Town crowned Lincs League champions

WhilE the seasonal Bank Holiday weather played havoc with cricket across the county last weekend, it also confirmed Market Rasen Town Cricket Club 1st XI as Lincolnshire League Division Two Champions.

Only Cleethorpes 3rds were capable of catching the unbeaten Rase Park outfit, but their game against Caistor Town 2nds was one of many lost to the rain on Saturday and, as a result, Rasen’s title was confirmed.

1st XI Captain Simon Bunn greeted the news with enthusiasm: “It’s been a great effort from the entire squad.

“The club is on the up and I’m delighted, especially with the ‘Killer B’s’, they’ve been great. Gary and Karl Bierlein, Graeme Bell and Will Bradford, even myself.

“But to be honest, everyone has played their part, Ian Williams and Darren Salmon have been fantastic in the middle order and Mark Robinson has been superb behind the stumps.

“My final aim for this season is to win our last game at Alkborough so that we can finish the season as the only undefeated side in the Lincolnshire League. Division One watch out!”

The enthusiasm and praise of Rasen’s 1st XI captain was matched by cricket section chairman Ian Williams, who was keen to emphasise that this season is merely the beginning.

He said: “The title caps a fantastic season for all concerned at Rase Park. It’s been a great team effort by all involved.

“The plan before this season began was to get the 1st XI into the Lincolnshire League Premier Division within two years, so phase one has been completed. Signings similar to the influential Graeme Bell are imperative for phase two to be as successful.”

The 1st XI have swept all before them in the Lincolnshire League this season, thanks to a bowling attack that has had variety and penetration and a batting line-up that has been capable of dominating anything that the division can muster.

However, if one were to pick out individuals, then two players stand out for their contributions this season.

Graeme Bell’s return to the Rasen 1st XI has been an all-round success, as the opening batsman has smashed 455 runs at an average of 38 and taken 28 wickets at 11 apiece.

The rapid rate at which he has scored his runs has taken the pressure off the rest of the side and allowed them to play naturally and with the new ball he has, along with Will Bradford, given Rasen’s attack a cutting edge that it lacked last season.

In the last three seasons Karl Bierlein has snapped up 115 wickets in Lincs League Two and it is no surprise that the spinner has led the way for Rasen again this season, picking up 40 wickets at ten apiece. He has benefited from the extra variety in Rasen’s attack this season, as batsmen have had to look to attack him and, as a result, his wickets have come at the extraordinary rate of one every three overs, which is remarkable at this level.

Whilst Bell and Bierlein have led the way, without the contributions of Ian Williams (317 runs at 45), Gary Bierlein (293 runs at 49 and 24 wickets at nine), Jon Stephenson (252 runs at 36) and Will Bradford (137 runs at 23 and 20 wickets at 12) their efforts would have been meaningless.

With only one game left in 2011, Rasen 1sts will now, as suggested by chairman Ian Williams, look to build on this season’s success so that they can kick on next year in Division One.

Whilst the rain sealed the 1st XI’s title, it wreaked havoc with two other key fixtures for the club this weekend.

The 2nd XI’s clash with Keelby 2nds and the Sunday 1st XI’s cup final against Boston were both lost to a water-logged outfield at Rase Park.

The lost game is another nail in the coffin for the 2nds’ promotion hopes, but with Holton le Clay 2nds also having their game cancelled and Alford 2nds having to abandon their match only two wickets shy of a shock defeat, their fate is not yet sealed.

There is, as yet, no date confirmed as to when the Sunday 1sts’ Cup Final will be played.

The Sunday 2nd XI continued their recent good form with the bat as they travelled to Gainsborough for their Lincoln League Division Four clash with promotion-chasing Marshalls.

Rasen batted first and Jon Stephenson, 48, and Luke Richards, 34, ensured that they posted another competitive total, taking the young side to 162 all out.

Unfortunately the form of recent weeks continued with the leather, as Marshalls were able to knock the runs off without losing a wicket within 30 overs.

Jim Dodds, 10 overs for 43 runs, was the pick of a Rasen attack that battled hard, but never really looked like making a breakthrough.

This weekend sees one Lincolnshire League fixture, as the 2nds host Alford 2nd XI, knowing that nothing less than a crushing victory will do as they seek to keep their dwindling promotion hopes alive.

On Sunday, the 1st XI make the trek south to Heckington and will be keen to maintain their title challenge, whilst ensuring that they are not the villagers’ first scalp of the season, and the 2nd XI host Nocton.