Near neighbours Bletchley Town and Great Brickhill will meet in the Cherwell League Division One next summer after both sides booked their place in the top flight for next term on Saturday.
Bletchley secured survival in Division One thanks to a final day of the season thrashing of Bourton Vale and the right results elsewhere, while Great Brickhill held off their rivals to claim the Division Two title after victory against Sandford St Martin.
Bletchley’s path to safety was not a simple one as the outcome of the Home Counties League season would also have a bearing on the Cherwell League as either two or three sides would be relegated due to geographical reasons, and James Clark’s men went into their final game at Manor Fields sitting third from bottom.
But as long as they picked up more points than Leighton Buzzard it would not matter what happened elsewhere, and so it proved as they demolished lowly Bourton Vale by 10 wickets while Leighton were beaten by Shipton who secured the league title. However, final games involving Reading and Thame in the Home Counties League saw results go in Leighton’s favour, meaning they also survived and give Town and Great Brickhill another local derby to look forward to next year.
Bletchley could not have asked for better final day opposition than poor Bourton Vale who were emphatically dismissed for just 77, thanks largely to a devastating spell from Mark Roberts who ended with figures of 5-34.
Bletchley openers Graham Simpson and Raj Lall then made light work of the chase, getting home inside just 13 overs, with Simpson unbeaten on 33 and Lall 28 not out.
And when the news filtered through that Shipton had demolished Leighton by eight wickets, Bletchley knew they were safe. And fortunately for Buzzard, Thame scrambled a win over Horspath to survive, meaning that Horspath were relegated to the Cherwell League for the 2012 season, while Reading have been relegated to the Thames Valley League after defeat to Gerrards Cross. But after seeing his side escape the drop in such dramatic circumstance, skipper Clark says major improvements are needed in order to avoid a similar fate in 2012.
He said: “There are still several areas for great concern which could harm our future. Although we have a few juniors coming through, we need to increase our membership and recruit budding youngsters who want an opportunity to play at the highest level in the local area.
“These could be players who already play in the Cherwell League, and I know there are many excellent players in the Four Counties League who could make the step up to the Cherwell. Just look at Raj Lall who joined from New Bradwell – he’s been given his opportunity and has become an important member of the first team.
“But I’m extremely proud of all the players and delighted we have secured seventh position in the table given our meagre resources. The players should take great credit for their performances in recent weeks. We have stuck together to earn our right to play in Division One next season and I want to congratulate Brickhill on their promotion – it’s good for local cricket to have such a strong presence in the top division.”
Brickhill’s promotion to the top flight was confirmed with an eight wicket win at Sandford St Martin.
The hosts were sent packing for 129 and Brickhill cruised over the winning line on 130-2, making it a remarkable fourth consecutive promotion for the villagers.
Stony fearing the drop
Stony Stratford are preparing for arguably the club’s biggest game in a decade as they hope to preserve their 10-year stay in the Northants League Premier Division.
Stony visit bottom side Burton Latimer after slumping to an eighth straight defeat at home to Rushton on Saturday. The only good piece of news for the Ostlers Lane club was that the two sides below them in the table also lost, but defeat to Burton Latimer in their penultimate match of the season could see them drop into the one relegation place, with second bottom Rushden taking on Wollaston.
The odds are still in their favour though as Stony host Brixworth on the final day of the campaign next weekend while their two rivals both have tough away games.
Defeat number eight on the spin came by three wickets to Rushton who saw Stony all out for just 156 after winning the toss and deciding to bowl. Once again Stony failed to set a defendable total and the signs were always looking bleak after two of their top three batsmen were out for no score – opener James Pickles and captain Jarrod Pretorius facing just three balls between them. They were taken out by Marc Jackson as he raced through Stony’s top order to record figures of 6-46.
Mihir Choksi tried his best to hold the innings together but was out for 46, and in the absence of top scorer Sharn Gomes – who as returned to his native South Africa in the hope of securing a professional contract with the Cape Cobras – only Chris Swain was able to make a score of note with 37.
Number 10 Habib Ullah held on to score 20, but Stony were dismissed for 156 and another defeat seemed almost inevitable. It was not quite that simple for the visitors though as David Avery led the fightback in spectacular fashion by dismissing Rushton’s two openers on the way to claiming 4-29, supported well by Ullah (3-53).
The pair reduced Rushton to just 113-7 and suddenly there was hope for Stony. However, the visitors were saved by their tail end as Tony Hall (25 no) and Bradley Armer (27 no) held on in the face of great pressure from Stony’s bowlers to earn their side the win on 161-7, while Burton lost to title challenge Peterborough and Rushden to Brixworth.
Four Counties League
Champions North Crawley made history on Saturday as they joined Wolverton in being the only sides to go the whole Four Counties League Division One season unbeaten
Crawley finished the job in style by beating New Bradwell by 46 runs after captain Richard Bryce led the scoring on 40 as they set a modest target of 160.
However, it’s with the ball in hand that Crawley have impressed most this season and Colin Bonnett saw them to victory by returning 4-15 to see New Bradwell fall short on 114, despite Alan Quelch’s (42) efforts.
MK City have done their best to catch Crawley and finished the year with a four wicket win against Milton Keynes who were put to the sword for 173 with only Sam Hagger (64) making an impression. After a poor start Iqbal John (69) then fired City to victory on 174-6.
Elsewhere Olney Town (199) were 54 run winners over Studham (145) in their final game of the season.
New City may have failed to catch league winners Eggington Foresters, but it’s still been an excellent season for the team who finished with a five wicket win over Milton Bryan.
The hosts set a decent target of 194-9, but New City were in superb scoring from Vishal Naik (45) was the best of the bunch as they took the win on 198-5.
Cranfield University (221-8) beat Buckland & Aston Clinton (141) by 80 runs while Shenly Church End’s (166-7) season ended with a losing draw against Old Bradwell (177).
Runners-up Open University and third placed North Crawley played out a draw in their final game. Hosts OU reached 179-5, with Ivan Parkin (55) their top scorer, after Crawley had set a strong target of 224 with Max Jordan producing a fine knock of 90.
New Bradwell (214) finished with a seven wicket loss away to Wilden (216-3) and Willen (84) went down by six wickets to Stewkley Vicarage (85-4).
Milton Keynes enjoyed a superb second half of the season and beat Drayton Parslow by 132 runs to end in style. Brian Tompkins was the star of the show as he fired off 111 as MK set a commanding 313-6. Drayton then succumbed to 181 after Keith Brady (4-31) did the damage.
Newport Pagnell’s (115) terrible season came to an end with a 96 run defeat to Whitchurch (211-7).
New City (173) leapfrogged over Wing into second place on the final day thanks to a 19 run win against Stony Stratford (154) while Olney Town (93-4) beat Wing (92) by six wickets. Old Bradwell (203-5) had an 84 run win over Wolverton (119).
The final day saw North Crawley (101-3) get the better of local rivals Great Brickhill (97) in a seven wicket win and Bletchley Town (160-8) lost out to Thurleigh (163-3) by seven wickets.
Bucks County Cup
Wolverton Town face Tring Park in the Bucks Cup final at Burnham CC on Saturday, 1pm start.
Wolves booked their place in the final thanks to a great three wicket win over final hosts and cup holders Burnham in their earlier semi-final, but skipper Jamil Raja admitted his side are underdogs to win.