DESPITE a determined batting performance, led by Keith Bell, Kenilworth Wardens slipped to a seven-wicket defeat at bottom of the table Himley in the Birmingham League Premier Division on Saturday.
The hosts won a crucial toss in very damp conditions and as a result controlled the late-starting 40-over contest from the outset. This enabled them to record only a second victory of a difficult season and by doing so grab a Premier Division survival lifeline.
By contrast with the elation in the home camp, a distinctly subdued atmosphere accompanied Wardens’ journey back to Warwickshire.
They have now gone seven matches without a win and as a consequence have slipped to tenth place in the table, where only an uncomfortable nine-point margin separates them from the drop zone.
Martin Donald’s newly-promoted team now face a crucial home match with Kidderminster – who are two places and nine points above Wardens – on Saturday, before the final quarter of the campaign brings a return to their preferred 50-over win/lose format.
After being asked to take first use of a damp pitch, stand-in skipper Bell battled hard from the top of the Wardens’ order for his 75-ball 43. He had added 55 third-wicket runs with Sitanshu Kotak (30), when veteran seamer Stuart Wedge made a decisive intervention.
His accuracy and seam movement removed both well-set batsmen, plus three further middle-order scalps, to finish with 5-42.
Anthony Wilkinson (22) and Udit Talati (21) both contributed useful late runs for the visitors but, as conditions improved, a target of 160 looked under-par.
This impression was further reinforced by home openers Jamie Harris (46) and Greg Wright, who put on a fluent 93.
Himley’s left-handed skipper showed all his experience in compiling an excellent 67-ball 62, including seven boundaries and a six, and his second-wicket alliance with former Old Hill batsman Nathan Round, who contributed a run-a-ball unbeaten 43, took the hosts most of the way to the finish line.
Talati grabbed a couple of late wickets to clinch a bonus point for the visitors, but there was no denying Himley, who eventually cruised home with eight balls remaining.