Stony Stratford’s mid season run of good form was brought to a shuddering halt after a dreadful batting display saw them surrender the points to Horton House on Saturday.
In what was an almost carbon copy of the same fixture from last season, Stony inexplicably folded against a mediocre attack having earlier bowled the home side out for a very gettable total, skittled for less than 100 after a strong bowling display put them in contention for victory.
It was a performance which left players and supporters scratching their heads in search of an explanation, but perhaps bears the hallmarks of a young side still learning their trade with the bat at this level.
The day started well for Stony as their much lauded bowling attack once again did the job of running through the opposition to give their batsmen a relatively easy target to chase on what was an extremely docile Denton Road wicket. Steve Bellew lead from the front, bowling his seventeen overs virtually straight through as the Horton batsmen struggled from the off against another strong bowling performance from Stony.
Russell White (1-18) continued his fine form with the ball, bowling with considerable pace and hostility and soon grabbing the first wicket of the day, Akash Shah caught behind for 1. Bellew then trapped fellow opener Nick Barden in front for 4 and at 12-2, Stony were off and running.
A stand of 55 between the impressive Elliot Ruff (42) and Charlie McDonnel stabilised the Horton innings, but when Bellew had Ruff well caught by James Pickles at point, a collapse of sorts followed with Horton falling from 65-2 to 81-6.
With Bellew finishing with 3-23, Tyler Lorton was brought into the attack and his leg spin caused all sorts of problems for the Horton tail, the South African claiming 4-28 as Horton desperately tried to push the total on.
That they reached 155 before losing their final wicket in the end represented a strong recovery from the tail and would prove to be more than enough – mainly thanks to a steady 36 from Lee Hilton and 20 late on from veteran Paul Ruff. Off spinner Vicram Sohal finished with 2-46 for Stony.
The batting woes that had marked Stony’s patchy start to the season looked to have been a thing of the past in recent weeks, with substantial totals being posted and a target of over 200 easily reached in last week’s win against Wellingborough.
But, the old frailty reared it’s head again as Stony produced the sort of performance with the willow that we have become accustomed to seeing from the touring Australians this summer.
Horton’s attack does contain one serious threat in the huge form of Northamptonshire’s Luke Evans and the big paceman did serious damage to the Stony innings early on.
He accounted for Lorton (11), Tom Moore (8) and Sohal for a first ball duck on his way to 3-22 from eight quick and decisive overs.
To say that the rest of the Horton attack proved less of a threat would be something of an understatement, but Stony found some interesting ways to lose their wickets along the way which compensated for any deficiencies in the home bowling.
Graham Simpson had got off to a solid start before leaving a ball that struck his middle and leg stump and then Sean Rebbetts, who likewise had started well, ran himself out going for a suicidal and completely unnecessary second run.
In fairness to these two, nearly all the Stony order were culpable in their downfall, with none of the wickets to fall really being down to anything other than poor shots.
A huge downpour then hit the ground with Stony in dire straights on 72-8 and for an hour, looked as if it may save the visitors’ blushes.
But a brief gap in the weather allowed the sides to retake the field for the ten minutes that were required for Horton to mop up the last two wickets as Stony fell to 80 all out and a loss that they will look to quickly put behind them.
They now go into a run of games against some of the league’s top sides, beginning this Saturday at home to Oundle.
Oundle bowled Stony out for just 60 earlier in the summer, but will be without South African paceman Petrus Jefta for the return fixture at Campbell Park.
Jefta took seven wickets in that game earlier this summer but has been banned for the rest of the season after bowling an intentional beamer during a recent game against table toppers Finedon.
Stony will still need to markedly improve with the bat to gain revenge for the defeat earlier in the year.