Whatever the sport, there are times when no matter how well you play, you just come up against a side that bit better than you are on the day.
That was the case for Stony Stratford in last week’s three wicket Northants Cricket League Premier Division defeat to Northampton Saints. In what turned out to be an excellent game of cricket, Stony firstly batted superbly to post their highest score of the season.
They followed that with a bowling and fielding performance which would have been too much for lesser opposition, but they came up against a Saints batting line up which had just about enough to eek out the win at the end of an exciting day’s cricket.
A few eyebrows were raised when having won the toss, visiting captain Chris Park elected to field first on another road of a wicket at Campbell Park.
Saints strength this season is their formidable batting line up and so it was something of a surprise that they gave Stony first use of the surface.
Of course, Park was proved right in the end - but he would have had his doubts during the tea break after Stony had amassed 232-6 in their 55 overs. In the corresponding fixture earlier in the season, Stony were humiliated by Saints who bowled them out for a paltry 41 so perhaps Park sensed a similar outcome by taking the ball first.
That performance marked the low point of Stony’s batting woes of earlier this summer, which have in no small way been erased by the arrival of Northants youngsters Russell White and Vicram Sohal.
The pair have both contributed regularly with the willow in recent weeks and did so again here. Sohal played his best knock of the season and looked set for a first hundred in Stony colours before he was trapped LBW off the bowling of Neil Stanley for 80.
White, fresh of a half century in last week’s win against Oundle, was excellent again here. Coming in at 5, he kept the momentum of the innings going when Sohal departed, finishing unbeaten at the end on 68.
Earlier, opener Tom Moore (35) looked almost back to his best after a recent lean run of form, playing nicely against the new ball before falling to an excellent catch at slip from the bowling of Corbyn Dolley.
The South African was the most successful of the Saints bowlers, taking 3-59.
Stony would have settled for that score at the start of play, but when the opposition contains players of the class of Alec Swann, you can never post too many runs to chase. Swann is a sedate, calm cricketer, not at all reminiscent of younger brother and England star Graham in many ways, but a fine cricketer in his own right, as his first class statistics show.
He’s the sort of player who doesn’t do anything flash, but before you know, has fifty to his name. As was the case here. Stony opening bowler Steve Bellew is an old team mate of Swann’s from junior cricket, but any friendship was quickly put aside here as a closely fought contest ensued between Swann and Stony’s attack.
Bellew fired the first shot, bowling Swann’s opening partner Dan Harris for 13. But that was to be his only success of the day as Swann clearly won the battle and set about creating a winning position for his side.
When Tom Bradbeer was bowled by White for 3, the score was 37-2 and Stony were edging in front. But Swann and youngster Joe Collins then weathered the storm before taking the game away from the home side with a fine partnership of 125.
Stony bowled and fielded well during this period, and skipper Alex Strong tried seven bowlers in his search for the breakthrough. But Northants youngster Collins was an ideal foil for Swann, who was now looking to push the score on at pace.
An uncharacteristic slog brought his innings to an end when on 69 and this sparked a late flurry of Saints wickets. Collins soon followed for 65 and not long after, skipper Park’s busy innings of 25 was ended by Tyler Lorton, who took two wickets in two balls to leave Saints with 11 still needed and three wickets left.
In the end, they got home without further alarm, as Stony bowled some loose stuff perhaps trying too hard for the final wickets. The defeat was Stony’s seventh of the season.
Stony lie in lower mid table with six games to go, but could well have a say in the outcome of the title as they face both of the top two in the next three weeks.
Graham Simpson was the star for Stony 2nds as he crashed 113 in a thrilling four wicket win against Rushden 2nds which went down to the final over.
Stony 3rds also beat Badby by seven wickets.