take the score on to 125-6 with Nick Hubble, who stopped the rot with 37 off 62 balls before being run out.
That took Checkley to 153-7. and the tail wagged to the tune of just 13 more runs as the hosts ended on 166 all out.
East added to his two early wickets by mopping up the stragglers, and ended with impressive fixtures of 4-44 from his 11 overs, while Razzaq claimed 3-45.
Hem Heath’s reply did not start favourably, with opener Kim Barnett removed for just four runs – after 21 laboured balls – by Richard Cooper.
If Barnett’s miserly total was a long time coming, it was nothing on fellow opener Jack Wood, who toiled away for 56 balls but scored just 17 runs.
Checkley’s attack were finding it slow going, but Melis (3-56) ripped through the top of the order to reduce Hem Heath to 41-5, and his side must have been confident of skittling their opponents out, or at the very least claiming a draw.
But they reckoned without their visitors’ prolific middle order, as Spencer Byatt and Fida Hussain each claimed 36, and when the latter fell, run out by Melis, they had taken the score on to 148-7.
Hem Heath were 19 runs short of victory and though their overs were running out, they had wickets in hand, and so went for victory.
Eight-wicket partners Zephryn Hunte and skipper Lee Ridgway got in and stayed in, making 43 and 11 respectively, and got the winning runs in the 55th over.
They learned their lessons on Sunday, and did not allow visiting Longton to get within a sniff of progressing through their quarter-final match.
Once again though, things got off to a rocky start, as Hunt went for just two runs, this after fellow opener Melis had failed to trouble the scorers, getting out to the second ball of the match.
Skipper Allen followed soon after and Checkley were 20-3.
This time it was Carr who rescued the innings, hitting a patient 44 of 103 deliveries and keeping his head while all around him, others were losing theirs.
By the time he fell, Checkley were 120-8, with Richard Williams’ 29 helping towards a workable final total of 135 all out.
That total looked gettable, but Longton singularly failed to punish threaten their hosts’ attack, with Melis in particular having a field day against a porous defence.
After Melis took Michael Longmore (1) and David Wheeldon (0) early on, the visitors were 3-2 and reeling.
James Towle (15) and captain David Fairbanks (18) made a fist at putting together a partnership, but were both gone before the team reached 40 runs.
The wickets continued to fall regularly, as no Longton player managed to score more than 18 and they crashed to a lowly 103 in fewer than 40 overs.
Melis ended with figures of 5-19 from just nine overs.
Checkley will face Audley in the semi-final of the cup.
This weekend, they travel to mid-table JG Meakin looking to bounce back from Saturday’s defeat.