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BLETCHLEY Town’s fight to stay in Division One suffered a potentially fatal blow as they were beaten by fellow strugglers Banbury 2nds on Saturday.
Their five-wicket defeat leaves Bletchley bottom of the table and 30 points adrift of safety with only five matches remaining, the first of those away to second placed Great & Little Tew this weekend.
Banbury 2nds won the toss at White Post Road and asked Bletchley to bat first on a pitch offering assistance to seam bowlers
Paul Strong and Matt Shepherd started slowly as they struggled to get anything to hit from impressive opening bowlers James Risbridger and Ollie Wright.
Bletchley lost their first wicket in the 13th over when Shepherd was adjudged caught off a ball which took a big deflection off his pad. Shortly after a rain shower reduced the match by 10 overs, and on the restart Town lost Strong LBW after dispatching Wright for a couple of boundaries for 18.
James Sprittles (13) and Jude Ramanadanpulle (4) followed soon after to Wright as Banbury dominated the opening quarter. Skipper James Clark came in at six and hit a quick-fire 20, all off Wright until he was involved in a calamitous run out with Kenny Hollis (14) which saw both batters at the same end to leave Town on 82-5 with 18 overs remaining.
Hollis could not make up for his error and was caught by Ben Stafford on the boundary for 14 off the bowling of veteran Paul Hill.
Mark Grass and Ben Talbot soon followed as the visitors struggled to make inroads, although James Ward started to show signs of form as he crafted a well-made unbeaten 29 to sensibly see Town through a couple of batting points.
Ricardo Brown also hung around for a useful 10 as Bletchley closed their innings on a below-par 136-9 in their 48 overs. For Banbury, Ollie Wright, who has played most of the season in the Home Counties Premier League, showed his class and was the pick of the bowlers with 5-65.
In reply, Bletchley began in lively fashion, reducing the hosts to 8-2 in the first few overs as opening pair Clark and Sprittles both struck to remove Wirth and Gimber respectively for ducks.
And it would have been even better if Shepherd had held onto a sharp chance behind the stumps to dismiss Sabin, but it was still a good start by the visitors.
There was a blow to Bletchley when Clark was forced to limp out of the attack with a hamstring strain, though his replacement Wasim Fayyaz struck in his third over when Banbury skipper Ed Phillips was caught at mid-wicket.
However, the experienced Sabin (30) in partnership with New Zealand under 19 prospect Anish Desai began to chip away at the target, as Bletchley sought further breakthroughs.
Sprittles replaced Fayyaz at the Pavilion End and had Sabin well caught by Shepherd behind to leave the home side on 71-4.
Bletchley were still well in the game, but Desai in combination with Will Briggs (26 not out) began to apply the pressure and Town – missing crucial bowling options – could not respond, and a partnership of 65 between the pair put Banbury on the brink.
With the scores level, Fayyaz trapped Desai for a match-winning 60 and the home side made it safe to record their first win of the season with just two overs to spare.
Fayyaz and Sprittles took two wickets apiece, but Bletchley were sadly missing a spark, especially without the experience of Simpson and Roberts in their bowling ranks, and went down by five wickets.
Bletchley now face a Great & Little Tew side who have won four on the bounce and are still in the hunt for the league title, with Clarke’s men desperate to pick up some points to keep their survival hopes alive.
>> Great Brickhill remain fourth in the top tier despite losing their game against leaders Horpath to the rain.
Brickhill looked solid on 126-4 after 31 overs thanks to a good knock from skipper Graeme Carter (45 not out).
However, as the clouds rolled over, rain prevented play continuing, and both sides had to settle for six points apiece. Brickhill visit local rivals Leighton Buzzard Town on Saturday.
Wolverton Town suffered an 80-run loss away to Oxford 2nds, but remain fourth in the Division Two table.
The hosts opened with a strong 252-8, but despite Wolves giving it a good go, they fell short with 172 and will hope for better when they visit Sandford St Martin next time.
Wolverton Town 2nds (163) remain top of Division Six thanks to an 84-run victory over Cropredy 2nds (79).
That win saw Wolves extend their lead at the top of the table to 30 points as nearest rivals Great Brickhill 2nds (161-9) suffered a losing draw to Sandford St Martin (206-5).
LEAGUE leaders Peterborough Town were too good for Stony Stratford on Saturday as they ran out 118-run winners at Ostlers Lane.
A shock seemed on the cards when Stony had the visitors wobbling at 29-4 with Steve Bellew (3-17) doing the most damage to the Peterborough top order.
However, good middle order knocks by Lewis Bruce (59) and Paul McMahon (56) got the table toppers back on track as they went on to set a half decent total of 193, with Kevin Wijesinghe returning 4-61.
Stony’s reply got off to a disappointing start as Richard Scott departed for just 5, but a great effort from Alex Strong (42) got the home team going as others, including Nick Allen (0), fell around him.
But Paul McMahon (5-12) proved the hero for Peterborough as he and Marcus Stoinis (4-24) combined to dismiss Stony for just 75, seeing them sit fifth in the table ahead of a trip to second placed Northampton Saints.
four counties league
THE Division One title race has just got a little more interesting after North Crawley earned a 44-run victory over league leaders MK City to cut the gap between the sides to less than 30 points.
In a surprisingly low scoring game, home side North Crawley opened up with 159-8 as Richard Bryce (34) led the scoring.
But that proved enough as Dean Bryce (5-23) produced an inspired performance to restrict City to only 115 in reply. The visitors got off to a good start through Chris Timms (33) and Jin Lall (26), but it was all down hill after that as City were seen off in 26 overs.
Elsewhere Milton Keynes (147) lost out to Newport Pagnell (151-8) by two wickets, thanks to a fine unbeaten half century from Brian Schmidt, while New City (247-6) beat basement boys New Bradwell (155) by 92 runs – Dharmesh Mistry hitting 75 of them.
Cranfield University’s (101) promotion push suffered a blow when they went down to Milton Bryan (103-5) by five wickets.
Open University (90-4) beat Aylesbury Town (88) by six wickets and Old Bradwell (145-4) suffered a losing draw to Thurleigh (189-8).
Willen (210-7) are sitting pretty at the top of the table after a nine-run win against New Bradwell 2nds (201) as North Crawley 2nds (100-2) beat Wilden (99-9) by eight wickets.
Westcroft (63) saw off Harlington (62) by a single run, New City 2nds (176-9) lost out to Tring Park 4ths (179-7) by three wickets, and Milton Keynes 2nds (194-5) suffered a losing draw to Printers (216-7).
Elsewhere Old Bradwell 2nds (208) had a losing draw against Elstow 2nds (243-7) in Division Five and Wolverton 3rds (203-8) beat Thurleigh 2nds (126-9) by 77 runs in Division Six.