UTTOXETER’S promotion push gathered pace as they moved up to top spot in Division Five South with victory over Sawley and Long Eaton Park at the racecourse on Saturday.
Michael Skelham’s side knew a win would start to build a small gap on third place with Yoxall entertaining Rolleston, and so it proved, as those two sides drew to allow the Town side to edge into pole position.
The weather was changeable at the toss with plenty of dark clouds, albeit in warm conditions.
Skelham won the toss and elected to bowl, clearly in the belief that the ball would swing early on.
Adam Johnson opened the bowling with skipper Skelham and both found some swing early on.
Skelham was bowling a tight line and regularly found the outside edge, only for them to dissect the slips and gully fielders.
Johnson was having an off day with the ball, only bringing about one chance in his first spell, which was unfortunately put down at slip.
Sawley had made a solid start and it was clear they were trying to build a platform for the middle order to accelerate.
Skelham put a stop to this when he claimed the first wicket, with Marcus Mellor taking an excellent catch at backward square leg.
Boyer was batting well for Sawley and was driving well, hitting three large sixes on his way to a half-century.
Skelham decided after drinks that keeping runs to a minimum was important and he tried to strangle their attack, replacing Ben Brown with Rory Middleton, who was bowling with good pace and hitting the right areas.
Jan Kasperowicz entered the fold and in typical style instantly found his reward, clean bowling his first victim and then having Boyer caught by Ashley Young in the covers for a well-made 53.
Middleton was toiling away at the other end but it was Kaperowicz who struck again after a well-judged catch in the deep by Edward Browne.
Gavin Hall replaced Kasperowicz, who had been the pick of the bowlers at 3-28.
Middleton snared his first victim lbw before Hall struck twice in as many balls only to have his lbw appeal turned down when his hat-trick loomed.
Middleton picked up his second victim, clean-bowled to put the vistitors eight down, and though the lower order had a little flurry, Johnson was bought back for the last two overs at the pavilion end to keep the runs down.
Sawley ended the innings with 172-8 and Uttoxeter were going to have to work hard to chase them down.
Young and Tony Hayes opened the batting against a lively looking attack, and the latter made his intentions clear early in proceedings, smashing the opening bowler on the up over cover for four.
Young was being very watchful and looked to leave where he could but there was clearly swing for both bowlers as they played a missed a few times.
Hayes was on the attack and this was to be his downfall as he pulled a short ball to the only leg side fielder, who took an excellent catch.
Mick Hall was next in for Uttoxeter and they soon lost Young, bowled to leave Uttoxeter on 23-2.
Johnson joined Hall at the crease and instantly went on the offensive, straight driving his second ball down the ground for a boundary.
Mick Hall hit a couple of lovely cover drives to the boundary and Uttoxeter’s recovery was underway.
Johnson was hitting the ball very cleanly, lifting a big six over mid-wicket and was really looking to dominate the bowling.
The re-introduction of the opening bowler from the pavilion end did not have much luck for Sawley, with Johnson taking an instant liking to the extra pace and driving him down the ground for a couple more boundaries.
Hall and Johnson were also putting the field under pressure with some quick singles and forcing doubles.
The introduction of spin to take the pace off the ball was Sawleys plan, however Johnson was in no mood to let the away side dictate, sweeping a six over backward square leg before hitting the next ball out of the ground.
The runs were coming quickly and Johnson reached 50 with a back-foot cover drive to the boundary.
The tide had completely turned now and the batsmen were dominating the attack, taking runs with ease as the visitors’ heads started to drop.
Johnson continued his flurry of boundaries with some more fours and a towering six swept over square leg off the spinner before he eventually perished with 15 runs required, stumped for a well-made 74.
Brown joined Mick Hall and hit a four and huge six to win the game.
Hall finished not out again for 49 and proved why he is so important to the home side as the batsman around whom to build an innings.
Uttoxeter travel to Risley this weekend for another tough fixture.