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Rain wrecks Walsall hopes by George Dobell

Walsall could only narrow the gap on the leaders by one point a s rain curtailed play throughout the Birmingham League.

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Walsall could only narrow the gap on the leaders by one point a s rain curtailed play throughout the Birmingham League.

The surprise package in this year's Premier Division are now just six points off the top spot with five rounds of games remaining.

With four Premier Division matches falling victim to the rain, there was little change in positions, though Kenilworth Wardens and Kidderminster Victoria at least managed winning draws.

Paul Baker (52) and Paul Byrne (33 not out) provided the basis of Walsall's 171, but Wellington were not able to even start their replay before the weather intervened.

The match between leaders, West Bromwich Darmouth, and Coventry and North Warwick was also abandoned.

At least there was the reassuring sight of Lee Daggett back in action, the Warwickshire seamer proving his return to full fitness with four for 39.

Those abandonments did little for either Wellington or Coventry and North Warwick. The bottom of the table is desperately tight and just a single point splits three teams in the bottom four.

Shrewsbury appear doomed, but their 16-year-old batsman, James Taylor, continued his excellent first season with an unbeaten century on Saturday. Taylor's 104 provided the platform for his side's 227, though Kidderminster Victoria were going well in reply when rain returned.

Kenilworth Wardens were one of the few sides to make any progress. They took 13 points from a winning draw against Old Hill, with Scott Stenning compiling an unbeaten 75. They are now just a point behind third-placed Moseley.

Laeq-ur-Rehman, with four for 32 and a defiant half-century was man of the match for Old Hill. Without Rehman resistance, Old Hill, who are far from safe, would surely have lost.

Travis Friend looked to have played Knowle & Dorridge to victory before the weather intervened. Following his four wickets, Friend was unbeaten on 36 when the game was abandoned.

In the First Division Harborne's bad luck showed no sign of abating. Apparently cruising to victory, rain forced them to accept a winning draw. Having gone unbeaten for a year, they have now suffered three defeats and a draw in the last four games.

George Land (five for 28) and captain Jon Cockcroft (three for 13) dismissed struggling Bromsgrove for just 117, but though Stephen Moreton cracked a 22-ball 37, the rain returned to thwart Harborne's challenge.

It will have been little consolation that they narrowed the gap on the leaders by four points after the game between Shifnal and Leamington Spa was completely washed out.

Walmley were also frustrated. They had Sutton Coldfield on the ropes at 61 for six when the rain came. Young Warwickshire players, Navdeep Poonia (two for two) and Chris Woakes (two for 21) were both impressive. Earlier half-centuries from Danny Bromley and Tariq Mohammed provided the bulk of Walmley's runs and the winning draw does take them into third place.

Lesroy Irish looked capable of running through Halesowen. The seamer struck three times in his first five overs to put Water Orton on top, though the match was once again abandoned.

Aston Unity had reason to be grateful for the poor weather. They were on the brink of defeat against Stratford, with only three wickets standing, when the rains came.

In Division Two, Aston Manor were one of few sides to win. Their four-wicket success over Tamworth puts them 11 points clear of the third-placed Dorridge, while Coleshill's 94-run success over Worcester was the only clear result in Division Three. The victory lifts Coleshill out of immediate danger.

Shoaib Akhtar, back in action for Berkswell against Newport, took two for nine in five overs, but, after an hour, play was abandoned. The Pakistan fast bowler is expected to play another couple of games for the club.