Milnrow professional Justin Erkhe was the star of the show at Hare Hill on Saturday but still found himself on the losing side.
In an extremely close game Littleborough were restricted to 196 when at one stage Milnrow were struggling to restrict them to below 250 Chris Dearden was the mainstay of the innings, promoted to opener due to illness to Peter Shimwell and ended up as top scorer.
After early scares as both Norris and Erkhe used the overhead conditions, despite that Dearden batted superbly hitting the bad balls to the boundary and working the strike and excellent placement. He lost Whiteley at 38 for 15 then Fitton departed for a single both to Norris, Dearden was almost number three but was dropped by Jonathan Storey.
Dearden completed a fine fifty despite losing Hernon 19 to a fine catch by Howard, at halfway Littleborough were at a useful 99-3 . Hernon was the first victim for Erkhe and this sparked a remarkable spell for the tall South African. He finished with remarkable figures of 23.4-1-97-7 and the predicted 250 was now a pipe dream.
His only blemish was he was persistent in dropping the ball short at Schofield who had replaced Dearden who was dismissed for a fine 71. Schofield pulled any short deliveries by Erkhe to the boundary with impunity. Hunter 30 was the second victim of the Howard / Erkhe combination and Erkhe’s momentum was gathering.
Jones 0, Lee Kelly 1 , Stephens 0 fell within the space of two overs and the score was now 181-8 Erkhe finally got his man as Schofield was caught by Arnold for 33 at 186-9. Miskella 4 was clean bowled going for a big heave and the innings close at 186 and Milnrow were in with a fantastic chance of victory.
Milnrow needed a steady start and openers Arnold and Howard made this happen. Both openers were looking menacing when the score reached 27 Arnold was the first to depart, run out for 17 thanks to a direct hit from Whiteley. Bamford joined Howard and the runs dried up thanks to some accurate bowling from the Boro attack.
Bamford 10 fell at 68 as he gloved a Fitton delivery to Dearden and Howard fell at 81 for a valuable 40 trying to sweep Fitton and saw his stumps rearranged. Overseas Paul Fyfe departed at 84 for a dozen and Erkhe was watching the chance of a Milnrow victory disappearing before his eyes.
91 saw the aggressive Steve Astin run out for 4 run out after failing to beat an accurate throw from Stephens. Dearden got in on the act at 102 as he trapped Abrahams LBW for 3 and the chances of a Milnrow victory were disappearing over by over. Norris 10 was bowled by Stephens at 131 and the visiting supporters had a resigned look on their faces.
But Milnrow were far from finished as Timms joined Erkhe they were way behind the clock but young Timms gave his professional excellent support ensuring Erkhe had as much of the strike as possible. It was getting closer with every over that passed and with two overs to go Milnrow needed a massive 37 to win. But 15 off the penultimate over rattled Littleborough but with 22 needed of the last Erkhe brought up his fifty with a four off the first ball and they scored fourteen off that over to lose by an agonising seven runs. Erkhe felt he had pushed the pace too late. If he had done so earlier there may have been a different result.