HALESOWEN slipped to third from bottom after a second successive league defeat.

However, with over 15 notable players unavailable, the club had a remarkably good weekend, showing strength in depth across the club.

The first XI featuring a number of fringe players fought to the end but in spite of a terrific all-round performance by Masharraf Shazad, slipped to a four-wicket defeat at Bridgnorth.

After losing the toss and being asked to bat first they were soon reduced to 46 for five, but a sixth wicket stand 68 between Shazad (52 not out) and Wes Griffiths (37) took them to 159 for eight, after 50 overs, with overseas player Jean-Pierre Erasmus (4 for 36) the pick of the home side’s attack.

Ian Gregory hit 43 for Bridgnorth who strolled to a five-wicket victory, even though Shazad (4 for 39) made them fight hard for runs during the middle of their innings.

The second XI beat nearby Enville in a nail biter as a very young side played with maturity beyond their years to secure victory.

With Hales winning the toss at Seth Somers Park Enville scored 193-7 with spinners Archie Reeves (4-58) and Charlie Greening (4-51) the chief wicket takers. Interspersed by some dropped catches the total proved more than challenging for the home team. At 98-6 the game looked gone until a quickfire career-best (adult cricket) 67 from 78 balls from 17 y.o. Greening including 11 boundaries ignited the Halesowen chase. With the calm heads of 19 year olds Sam Preece (21*) and Nick Payne (43*) at the crease Hales were able to see off the target with some 5 overs to spare to remain in the promotion places.

The third team’s match was abandoned due to poor weather but the fourths travelled south to Hanley Castle where the home side totted up 102-all out thanks to seamer Alex Taylor (4-23) with a very young Hales knocking off the runs to win by two wickets.

Debutant Steve Jacques with 27 and 2-10 was a key to the victory as Hales gave debuts to a number of young players from the youth section.

Summing up the weekend, skipper Alexei Kervezee said: "Obviously the first XI need to kick in to gear pretty quickly next week and hopefully with some players back we will be stronger. That said our batters in the top order have not fired consistently yet and we need to address that for us to be successful. We will look at that this week.

"For the rest, I am really delighted to see some of the performances around the club this weekend given how short we were with injuries and unavailability.

"Hopefully with the season settling down from next week we can have stronger sides out and this creates good competition for everyone. It’s a long season and we need that depth which is great."

Hales first now go to Oswestry this Saturday (noon start).

The seconds welcome Himley, the thirds are at Stourport and the fourths host Redditch.