Melton bowlers guide Leicestershire to historic national cup win

Melton bowlers, from left, Neil Hope, Chris Rodgers and new recruit Jordan Butcher hit form to help Leicestershire to a national cup triumph EMN-180815-091343002
Melton bowlers, from left, Neil Hope, Chris Rodgers and new recruit Jordan Butcher hit form to help Leicestershire to a national cup triumph EMN-180815-091343002
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A trio of Holwell Sports bowlers have helped Leicestershire to only their second-ever win in a national inter-county cup.

Established county players Chris Rodgers and Neil Hope were joined by up-and-coming talent Jordan Butcher in the 24-man Leicestershire squad which lifted the Middleton Cup for the first time since 1964.

They edged a nailbiting final at the Bowls England National Finals to deny Devon a record-breaking fourth-straight title.

Rodgers and Hope both skipped their sets, with Butcher, in his first season of Middleton Cup duty, joining Hope.

Leicestershire overcame Yorkshire in a close-fought semi-final, 113-103, at Leamington Spa, with Rodgers on the wrong end of a 17-12 scoreline, and Hope and Butcher pegged back to an 18-all draw.

But later that day things were set to get even closer in the final, Leicestershire’s first since 1986, as the Melton bowlers came to the fore.

Both Rodgers and Hope took control of their rinks early on and after 10 of the 21 ends had built commanding 13-5 and 14-3 leads, respectively, to help their side into a useful 54-47 overall advantage.

Devon, playing their fifth final in six years, fought back to lead 100-98 after 18 ends, with Rodgers’ advantage cut to just one shot, and Hope up by five.

But both Melton skips pulled out a shot on the closing three ends to secure 20-14 and 22-20 wins, and help tie the final aggregate score at 118-all.

And Leicestershire carried the momentum into the extra ends, winning 9-1 to clinch an historic win.

“It was incredible,” Hope said. “The final was the closest finish in living memory.

“We just had a greater will to win combined with unbelievable team spirit.”

Rodgers will return to the Warwickshire club later this month to bowl for the national singles title as county champion.