Hale Barns First XI were narrow winners in a nail-biting top of the table clash against Alvanley CC, which extended their lead to eight points in the CCCL Division 2 West.
In a rain-reduced match (35 overs), a poor batting performance was rescued by Tom Saddington, who hit an unbeaten 43 before a solid effort across the board from the bowlers guided the hosts to victory by 12 runs.
However, a quick flurry of wickets halted the home side’s progress, as S Smith departed for 23 and Cooper (13) followed soon after, while Khurram Hussain also came and went without scoring.
Ben Tumilty (4-16) had taken two of those dismissals in the space of four deliveries to restrict Barns to 44-3, and he doubled his tally with a couple of middle-order scalps, including Rory Allan for 11.
The visitors remained on top as HBCC struggled to 78-6 with 14 overs still remaining, although Saddington and Tommy Smith sparked a resurgence late on, adding 38 for the seventh wicket at around a run a ball.
T Smith eventually fell for 14, but Saddington continued to play a crucial hand, edging Barns towards a defendable total. Despite running out of overs to reach what would have been a deserved milestone, he did seal a red inker to end on a match-saving 43 not out.
Chasing 123 to win, Alvanley made a disastrous start when Younas Saeed and Ben Hicks removed both openers inside three overs. And the wickets continued to tumble, with Saeed adding to his tally and Cooper and S Smith taking one apiece to leave the away team reeling on 17-5.
Sam Baxter and Chris Wright (11) provided some reasonable resistance, but the latter could do nothing to keep out a terrific delivery from Christian Dodson (1-7), while Baxter was eventually bowled by Cooper (2-27) for 17 to put Barns on the brink of victory.
However, Alvanley showed great character to battle their way to 85-8 with four overs to spare, as Arthur Brummitt refused to give up the chase and received healthy support from James Ecclestone (12) before being sent back by Saeed (3-25).
Hicks completed his seven overs with exceptionally economical figures of 1-7 to keep Barns in the driving seat, but the game headed towards a terrific climax with 20 runs required off the last 12 balls.
Bilal Ahmed (1-13) held his nerve to dismiss Brummitt for 33, which all but ended Alvanley’s chances of a terrific fightback.
S Smith (2-19) managed to finish things off in style, claiming the final wicket with the last ball of the innings to continue Barns’ march towards sealing top spot in the table.