BLETCHLEY Town’s Cherwell League campaign ended with defeat at Oxford Downs on Saturday, despite a spirited effort from Raj Lall in particular.
Their six-wicket loss means Town finish the Division One season in ninth place – one off the bottom – and will have to rebuild for life in the second tier next summer.
James Clark, in his last game as captain of Bletchley, won the toss and elected to bat first on a fine day in Standlake. Downs opened up with former Dorset all-rounder Simon Watkins’ off-spin, and he soon had the visitors in trouble – making light work of makeshift opener Mark Roberts for just 8, before Matt Shepherd departed for 10 and Kenny Hollis for a duck.
Runs were hard to come by, but Lall looked in good touch as Town opted for a more patient approach. However, Jude Ramanadanpulle was caught off Lester Smart, who then had James Ward caught behind for a duck in what may well be his last appearance for the club following his announcement of retirement. And when Patrick Scholte was bowled by Watkins, Bletchley were in disarray at 53-6.
Town’s batting has been the main reason for their struggles this season, but Lall found a capable ally in Clark, and they set about rebuilding the innings to put on 56 for the seventh wicket, as Lall brought up his half-century.
When Clark departed for 18, Bletchley had surpassed the 100-mark. Ben Talbot came in and also gave excellent support to Lall who was starting to dominate the attack.
Bletchley were running out of overs and Lall was eighth out for an excellent 85 – a great innings which showed what he could deliver in a disappointing season.
Fayyaz and Chapman went cheaply as Bletchley were all out for 154 with an over to spare. For Downs, Smart took 2-33 and Watkins showed his pedigree with 6-57.
Downs’ reply got off to a slow start as Mark Roberts, making only his second appearance since July, in partnership with Wasim Fayyaz put the brakes on.
With the score on 13, Roberts struck twice as Wingfield-Digby was hurried by a shorter ball and could only fend to Matt Shepherd, stationed at square leg. And the same pair combined to dismiss Will Watts to leave Downs on 13-2.
James Ellwood started cautiously and Downs were struggling to keep up with the rate when James Florey departed LBW to Fayyaz on the sweep for just 3. And after 20 overs, the visitors were right on top.
However, Bletchley’s absence of several bowling options began to tell, with Ellwood and Watkins starting to hit their stride. The bowlers were rotated as Town desperately sought a breakthrough, but Downs began to coast to their target as they accelerated in the last 10 overs of their innings.
The only other wicket to fall came courtesy of youngster Nick Chapman, as bowling his first delivery in first team cricket, he clean bowled Watkins for 60. It was too little too late, but a moment to savour for Chapman before Downs reached 155-4 to win by six wickets.
Roberts took 2-40, and Fayyaz bowled tightly for 1-32 from 14 overs for Bletchley, but it was not their day as Ellwood saw his side home unbeaten on 68.
Town’s relegation has brought some big changes to the playing personnel as the mainstays of the team over the past decade will move on. Ward and Mark Grass have announced their retirements from the game, while Clark has stepped down as skipper and Roberts has moved out of the area.
The club are looking to harness the talent of young upcoming players from the local vicinity and will press forward with plans to re-profile the first team for the 2013 season. New members will be made welcome as Bletchley look to the future to regenerate the progress the club has made off the field, on the pitch next season.
Great Brickhill secured a superb third place finish in their debut Division One season, and finished in style with an eight wicket victory over Oxford & Bletchingdon Nondescripts.
The visitors were bowled out for just 156 as Brickhill’s Doug Aris (5-39) and Garth Davson (3-64) produced strong bowling spells.
And the home side’s win was sealed in comfortable fashion as Garth Davson (77) and Nick Cadman (47 not out) fired off the winning runs as Brickhill closed on 157-2.
Wolverton Town’s excellent Division Two season ended with victory over Tiddington by 54 runs and a fifth place finish.
Asim Hussain top scored on 30 as the hosts made 194, but Zaheer Khan (7-29) was to be the match winner as he helped bowl Tiddington out for just 140 in reply, finishing the season in style for Wolves.
A close battle for the Division Six title eventually saw Great Brickhill 2nds finish top, with Wolverton Town 2nds slipping to third place behind Twyford 2nds.
A 177-run win for Brickhill against Wolves in late August proved the catalyst for their league success, and a final day draw with Twyford – who could still have snatched the title – was enough to give them the crown. The home side made 222-8, but Brickhill held firm to close on 176-4 and take the trophy that looked to be heading to Wolverton for most of the year.
Wolves (187-7) finished with a draw against Bletchley Town 2nds (102-9) who end the season in ninth place, one off the foot.
Stony Stratford will close their Northants League Premier Division season with a home game against Rushton on Saturday, with a strong mid-table finish already secure.
Last year’s relegation fight is now a distant memory, although Stony did taste defeat to Wellingborough Town by 99 runs last time out. The home side made 285-9 and Stony were dismissed for just 186 in reply, despite a spirited effort by Rob Keogh (61).