PROMOTED Little Stoke firsts are setting the early pace in the North Staffs and South Cheshire Premier section after drawing with visiting Porthill Park on Saturday.
The Uttoxeter Road side elected to bowl against a strong Porthill side who were still revelling in last week’s convincing win over league champions Leek.
Naveed Arif claimed an early wicket as Dan Richardson caught John Hancock with just nine runs on the board.
But Ryan Hassett and Sohail Zaroof pushed the Porthill score on to 99 when Peter Turnbull had Zaroof caught on 46.
Hassett and skipper Dan Hancock then added a valuable partnership of 68 before Hassett was bowled by Arif for 70.
The next four wickets fell for just 41 with Hancock adjudged leg before on 42 as visitors were restricted to 209-8. Arif was the pick of the bowlers with 5-60.
With a rain reduced innings of just 51 overs, Little Stoke set about their reply cautiously and Alex Kay (10) became the first victim of the impressive Ben Cotton with the score at 18-1 from ten overs.
Richard Adams played patiently for his 33 but the next three Little Stoke batsmen fell to the bowling of Hancock and the hosts stuttered to 90-5.
Arif looked in good form hitting five 4's and two 6's before being trapped lbw for 52 with the score at 150-8.
A valuable 28 from James Ecclestone off just 25 balls took the score on to 187-9 as the result hung in the balance.
In the end skipper Gareth Morris and Dave Ecclestone pushed the score on to 194-9 ensuring an excellent winning draw which puts Little Stoke at the top of the early Premier League standings.
In the Premier B section, Little Stoke seconds also drew at Porthill, in a low scoring affair.
Little Stoke appeared to take control as they bowled Porthill out for just 105 with the bowling of Andrew Frost (6-36) and Greg Walley (2-36) spearheading their attack.
They were well supported by youngsters Ed Gaffney (1-11) and Scott Winnington with 0-2 from his six overs. Danyal Hussein top scored for the hosts with 31.
Porthill fought back well as Matthew Lowe (5-21) and Joshua Ellams (3-21) put the Little Stoke batting to the sword.
Only Frost (31), Walley (17) and Gaffney (12) looked likely to make any headway so reaching 83-9 to hold on for a losing draw was a fair outcome.