HOPES that Skegness might lift the ECB Premier League trophy were dealt a blow following a low-scoring game at title rivals Haxey.
The bowlers dismissed the newly-promoted leaders for 124, with USA international Adrian Gordon leading the way.
But yet again a dismal batting display let the seasiders down and they fell 20 runs short.
The result, the first time Skegness have tasted defeat in two consecutive games this season, leaves them trailing Haxey at the summit by ten points, with four games to play.
There’s still plenty of cricket before the end of the season, but the initiative is back with Haxey, and snapping at Skegness’s heels in third place are champions Bracebridge Heath, who have a game in hand.
The day began so brightly for the seasiders. Gordon was on a hat-trick in his fourth over after removing both opener Graeme Attenborough and Oliver Tonks with the score on 17.
His fierce opening spell, coupled with the accuracy of Oliver Pringle at the other end, restricted the home side to 22 from the first ten overs.
Backed up by a hungry bunch of fielders, this pair applied the pressure and the seasiders took two more wickets, courtesy of Gordon.
Sri Lankan Chinthaka Perera and Robert Young then put on 33 for the fifth wicket before they were separated by a Saheed Bariwala caught and bowled.
Helped by a slow, turning pitch, visiting skipper Bariwala showed the skill that has earned him a Lincolnshire call up, bowling Dale Coy and having dangerman Perera stumped by a smart piece of keeping by Tony Santini.
Steve Kirkham chipped in with the wicket of Nick Bisby before Gordon returned to dismiss Paul Bell and Bariwala wrapped things up with two wickets in the 36th over.
So the scene was set for Skegness to re-open a gap at the top of the table with a resounding win, but Haxey had other ambitions.
A new opening pair of Pete Houghton and Pringle took them steadily to 23 before Houghton perished at the hands of Perera in the seventh over. Three balls later Paul Butler was back in the pavilion without adding to the score.
This left Gordon and fellow newboy Pringle to rebuild the innings. Their partnership of 40 took Skegness to the halfway point, but three wickets on 64 got the nerves jangling.
Santini later made it clear on Twitter that he didn’t believe he hit the ball, but the score says he was caught off Attenborough’s spin for a duck. Coach Paul Timby soon followed.
The tension mounted, but with Bariwala and the previous week’s batting hero Kirkham at the crease Skegness still had a chance.
With three wickets left only 32 runs were required. But the wizardry of the Haxey bowlers continued. Bariwala was trapped lbw and then Mark Atkins (3-23) and Attenborough (4-30) cleaned up the tail to leave Kirkham stranded on 14 not out.
The match was sponsored by Spalls of Skegness.
Skegness now have to pick themselves up for the visit of basement team Boston to Richmond Drive on Saturday.
Haxey -G Attenborough ct Butler b Gordon 10; T Wraith b Gordon 5; O.Tonks lbw b Gordon 0; R.Young ct & b Bariwala 26; P Harvey ct Santini b Gordon 6; N Bisby ct Bariwala b Kirkham 9; C Perera st Santini b Bariwala 35; D Coy b Bariwala 6; P Bell b Gordon 3; A Moody not out 0; M Atkins ct Santini b Bariwala 0. Extras 24 Total (all out) 124
Bowling - A Gordon 12-2-44-5; O Pringle 9-3-22-0; S Kirkham 6-0-26-1; S Bariwala 8.3-3-30-4.
Skegness - P Houghton b Perera 12; O Pringle ct Coy b Atkins 28; P Butler ct Coy b Perera 0; A Gordon st Coy b Attenborough 10; S Chamberlain ct Perera b Attenborough 0; S Bariwala lbw b Atkins 21; A Santini ct Bisby b Attenborough 0; P Timby b Perera 0; S Kirkham not out 14; M O’Dare ct Wraith b Atkins 4; M Chamberlain lbw b Attenborough 0. Extras 15 Total (all out) 104.
Bowling - C Perera 8-1-26-3; P Bell 9-3-18-0; M Atkins 12-3-23-3; G Attenborough 10.4-4-30-4.