BLETCHLEY Town were denied a crucial victory, but climbed out of the Cherwell League Division One bottom two with a thoroughly deserved winning draw over local rivals Leighton Buzzard.
They may have missed out on taking maximum points, but the 16 that Town did pick up – coupled with a losing draw for relegation rivals Oxford – saw James Clark’s men move out of the drop zone going into the final month of the season.
Bletchley were still disappointed not to win though as a one-hour rain delay shortened the match by nine overs per side which proved pivotal as the hosts ran out of time to bowl Leighton out.
With the Manor Fields pitch having suffered a deluge of rain the previous day, Bletchley were asked to bat first on losing the toss to Leighton captain Phil Whatmore – who brought his side to town on the back of a four-match winning run.
Bletchley openers Graham Simpson and Raj Lall both batted with purpose in the early stages, but in the fifth over a shower passed through to delay play, with the home side on 12-0.
Upon the restart, Bletchley knew they only had 44 overs to bat, but carried on with positive intent. Leighton’s opening attack of Jack Kempster and Dan Scott couldn’t find a way through until Lall mistimed a drive to mid-on for 15. Matt Shepherd then followed cheaply for just a single to Kempster, but Simpson (26) and James Ward looked to build mixing aggression with composure.
With the score on 70, Simpson was adjudged LBW to a delivery from Scott that jagged back for 26. Ward continued to dominate, particularly through the offside, before he chanced his arm to third man, and was run out by a direct hit for 34. And worse was still to follow when Saxon Wright chipped tamely to mid-wicket for a duck.
James Sprittles looked assured for 19, but just as he needed to press on, he hit a wide long hop to point, and when Mark Grass was trapped LBW, Bletchley had collapsed from 101-3 to 113-7.
A stand of 21 between skipper Clark and Abs Premnath gave Bletchley hope until Premnath was out LBW on the sweep. Clark began to find his feet and was upping the tempo until he was the ninth out in the penultimate over for a useful 27.
Jude Ramanadanpulle and number 11 Darren Turner took Bletchley past another batting point with the latter scoring an unbeaten 17 from just six balls including tumultuous maximums off Light and Kempster to lift the hosts to 174-9 in their 44 overs. For Leighton off-spinner Light (4-28) was the pick of the bowlers, with Scott taking 2-44.
Bletchley were confident their total was defendable, even though they were missing star paceman Mark Roberts as they went in search of a much-needed fourth win of the season.
The visitors began their reply without too much alarm, though with the score on 28, Thompson was adjudged LBW to Wright for 14. Whatmore then escaped a very confident LBW shout in his first over to survive and suddenly Bletchley tails were up.
The visitors tried to attack and it was building up to be an intriguing contest. Just as Leighton felt they had wrestled control, Sprittles bowled Light with a beauty to end his innings for 20. In his next over, Sprittles again nipped one through Scott’s defences just clipping the bail to dismiss him for 2.
Whatmore, reprieved in his innings earlier, counter attacked the bowling and forcing Bletchley to change their approach. Simpson replaced Sprittles and Ramanadanpulle came on for the luckless Darren Turner.
And with Ramanadanpulle’s opening delivery, Jack Kempster, who scored 89 in the fixture earlier in the season, was caught at mid-wicket by Sprittles to put Bletchley firmly in the driving seat.
A couple of overs later and that man Ramanadanpulle then got danger-man Whatmore for 28, brilliantly caught by Premnath on the boundary with the low sun in his eyes. Bletchley sensed victory with the visitors rocking on 92-5.
Sprittles came back into the attack and dismissed Benger for a duck. Sam Janes remained firm though and did not give any chances. With time and overs running out, Clark introduced himself and soon had to watch a great chance go begging at mid-off as Ruston was reprieved. However, three overs later, Sprittles removed him for 11, caught by the evergreen Grass.
