BLETCHLEY Town’s recent good run in Cherwell League Division One came to an abrupt end when they lost by six wickets at home to high-flying Cumnor.
After the heavy overnight rain on Friday, it was going to be an important toss of the coin which Cumnor’s captain Sam Jones won and had no hesitation in asking Bletchley to bat first.
The going was tough early on against the visiting attack who probed away with good line and discipline. The scoring rate was slow as openers Graham Simpson and Matt Shepherd were watchful against the moving ball.
Shepherd was the first to go when he tried to work a ball to leg from Dane Bailey and was trapped in front for seven. Ian Smith – promoted up the order after leading Town to victory against Leighton Buzzard last time out – looked in good shape and was starting to find his feet until he was given out caught at slip, despite the ball seemingly hitting the ground straight off his bat. It was a strange decision that left Smith bewildered as he trudged off for eight.
Mark Grass went in to unsettle the Cumnor attack, and the ploy initially worked well as he and Simpson fought back. Runs were still hard to come by though, as even though the pitch was easing, the outfield and good bowling made it difficult for Bletchley.
Grass had made his way to 18 when – with the score on 73 from 30 overs – he was adjudged LBW to Jones. James Clark then came to the crease and in conjunction with Simpson tried to up the ante for Bletchley. Simpson was starting to time the ball well and passed his first half century of the season before, just when he looked like cutting loose, he hit a return catch to off-spinner Adam Cook which he gleefully accepted.
Town were 112-4 with Simpson out for 55 and there were still 15 overs to play. Ed Packard, playing his first game of the season after damaging his cruciate ligaments at the end of the last campaign, looked a little rusty as he drove Shillaker to cover for just a single.
Saxon Wright was up, and with Clark still carefully compiling at the other end, the pair added 28 for the sixth wicket as Wright looked to attack. His ambitions were thwarted though when he was stumped for 15.
This precipitated a spectacular collapse as the lower order folded without much resistance to Adam Cook (3-50) and left-arm spinner Joe Shillaker (4-36) as Bletchley were bowled out for a below-par 152. Bletchley skipper Clark was left stranded, unbeaten on 26, as Bletchley failed to capitalise on the hard work done by Simpson and others at the start.
Bletchley knew they had to get quick wickets as Cumnor’s much vaunted batting line-up had chased successfully in recent matches. With James Sprittles absent, Mark Roberts took the new ball with Wright, and was desperately unlucky not to have Matt Lake out LBW on at least two occasions as the visitors’ openers rode their luck.
With such a small target, any bad ball was duly punished as the pitch became easier to bat on, and Bletchley could not exert any pressure. Clark turned to Darren Turner and Simpson to try and get the breakthrough.
Turner bowled an excellent spell, regularly beating the bat, but without success. Simpson did manage to get Bletchley a wicket when he bowled Lake for 26. But in-form Sam Jones – fresh from a century against Bourton Vale last time out – looked in good touch and was using his feet to great effect as the runs started to add up. Bletchley continued to probe away but were unable to stem the tide of runs. Simpson picked up a second wicket when he bowled Jimmy Lee for 29, but Cumnor were 98-2 and looking good.
Ricardo Brown was brought into the attack from the Rugby Ground End, and immediately found turn, troubling Jones and Cook. In his third over he struck twice to give his side hope. First of all he tempted Cook into an uncharacteristic shot that hung in the air for some time whilst Turner, running backwards from mid-on, watched and claimed a spectacular tumbling catch.
Then with the very next ball Brown’s fizzing delivery hit the very top of Jones’ off stump to dismiss him for 38. Cumnor still needed 30, but Bletchley couldn’t force another breakthrough as Williams and Douglas serenely made the runs necessary to take the visitors home by six wickets.
Despite the result, there were some encouraging signs, such as Simpson’s return to form and the bowling of Brown.