OLD Southendian and Stanford-le-Hope kept their promotion ambitions firmly on track with victories at the weekend.
The Old Boys remain second in the table after beating Woodford Green by eight wickets, while Stanford secured a four-wicket win over hosts Oakfield Parkonians to stay third.
And Stanford captain Lee Knight knows just how important the win was going into a crunch fortnight.
“We have Harlow Town next week and Old Southendian the week after, so it is good that we will go into them on the back of a win,” said Knight. “Those two matches could have a big say on how the season will finish.
“We did not make it easy for ourselves with the bat against Parkonians and there were a few nervy moments because people were coming in and going straight out again.
“But we got there in the end and it was quite comfortable. Ross (Poulton) batted well again and was just short of a well-deserved century Their opener rode his luck a bit but we bowled well and shared the wickets round.”
Opener Sachin Vara (58), Vikram Handa (26) and captain Amit Kalley (25) anchored Parkonians’ 159 all out total from 49.2 overs after they were put into bat by the visitors.
Ross Poulton claimed 3-17 and Greg Barr 3-29, with Knight taking 2-28 and Dylan Eginton and Adam Knight a wicket each.
Stanford lost opener Kevin Smith for a duck but Poulton joined Martin Leslie (20) in the middle and top-scored with an unbeaten 98.
Three other wickets fell cheaply but Sachin Sewgobind (10) and Matthew Page (1no) accompanied Poulton to victory, with Jibran Azam (4-34) leading the attack.
Australian player Michael Hill plundered a century and Rob Johnston a half-century as Old Southendian secured a comfortable eight-wicket win over Woodford Green.
The Old Boys lost Max Craddock for a single but Hill (114no) then joined Johnston (54) to build the innings.
James Lock (6no) accompanied Hill as Southendian scored 215-2 in reply to Woodford Green’s 213 all out total.
Earlier, Adam Rendall (2-40), Sam Hodgson (2-25) and Hill (2-40) and single wickets for Adam Hunt and Matthew Austin had bowled the hosts out in 41.1 overs. Mashood Qazi (73) and captain Masood Qazi (71) offered most resistance.
Benfleet’s renaissance continued with a six-wicket home win over Epping which lifted James Wilkins’ team up to fifth in the table.
Gareth Steed claimed an impressive 5-23 and Mark Acraman took 2-34 as the bottom of the table visitors capitulated for 156 in 38.2 overs.
Paul Frensham marked his return from a month’s holiday by taking a wicket, with John Bull and Stephen Reeve taking a wicket each.
Benfleet lost three early wickets but Ian Stanley steadied the ship with Rob Zammit, the duo scoring 67 not out and 43 not out as Benfleet hit 158-4 off 34.1 overs.
Basildon & Pitsea slipped to ninth in the table following a 246-run defeat away to league leaders Harlow Town.
Their cause was not helped when Jon Bonnett was injured in the fourth over of Town’s innings and was unable to continue playing.
AnandKumar Ganesam (2-65) and Kalai Selven (2-67) fared best with the ball as Neil Gladwin (108), Thomas Price (46) and captain Ashley Alderson (45) helped the hosts to 262-7 off their 50 overs.
Selven (28), Ganesan (24), Jamie White (16) and Muhammad Ali (15) were the only Basildon batsmen into double figures as they were bowled out for 116-9.