All-rounder Ben Pilot hit a magnificent half-century in Monmouth’s agonising four-run home defeat to Vale in a rain-hit South East Wales League Division Two clash.

In reply to Vale’s 168 all out, Pilot (51) and skipper Ben Lander (49) led Monmouth’s pursuit, which ultimately fell just short in a thrilling finale at the Sports Ground.

Needing 11 runs to win from the last over, the excellent Pilot guided Monmouth to the brink of victory before he was caught at cover, and the hosts eventually closed on 164-7.

In addition to fine knocks from Pilot and Old Monmothian Lander, who struck six boundaries, Gareth Jones (11), Ali McIntosh (11) and Luke Harrell (11) all reached double figures.

To their credit, Vale were sharp in the field and prevailed in a nerve-jangling finish, which saw Jon Davies snap up 3-35.

A disappointment for Monmouth was an early injury to teenage wicketkeeper Ben McCluskey, who needed six stitches after being struck in the mouth by a bouncing ball.

Earlier, Vale had made a flying start with the bat, in a contest reduced to 42 overs a side due to rain.

However, Monmouth fought back through Pilot (3-47), Jones (3-51), McIntosh (2-31) and Lander (1-14) to dismiss the mid-table visitors with 11 overs of their innings remaining.

Lander (two) and McIntosh held catches, while Kit Skailes and replacement wicketkeeper Andrew Dobbie did well in the field as seven Vale batters recorded double-figure scores.

Despite the narrow defeat, it was a much better all-round display from Monmouth, sponsored by Bürkert Fluid Control Systems, who included debutant Rhys Jex and welcomed back Leeds University student Alfie Robinson.

Chairman Joe Atkinson scored the match, sponsored by Monmouthshire Building Society.

Monmouth have now reached the halfway point in their league campaign and will host Whitchurch-Heath at the Sports Ground this Saturday (12.30pm).

Meanwhile, Monmouth Seconds’ fixture at Croesyceiliog Thirds in Division Nine was delayed by 90 minutes due to rain before being washed out after just two overs with the visitors on six without loss.

Barry Jones’ team included newcomer Paul Brooks, fit-again Matt Bryant and the dedicated Rick Parkes, who had driven directly from London especially for the match, sponsored by Miles Jupp’s outstanding cricket podcast Middle Please, Umpire.

This Saturday, Monmouth Seconds make the short trip to Monkswood-Panteg Seconds (12.30pm).

Opener Matthew Williams carried his bat for an excellent 68 not out but couldn’t stop Monmouth Thirds from suffering a nine-wicket home defeat to Vale Thirds in Division 12.

Williams cracked seven fours and two sixes in his superb knock and was supported by Rob Pendleton (19) and Sam Uttley as Mike Maguire’s Monmouth posted 137-6 from 40 overs at Chippenham Fields.

R Morgan (4-24) was Vale’s most successful bowler, while team-mate Gareth Andrews (62no) then starred with the bat to sweep the visitors to their target.

Shannon Trigg (1-38) bagged the only Vale wicket to fall, while Uttley, Andrew Wilson, Greg Thomas, Megan Maguire, Nick Holt and Harry Williams all tried hard in the field.

The match was sponsored by Bürkert Fluid Control Systems.

This Saturday, Monmouth Thirds make the trip to Pencoed (12.30pm).

Meanwhile, Craig Cook hit an unbeaten 20 and captain Helen McGloin scored 10 in a battling and spirited display from Monmouth Fourths, who went down by seven wickets to Malpas Thirds at Caerleon in Sunday’s Division 13 East fixture.

Captain McGloin anchored Monmouth’s innings of 82-8 on an artificial pitch with an assured 21-over stay at the crease, as the visitors batted their full 40 overs for the first time.

There were also encouraging batting displays from new Spanish recruit Marta Fernandez on her club debut, Sean McCluskey and Becky Townsend.

The returning Patrick Stubbs (1-19) picked up an early wicket, while Jill Jones (1-5) also broke through after a good catch by McCluskey, and a superb piece of fielding from Bea Jones led to a run-out.

Fernandez, in her first-ever hardball match, opened the bowling and delivered a fine four-over spell that cost just 15 runs, while Pablo Nayager, Alun Jeremiah and Bea Jones also impressed with the ball.

Malpas reached 83-3 but Monmouth’s players had a brilliant attitude throughout.

The match was sponsored by Latorre Consultancy and Monmouth Fourths will host Rogerstone Welfare Thirds at Chippenham Fields this Saturday (12.30pm).

Monmouth CC hold their weekly net sessions for senior players on Thursdays at the Sports Ground from 6pm.

To get involved, contact chairman Joe Atkinson by emailing or call 07502347780.