Relieved Chesterfield have held on to their Derbyshire County League, Premier Division status after a narrow, if well-deserved, victory in a tense final match at Queen’s Park.
They began the day third from bottom in the table, knowing that they could still be dragged into the relegation zone if Lullington Park bagged maximum points from their last fixture.
But they also knew that six points against fourth-placed Spondon would guarantee them safety -- and when Michael Deane had Spondon opener Josh Brear caught by Ross Whiteley for 18, to take the visitors’ fourth wicket as they chased a target of 209, those points were theirs, triggering much celebration among players and supporters.
To top the celebrations, they went on to post a fine six-run victory to underline the admirable fight they have shown in the concluding matches of a very tough season.
Dean (2-36 in nine overs), Matthew Higginbottom (2-38 in 11 overs) and Brian Gladwin (2-43 in 11 overs) all went on to pick up a couple of wickets apiece, helping to reduce Spondon to 136-8.
And despite late defiance by the big-hitting Chris Windmill, who thrashed two sixes and six fours in a 53-ball 57, and England Deaf XI captain Paul Allen, who made 25 (four fours), Chesterfield’s victory was wrapped up by Nitish Kumar, who removed them both and ended up with figures of 3-32 from 6.5 overs.
Windmill’s breezy knock did take Spondon to within a whisker of the hosts’ 208 total before another vital catch by Whiteley sealed a highly entertaining match that was a terrific advert for the league.
All-rounder Windmill (3-52 in 15 overs) and Allen (2-53 in ten overs) had earlier bowled well too. But Chesterfield just about managed to keep the scoreboard ticking over for a score that seemed beyond them when they slid from a promising 122-3 to 131-7 at one stage.
Of the early-innings runs, opener Ben Slater made an excellent 46 (six fours) to remind the Derbyshire CCC selectors what he is capable of, and he shared a stand of 51 for the second wicket with Alex Hibbert (36, one six and three fours).
After the potentially critical collapse, Higginbottom came to the rescue with 47 (two sixes and four fours) in a magnificent eighth-wicket partnership of 43 with Paul Goodwin (11).