Saracens Hertfordshire League: Sawbo beaten by Old Albanian as Hitchin are crowned Division One champions
Sawbridgeworth's promotion hopes were left hanging by a thread following a dramatic day at the top of Saracens Hertfordshire League, Division One, writes Richard White.
Hitchin's 11th victory of the season, at the expense of struggling Holtwhites Trinibis, saw them crowned champions with a game to spare after their three nearest challengers were all beaten.
Despite suffering a surprise 47-run defeat at Harpenden II – who began the day in the relegation zone – Broxbourne increased their lead over Sawbo to 18 points after Steve Ashman's side went down to Old Albanian at Town Fields.
Their fifth defeat of the season sees them remain third, seven points ahead of Leverstock Green, who were beaten by one wicket by St Margaretsbury, who host Sawbridgeworth in the final round of matches this weekend.
Usman Farooq, who scored 171 at Town Fields two years ago, produced an even better performance this time as he scored a brilliant 184 off 145 balls. The OA skipper shared a second-wicket partnership of 276 with Sagir Ahmed, who finished unbeaten on 101, as the visitors blitzed their way to 317-5 off their 50 overs.
And yet the story could have been very different as Farooq punished the home side's depleted attack after being dropped on nine in just the fifth over of the day with the score on 14.
Sawbo have never successfully chased more than 300 in a league game in their history and, despite a valiant effort, they were all out for 246 in 47.3 overs.
Matt Billings top-scored with 55, sharing a seventh-wicket partnership of 80 with Charlie Mann (27), after Rob Sanders had struck seven fours and two sixes on his way to 54.
The result means Sawbridgeworth need to win on Saturday and hope Broxbourne lose to bottom side Ickleford and take less than 11 bonus points.
In contrast, the second XI go into the final day just three points above the drop zone in Division 5B after they lost by nine runs to Old Albanian II.
Alfie Burrell (3-43) and Tommy Hamilton (2-35) were the pick of the bowlers as the hosts made 223-9.
Alex Syed (85) and Gabriel Inch (47) gave them a great start in reply with an opening stand of 80, but they lost regular wickets and were all out for 214 in 47.5 overs.
A home win against Mill Hill Village on Saturday will guarantee their safety, otherwise they will have to hope a good tally of bonus points will be enough to stay up.
The two teams immediately below them, Hertingfordbury and Welwyn Garden City III, play each other in a winner-takes-all encounter.