SKIPPER Ed Kemp was left scratching his head after Cleobury Mortimer were toppled by Knighton – the derby rivals who advised them to join the Marches League.

Cleobury suffered an 18-run defeat at Newnham Bridge, their second in three Division Two outings so far, despite winning the toss and putting their hosts in to bat on a damp surface.

Openers Matthew James (19) and Richard Grosvenor (20) made a solid start with backing from top-scorer Jack Brain (35). Captain Robbie James also weighed in with 28 but a flurry of single-figure scores saw Knighton dismissed for 121.

However, Cleobury could not take advantage of the drying conditions with Kemp (27) and Michael Green (21) the only meaningful contributors to a total of 103 as Knighton saw off their visitors in 23 overs courtesy of David Stroyd (5-27) and Brain (5-35).

“I was massively disappointed,” said Kemp. “Perhaps we didn’t bowl as well as we could have after winning the toss, something we felt could have been a decisive point given the conditions.

“They set a good target to be honest. We said if they managed 100 or more then it would be a hard chase because it was so wet but when we got to 46 for one, we felt we had a good chance.

“Credit to Knighton for their perseverance, they must have thought they were dead and buried but kept plugging away. Their lads took five wickets each but it felt like we threw it away.

“We have known them for years through the Worcestershire League and even trained in the nets with half of them during pre-season. When you’re looking for a new league, you do ask clubs you know for a bit of advice.

“It was not nice to get beaten, there is nothing worse than losing a derby and it certainly made my weekend pretty miserable! That’s the way it goes, though. They have to come to our place and I’d like to think we can reverse the roles next time.”

And having showed their capability in traditionally weaker aspects of play, Kemp reckons the best is yet to come from his side.

“We could have won all three games,” he added. “We haven’t had to chase a lot of runs having bowled out all three opponents. Our batting has let us down.

“I think there will be a lot of unexpected results. It is very different in this league but a nice change, it is far more friendly and I hope we can kick on now.

“We should class it as a disappointing start. We have taken 30 wickets but only won one game, even though we class ourselves as a batting team.

“I’d like to think we can sort it out. We are still finding our feet in our new surroundings and it is a learning curve. We haven’t batted well yet but have done well when bowling and fielding and I can’t see that stopping.”

Cleobury host Eastnor III in the league on Saturday (1pm).