Long-serving Leighton stumper Tim O’Leary frustrated Bletchley with Janes before O’Leary was forced to retire hurt after pulling his hamstring. However, the time had now run out for Bletchley who couldn’t force the win, with the visitors finishing well-short on 127-7 to take six points for their efforts.
Stony Stratford are in danger of being dragged into an end of season relegation battle after crashing to a fifth successive defeat – this time at home to Northampton Saints by nine wickets.
Saints climbed to the top of the table thanks to their win, but Stony are left looking over their shoulder as the three sides below them all picked up points.
It’s going to be tense end to the season for the Ostlers Lane side as they face a tough last six games and will realistically need to pick up one or two more wins to make sure of keeping their place in the Northants League Premier Division.
Simply scoring enough runs to set a competitive total has been the problem for Stony who were rushed out for just 123 after deciding to bat first. Number eight Chris Guy ended as Stony’s leading scorer on 32 after all but two of those before him failed to make it into double figures.
Openers John Lambe and Mihir Choksi fell for just 25 between them but what followed was nothing less than disastrous with James Pickles (5), Sharn Gomes (3) and Nick Allen (4) failing to make an impression as Stony slumped to 42-6.
Andrew Miller offered resistance with a stubborn 22 off 57 balls, but Prasanna Wijesinghe fell for 0 and after Guy’s efforts only number 11 Stephen Richardson (14) managed to put up a fight as Andy Humphries and Andrew Ellemore went cheaply to Richard Stemp (3-33).
He cut through the tail end but it was Richard Ashton (3-16) who did the most damage with support from Jared Forbes (2-19) as Stony were dismissed for a mere 123 inside 50 overs.
That was never likely to stop the visitors who had already won eight times batting second ahead of their trip to Ostlers Lane. And they made it nine in comfortable fashion with only Dan Harris (34) falling to a fine catch from Allen off Humphries.
Andy Reynoldson (46) and Alec Swann (43) saw Saints to victory on 124-1 after 22 overs, leaving Stony to worry about what’s going on below them in the table ahead of another daunting fixture at Finedon Dolben this Saturday.
Inconsistent is probably the best way to describe Wolverton’s season after they made it five defeats to go with their five wins this term as they took on Long Marston.
Aky Hussain top scored with 56 for Wolverton but the hosts could only manage to set a total of 194, and although Marston struggled, they did enough to edge home on 195-8 to secure a two wicket win.
Great Brickhill remain top of the pile, but only just after they saw off lowly Aston Rowant and all three of their promotion rivals won. Brickhill had been set a reasonable target of 211-9 to win, but that’s exactly what they did on 213-3.
Their seven wicket victory keeps them just a point ahead of Banbury ahead of a local derby with Wolves this Saturday.
Great Brickhill 2nds (218-7) took the majority of the points from their Division Six meeting against near neighbours Bletchley 2nds (136-7) with a knock of 84 from Jones the highlight in the batting department while Boad claimed figures of 4-33 with the ball.
Wolverton 2nds (218) suffered an 11 run defeat to away to Oxford and Bletchingdon 2nds (229).
Four Counties League
MK City took on New Bradwell in probably the most interesting game of the Division One day – and it was second placed City who claimed the spoils to keep their title dream alive.
After winning the toss City invited New Bradwell to bat, and after their opening batsmen fell cheaply it was left to Teemoor Alam to carry their innings as he fired off a spectacular 109 not out as Bradwell set 220-4.
But undeterred, City were more than a match for that with Andrew John (51 not out) Chris Timms (59) firing them to a six wicket victory on 224-4.
However, the bad news for City is that league leaders North Crawley are almost home and dry after they made it 10 wins for the season with a comprehensive victory over Olney Town by 169 runs.
Crawley set a target of 249-9 as Glenn Young top scored on 72, and his side were then in devastating form with the bat as Olney were bowled out for 80 – Richard Bryce (8-3) returning the best figures.
Elsewhere, Milton Keynes (227-8) earned a winning draw in their game against Newport Pagnell (149-7) as Ebharim (72) led the scoring for MK.