Kimberley all set to be crowned champions

George Bacon bowls against Farnsfield.
George Bacon bowls against Farnsfield.

Kimberley Institute are now just three points from the NPL title after they cruised to an eight-wicket win at home to struggling Farnsfield - and their closest challengers Plumtree lost against the West Indian Cavaliers.

Sam Johnson (90*) and Shaun Levy (71*) were the stars of the show as the combined to add an unbroken 144 runs for the third wicket to guide Kimberley to victory with nine overs to spare.

With Jack Blatherwick unavailable Jon Terry returned to the side and he must have wondered what he was watching as Kimberley produced what was probably their sloppiest opening spell of the season after putting Farnsfield in.

It was perhaps summed up best by the giving away of four overthrows and a missed run out chance in the second over or a dropped catch at slip, as whilst Ben Savage and Dominic Brown both claimed a wicket each Farnsfield were still in good shape at 72-2 after 15 overs with James Smith (115) leading the charge. Matt Sisson (14) and Callum McKenzie were the batsmen to fall, both bowled with the score on 38 and then 45.

The introduction of spin from Alex King (1-29) and a more controlled line from George Bacon (1-36) helped to stem the flow of boundaries (ten in the first 14 overs, six thereafter) and slow the run-rate as Smith and Notts man Sam Wood (19) ground out a partnership of 62 for the third wicket before King induced Wood into a injudicious sweep and took the return catch as he skied the ball high into the air to make it 110-3 after 27 overs.

Another Notts man Brett Hutton (11) came to the crease and tried to inject some pace into the Farnsfield innings, for as well as Smith batted for his century, he did not score particularly quickly after getting his first 45 runs off 36 balls – the next 70 taking 118.

Tom Rowe (2-35) proved himself golden-armed once more as he entered the attack in the 35th over and subsequently removed Hutton via a brilliant one-handed catch down the leg-side from Harry Ratcliffe to make it 136-4.

Kimberley kept the runs down with some good bowling and gained two more wickets in the process; Bacon having Curtis Mitchell caught behind for a much deserved victim and Rowe cleaned up Smith in the penultimate over as Farnsfield closed on 201-6.

Kimberley were watchful early on as Levy and Brown (16) played with caution against the new ball pairing of Hutton and Jamie Wagstaff, but began to play with a little more freedom as the score moved to 38 in the 14th over, before Wood (1-59) bowled Brown in his first over.

Rowe came in and breezed to 15 with several sumptuous shots, before he hit a back-foot drive too well and picked out Smith on the cover boundary to give Joe Worrall (1-27) a modicum of revenge to make it 63-2 after 19 overs.

With Kimberley’s supporters pensive they needed something big from Johnson and Levy to settle the nerves and they got it in style as they took the Farnsfield attack apart with clinical precision.

With Levy content to weigh anchor and accumulate, although he also find time to play several lovely drives and clips off his legs, Johnson got himself in and gradually accelerated with his half-century coming off just 57 balls thanks to some powerful hitting.

Levy’s came off nearly double the number of balls, but, much like Smith for Farnsfield, he kept the innings glued together – the big difference being he had a great foil in Johnson to attack from the other end.

A hooked six for Levy off Hutton was followed by three straight boundaries before Dave Loveridge suffered the full Johnson repertoire for three overs as he toyed with the fielders, driving with impunity and playing several delightful late cuts to take Kimberley to within two runs of victory.

Levy worked Wood for one to level the scores, but Johnson wasn’t content to do the same as he swept the bowler out of the ground once more to seal the win and give Kimberley another 20 points.

They go to Clifton Village next week knowing that 200 runs or seven wickets will seal the championship, or even better a first win there since 2008.