Sparks counter-attack proves in vain for Lancaster

Charlie Swarbrick in action for Lancaster against Netherfield. Picture: Tony North
Charlie Swarbrick in action for Lancaster against Netherfield. Picture: Tony North

A lacklustre performance in the field let Lancaster down after a memorable counter-attacking innings by Lee Sparks.

Netherfield bowled first and found early joy as Mark Clarkson got a good yorker past the defences of Alex Metcalfe to leave the hosts 5 for 1.

Rameez Raja couldn’t replicate the imperious twenty20 hundred from the previous evening – given out caught behind after surviving a simple chance offered to mid-on the over before.

Jamie Heywood looked in good touch but kept finding fielders while number four Charlie Swarbrick threaded Netherfield Pro Dieter Klein through the off-side to the cover boundary.

Lancaster made steady progress until a change of bowling brought the breakthrough for the visitors. Heywood was foxed by a Nathan Chambers off-cutter and bowled between bat and pad to leave the Lune Road men precarious at 35 for 3.

One Heywood replaced another as elder brother Craig Heywood and Swarbrick slowly took Lancaster beyond fifty before Chambers once again found a gem of a delivery to remove Swarbrick on the point of drinks.

Dan Chambers and the senior Heywood stood solid but the scoreboard didn’t move far as Ryan Wilson and Nathan Chambers kept up the pressure.

A steady 65 for 4 became an unstable 76-6 as Heywood holed out to Klein at mid-on off Wilson before Chambers edged a big drive behind looking to push the score towards the hundred mark.

The innings changed with the entrance of Sparks. A small but explosive right-hander, Sparks’ stays at the crease tend to be short but bright affairs – today was an exception.

Sparks started in usual fashion with boundaries launched aerially over the leg-side. Kieran Moffat looked comfortable at number 7 supporting Sparks with fluent drives through the off-side.

A single over from Bradley Earl ended badly as Sparks took full advantage of a waist high full-toss by putting it over the Lune Road wall.

As well as big shots Sparks put pressure on the Netherfield fielders scoring off almost every delivery and frustrating the visitors no end.

The departure of Moffat bowled by Clarkson off his pads did little to stem the flow of runs as Ben Simm looked to tap and run to hand the strike back to Sparks.

Lancaster raced towards 150 as Netherfield had few answers to deal with Sparks. Lancaster’s keeper brought up his maiden first division fifty with a nudged single but he wasn’t finished there.

Despite the returning Klein castling Simm the South African could do little to hold back Sparks as he was deposited high into the houses.

Sparks finally fell for 64 in the final over caught behind but the damage had been done – a brilliant knock that took Lancaster to a more than competitive 178 all out.

Netherfield started positively in reply. With the pitch now presenting few terrors, Rick Potter played his shots against Callum East and Liam Moffat and it paid off as the visitors moved at four-an-over.

Ben Barrow too looked secure as Lancaster scrambled desperately for a wicket. It came through Rameez Raja – whose medium swing did for Barrow bowling him through the gate – 82-1.

Potter went past a deserved half century and looked hungry for a big score before Simm introduced himself at the River End and immediately got results.

Potter fell as Simm got one to grip and turn through at attempted cut of the right-hander castling him for 60.

Netherfield are a team low on confidence with six losses from seven games before Saturday and it began to show as they threw away their position of strength.

John Huck fell into a fatal trap to give Simm his second playing back only to be pinned in front of all three before Raja won the battle of the pros hitting Klein on the toe plumb in front for 8. 90 for 4.

But regular wickets came with regular boundaries as Lancaster struggled to keep a hold on the runs.

Marc Brown looked out of touch but still managed 19 before being adjudged lbw off Simm while Raja kept taking wickets with Earl bowled by yet another in-swinger.

The experienced Scott Clement would prove to be the difference. Lancaster lacked the killer instinct in the field and with the ball as Clement lifted Simm over his head for boundaries to reduce the runs required to 50 and then 40.

Raja picked up his fourth bowling Daniel Gaunt in familiar fashion but Clement held firm. Ably supported by Mark Clarkson at number 9, Lancaster had no answers to the Netherfield pair who took singles and scored runs at will.

Simm tried Liam Moffat one last time to try and wrestle back the game but Netherfield looked to have the unlikely chase sealed.

With three required from the final over, Liam Moffat nearly pulled the game out of the fire bowling Clement through the gate for 28 with meaning one run was required from the final delivery.

Nathan Chambers kept his cool however forcing the final ball through mid-off to hand Lancaster their third straight league defeat.

Lancaster seconds suffered another loss away at Parkside Road. Lacking a senior batsmen the Lune Road men finished on 129 all out - Elliot Mason top scoring with 29.

Netherfield overhauled the total just three wickets down with Brendon Herron making a quick-fire 58 – the hosts ending 132 for 3 in just 25 overs.