CONRAD Louth and Shahid Yousaf both scored centuries as title-chasing Slough secured a vital 40-run win at Finchampstead on Saturday, writes Dave Wright.

The league leaders posted a formidable 289-4 in their 50 overs, but then saw their hosts recover from 127-7 to finish on a respectable 249-9.

Earlier this year, Lincolnshire county star Louth looked all set to play for Finch after moving into the area and attending pre-season net practice at the club, only to make a shock move to league rivals Slough.

And he has played a big part in the club’s successful season, scoring more than 700 runs, including three centuries.

Yousaf has done marginally better, and is closing in on 800 runs in the league.

They were both in outstanding form as Slough sealed a victory, taking them on to the 281-point mark, eight ahead of second-placed Henley with two games left to play, with the title rivals clashing at Upton Park Court this Saturday.

Had Louth joined Finch, he would probably have skippered them last weekend as Dan Lincoln is now concentrating on his football with Bognor Regis.

Craig Hodges has assumed the captaincy of the side, who are now totally free of relegation concerns, and he made a brave decision to ask Slough to bat first on a cloudy morning.

He opened the attack with himself and Darren Augustus, but then gave way to Adam Dewes and the spinner bowled Daniyal Akhtar for 17.

Louth was joined by Lloyd Paternott and they saw the 100 up in 19 overs before the latter was run out for 19 by Greg Smith.

Louth and Yousaf both batted exceptionally well, taking the total from 103-2 to 219, when Louth was caught behind by Simon Bell off Augustus for 103, which came off 115 deliveries and contained two sixes and eight fours.

Yousaf went on to remain unbeaten on 106 (from 98 balls and included 14 boundaries) as Slough finished in a strong position at 289-4 from their 50 overs.

And the visitors further strengthened their grip on the game as they reduced Finchampstead to 20-4 in only seven overs with experienced seamer Ikhlaq Nawaz taking three wickets.

Ed Oliver and Bell put on 49 to improve matters slightly before Bell was run out for 25 in a mix-up with his partner.

Ryan Quinn (12) was bowled by Berkshire spinner Ali Raja at 81-6 and when Hodges was caught behind off Yousaf for 28 it was 127-7.

Slough’s victory march was held up by Oliver and Augustus, the pair lifting the total to 207, the stand ending when Oliver was bowled round his legs by Bobby Sher for an excellent 93, which came off 105 balls and contained three maximums and 10 fours.

When Augustus was caught at square leg off Sher for a 32-ball knock of 40, Finch were on 214 with their last pair at the crease and eight overs remaining.

But Zafar Ali and young James Woodford survived, making 15 and 20 respectively, to take the score to 249, enabling their side to emerge with some credit in defeat.

In Division 3a of the Thames Valley League, Finchampstead 3rds were dismissed for 93 and crashed to an eight-wicket defeat at the hands of Cove 2nds, who move above them into seventh place.

Finchampstead 4ths, with Richard Reed contributing 43 of their 146 total, were edged out by just one wicket by Aldershot 3rds (150-9) in Division 6b, Liam Bulteel claiming 3-17 and Dilan Patel 3-32.

Division 9a leaders Finchampstead 5ths saw their fixture scratched by Newbury 3rds and now look set to clinch the title with just this Saturday’s match at Maidenhead & Bray 4ths remaining.