In a tale of two centuries, Kimberley’s nine-match unbeaten run in the Notts Premier League was brought to a halt by fellow high-fliers Plumtree.
Opener George Bacon’s 117 (two sixes and 16 fours), his third ton in the league this season, helped Kimberley amass a healthy total of 260-8 in their allotted 50 overs.
But he was overshadowed by his opposite number, Saad Ashraf, whose more brutal 129 (seven sixes and 13 fours) powered Plumtree to a five-wicket success with 11 balls to spare.
The defeat dropped Kimberley to third place in the table at the halfway point of the season, but still only 22 points behind leaders Cuckney, whom they entertain in a crunch clash this Saturday.
Bacon’s innings deserved extra credit because he lost his first two partners, Tom Rowe and Tom Collishaw, cheaply to Plumtree’s most dangerous bowler, Matt Milnes, who went on to take 4-46 from 12 overs. Sam Johnson (18) helped him steady the ship before Dominic Brown (44, one six and four fours) joined him for a fourth-wicket stand of 126 that got the hosts back on course.
Bacon reached his fifty in 73 balls and his century in a further 50 deliveries as he became the first Kimberley batsmen to rack up a hat-trick of tons in a campaign since 2006 when Nottinghamshire’s Samit Patel managed six.
It wasn’t a chanceless knock, with Ashraf putting him down on 70 and a close run-out call going his way, but its importance was clear, and further support from Martin Weightman (27) and James Fenwick (33no), who blasted three sixes, enabled the home side to accelerate late on.
When Plumtree replied, Brown made an early breakthrough, but Ashraf was soon in full flow. The 19-year-old looked ungainly at times, and played and missed a lot early doors, but when he connected, the ball flew to the boundary.
In Olly Soames (33, four fours), he had a useful foil, and the pair put on 128 in a partnership that was only broken, in the 30th over, by Ashraf himself, whose bad call left Soames stranded by a yard.
Moments later, Ashraf also sold Sam Wood down the river in another run-out, and at 155-3 with just under 20 overs remaining, Kimberley had a foot in the door.
Ashraf himself fell on 176 with a rash slog off Alex King (2-61), who then caught and bowled Matt Wood to leave the visitors on 186-5. But Plumtree recovered their poise and made a target of 75 in 14 overs look easy, courtesy of an unbroken stand between Graeme White and Matt Milnes.
At times they rode their luck, with Collishaw missing a diving catch, but White fired 44no, including a six and six fours, and Milnes 40no, including four boundaries, to see their side home.
VICTORY in a tense and high-quality affair at Balderton kept Kimberley 2nd in second place in Division A of the Gunn And Moore South Notts League.
Balderton made 252-9 but, led by Zain Ramzan (4-79) and Dom Wheatley (3-30), Kimberley’s bowlers fought back well after an opening stand of 147 between Chris Morris (114) and Steve Ryder (48). Their batsmen did even better as man-of-the-match Wheatley (95no) and Matt Dean (73) guided them to their target with an over in hand.