Cricket, unlike so many faster, shorter games has moments where one side has hope - a clear chance to bend the future path to its favoured direction which missed, leads only to the boggy moorland of defeat.
So it was for Coal Aston and Kexborough on Saturday, who missed their chance, and for Houghton Main; who took theirs with delight.
Coal Aston suffered an Elsecar opening stand of 88 from Paul Cummins and Jason Meadows. But then Danny Hemingway dismissed both in an over, there were two new batsmen at the crease and there was hope. Trouble was, one was Ainsley Swallow and he went on to get 104*. His partner, Peter Hadfield, hit 81* and that was it. Elsecar had 278-2 and Coal Aston, despite sterling knocks from Ben Hall and Reece Shutt, were lost - bowled out, by Scott Jones (5-56), for 166.
Kexborough had been even better placed. They had Hallam 52-3, Hale, Hughes and Emery all gone to the excellent Steven Honeyman, for 16 between them. Nick Dymock went on to score 54 but they got him, too, at 93-4. They could almost sniff the tail, but that was it - just a scent.
Joe Cooper went on to get 101* and Mark Williams hit 72 as Hallam wagged and bounded their way out of danger to 266-5. Kexborough were down. The previous week, in a famous victory over Darfield, their opening pair had put on 91. On Saturday they collided with each other and were run out taking their first run, and the team folded for 66 to lose by 200.
Houghton Main, however, are fighting fit. They sank their teeth into Whiston and were not going to let go. Danny Kemp fell for a duck, Andy Tomlinson 34. James Martin made 46 but Michael Bates (5-34) and Oli Hayes (5-24) bowled them out for 163, then Khurram Javed made 73* and David Merryweather 51 as Houghton ran out winners by seven wickets in 25 overs.
Houghton have taken 21 points from their last three games. Only trouble is they were docked 21 points for not having an effective junior section last season, so they’ve now got zero; still bottom but only just below Rotherham Town seconds who’ve lost all their games (in sympathy with their 1st team) but have two points for a rained-off game. Yesterday they lost a drab affair to Collegiate seconds, Alex Varley (5-21) bowling them out for 76. It was only Collegiate’s first win.
Meanwhile, Conisbrough’s high-scoring start to the season fizzled out at Darfield, whose Haider Jahangir made 56* (out of 140-2) and took 3-39 to beat Conisbrough’s Arosh Janoda who made 37 (out of 137) and took 2-34. And Wath, 169-6, overcame Tickhill (168 all out), David Mace taking 7-40 and Jonathan Allen 53 so that Wath are now third in the table.
They’re tucked in behind Elsecar, who play Hallam in two weeks, and will need to win to stay in touch.
Sunday brought the first round of the Whitworth Cup and another powerful win for Hallam. Shane Smith, their South African slow left-armer, took 6-28 to bowl Whiston out for 128. Humphrey Emery (60*) and Nick Dymock (48) knocked off the runs in 18 overs. Darfield beat Coal Aston in similar fashion by nine wickets, Will Turner making 59* and Collegiate seconds celebrated their return to form with a hard fought five wicket win over Wath.
Tom Hancock stroked nine fours in 55 after Ben Fielding had taken 4-31 to restrict Wath to 136-9.