CHECKLEY’S dream of winning the North Staffs & South Cheshire Premier Division title finally ended on Saturday as they lost at Leek.
The Four Trees outfit – missing star bowler Richard Cooper – went down by 55 runs as Leek put themselves firmly in pole position for the title with one game left.
It is a shame for Mike Allen’s men after they made much of the running this season.
But two abandoned games they would have won – against Elworth in July and Hem Heath in August – and a drawn game against Longton affected by rain proved costly.
With the North Staffs League’s punitive points system for anything less than a win, it proved a frustrating end for Checkley.
But it has still been an excellent season and with a game against Burslem at home on Saturday, a third-place finish is still possible.
On Saturday, Leek skipper Greg Willott won the toss and batted.
Despite the regular fall of wickets, they were able to reach 201-8 from their 55 overs.
Alex Mellor (21), Johann Potgeiter (22) and Alex Thomson (28) all chipped in before former Derbyshire batsman Tim Tweats – back in league action for Leek after four years away – crashed 50 from 84 balls.
Nadeem Malik, who stands 6ft 5in and played for Nottinghamshire, Worcestershire and Leicestershire in a fine first class career, also hit 33 from 52 balls to set up a tricky target for Checkley.
The visitors needed a good start but lost Josh Cartledge to Willott (2-41) before Allen, so often their saviour this season, went for seven to Malik (2-25).
With him went most of Checkley’s hopes and they were soon 23-4, Willott ending Hunt’s stay and Malik, who has 235 first-class scalps to his name, grabbing Andy Carr.
Kurtis Lally and Danny Spasic put on 61 for the fifth wicket before Spasic (five off 42 balls) had his tortuous stay at the crease ended by Alex Thomson (3-20).
Lally and Dan Knight then put on another 39 for the sixth wicket before Lally, a promising young wicket-keeper, was dismissed for 66, his best score of the season in premier cricket.
When Knight followed it was only a matter of time and Checkley went from 123-5 to 146 all out.
While they have missed out on the title, Checkley have taken on the league’s big boys and come out of the 2013 season with a lot of credit.