Cricket: Skegness 187 for 9, Louth 127 all out

SKEGNESS’S title challenge is back on track after another rain-affected weekend in the ECB Premier League.

Thanks to an excellent all-round performance from skipper Saeed Bariwala, helped by results elsewhere, the seasiders have now opened up a 16-point gap at the top of the table.

With six games to go, the championship is now theirs to lose.

Changes to their batting order appeared to do the trick in this Carter Signs-sponsored match, although no-one reached a half century.

Pete Houghton and his new opening partner, Tony Santini, got them off to a slow start. The message that these games are marathons rather than sprints seems to be getting through, but both got out to poor shots when they tried to up the pace of the innings.

This brought together Adrian Gordon and Paul Butler, whose partnership was worth 41 before veteran bowler Stewart West trapped Gordon lbw.

Butler seemed more at home at number three in the order and his steady innings of 40 off 75 balls was key to this latest success.

His departure brought Bariwala to the crease and the Skegness skipper relished the opportunity to play his shots. Batting at number six, he was able to play his normal game, smacking 48 runs off 32 balls before being caught by Laurence Scott off Louth skipper Andy Carrington.

So no repeat of the 169 runs Bariwala made at Louth in May, but his innings was equally valuable to his team.

Gordon returned the compliment by bowling West at the start of Louth’s reply, but John Medler and Jason Collinson put on 53 to steady the ship.

After a lengthy rain interruption Bariwala removed Medler and then had Scott caught behind by Tony Santini with his next ball.

Matthew Hamilton survived the hat-trick ball, but Steve Kirkham used the first two deliveries of his next over to remove Jason Collinson and Steve Wright.

So the loss of four Louth wickets in five balls saw them slump from 64 for one to 64 for five and that was effectively game over.

Hamilton and Stuart Barker (27no) put on 28 for the seventh wicket, but spin bowler Bariwala took his total for the season to 41 with three further wickets. The game was won with seven overs to spare.

With Haxey having to settle for a losing draw at Grimsby, Bracebridge Heath’s game at Lindum being abandoned by rain and Woodhall frustrated by failing light at Boston, this result has widened the seasiders’ lead at the table’s summit.

On Saturday they travel to Lincoln to take on ninth placed Lindum (12.30pm start).