Ben Slater spins Chesterfield to first outright win of the season

LEADER OF THE PACK -- Ben Slater leads the team off after his fine spell. (PHOTO BY: John Windle)

LEADER OF THE PACK -- Ben Slater leads the team off after his fine spell. (PHOTO BY: John Windle)

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County batsman Ben Slater proved he’s no mean bowler too as relieved Chesterfield finally posted their first outright victory of the season in the Premier Division of the Derbyshire County League.

Chesterfield produced a very proficient performance to win by six wickets away to struggling Lullington Park, successfully chasing the home side’s total of 165.

And one of the highlights was a four-wicket haul from only 32 deliveries by Slater (4-11) that wrapped up the Swadlincote team’s innings. Bowling right-arm leg-breaks, the 24-year-old’s scalps included the hosts’ top scorer, Joe Eaton, who made 37.

Lullington Park had made terrific efforts to ensure the game was played, despite heavy rain through the week. But it came as no surprise when, on winning the toss, Chesterfield captain Drage Thompson asked them to bat first on a spongy pitch.

The Lullington openers, Andrew Goodwin and Shacaya Thomas, had a difficult time against opening bowlers Matt Higginbottom and Will Davis, playing and missing a number of times as they had to contend with some good bowling.

Higginbottom (1-17 in eight overs) struck first with the score on 27, trapping Thomas lbw for 16, which brought another Derbyshire CCC player, Chesney Hughes, to the crease. The first ball he received was an unplayable yorker from Davis (1-40 in ten overs) that saw his stumps flying.

At 30-2, home skipper Goodwin was joined by his younger brother, Jamie, and they batted carefully against more tight bowling. They saw the score through to 80 when Jamie (29) hit a ball into the covers where the athletic Paul Goodwin produced a second unbelievable catch in successive matches. This time, he was quickly down to his right and clung on to one which had almost flown past him. He was immediately surrounded by his astonished teammates congratulating him.

Jamie was quickly followed by Andrew (36), who was the first of a couple of wickets for young fast bowler Louis Hurst (2-26). At 108-5 with fewer than 20 overs to go, Chesterfield were definitely on top, and although a promising partnership of 25 followed, Slater’s introduction into the attack proved decisive. The Lullington lower order was beguiled by his bowling and was only held together by Eaton before the innings folded in the 49th over.

As the Chesterfield team were proudly led off by Slater, there were still some doubts about how good the home side’s score would prove to be on the pitch. And those doubts increased when Slater himself got a fine early ball from Jamie Goodwin (1-25) and was adjudged lbw for six.

However, all fears were soon laid to rest when fellow opener Mykylo Bird was joined by Alex Hibbert for a match-defining century partnership. The pair played the conditions well, carefully selecting the balls to score off, and they shared a brilliant stand of 114. Young batsman Bird went for 46 (one six and four fours), but not before he had again impressed. He will surely be on the radar of one of the counties soon.

Hibbert, who caught the eye as much as Bird, fell quickly afterwards for 38 (one six and six fours) with the score remaining on 120, and Chesterfield lost another wicket to make them 153-4. But the ever-resourceful Higginbottom, playing in his usual, aggressive style for 28no, guided them towards their victory target, and the winning runs came when Davis hit a massive six out of the ground off the last ball of the 42nd over.

The triumph earned Chesterfield 22 points and with plenty to look forward to ahead of this Saturday’s home match against bottom-of-the-table Quarndon.