STONY Stratford are keeping up the pressure on the Northants League Premier Division leading pack and earned a comfortable six wicket win against bottom side Horton House.
That was a fourth victory in eight games for Stony who remain fifth in the table but only 38 points adrift of surprise early pace-setters Brixworth.
Stony skipper Steve Bellew won the toss and asked opposite number Jack Johnson to bat first. Bellew and Stony were rewarded almost instantly when the left armer had Michael Richardson caught by Prassana Wijesinghe off the second ball of the game.
But it didn’t all go Stony’s way early on with Johnson arriving at the crease and taking the attack to Bellew. The captain withdrew himself and brought on Habib Ullah with the score on 51-1 from 12 overs. And the bowling change did the trick, with first Johnson being bowled by Ullah for 28 and then Mihir Choksi taking a fine catch to remove Richard Faulkner off Dave Avery for 19 with the score still on 51.
Horton were still intent on attack and their attitude was personified by James Reynolds who came in and looked to launch as much as possible through and over the covers from his first ball. Along with Alastair Craig, Reynolds got his side right back in the game, smashing 44 from 37 deliveries.
The pair put on 50 before Reynolds was eventually dismissed, crashing Ullah to mid off where Richard Scott took the catch. But the ball was hit with such force that Scott fractured a finger in the process and will be out of action for several weeks as a result.
The scoring rate was moving along nicely for Horton but they were made to pay for their recklessness as they collapsed from 147-5 to 192 all out.
Sharn Gomes, who has been the star of the show with the bat this season, also got in on the act with the ball by claiming 3-44 to take the heart out of the Horton middle order. He took the key wicket of Craig for 45, and with Bellew’s fine returning spell of 3-15 in nine overs, Horton crumbled to 192.
That was unlikely to be enough on a flat Ostlers Lane wicket, although much would depend on how Stony dealt with Northants paceman Luke Evans. Signed from Durham last year, Evans claimed five wickets on his championship debut and was making a return from injury for his club side.
Evans did bowl with considerable pace and bounce, but Stony openers Gomes and Mihir Choksi both played him well. They looked in great touch and the score had reached 55 in the 12th over when Gomes’ apparently water tight defences were breached by a fairly innocuous delivery from Will Smith – Gomes bowled for 30.
There were a couple more wobbles for Stony when Richard Scott (15) and Tom Moore (8) were dismissed just as they began to look comfortable, Stony now 98-3. But with plenty of overs to score the runs and with the run rate constantly above four an over, Horton never threatened to bowl Stony out.
Choksi, who has endured a tough start to the season by his standards showed his real class, first reaching 50 and then going on to see Stony home. Nick Allen came in and crashed two huge sixes off Tom Seckington before falling for 14 trying to belt another.
Stony had no intention of getting home with singles. Jarrod Pretorius joined Choksi and they put on 61 in quick fashion. Johnson re-introduced Evans to the attack, but Pretorius in particular dealt with him savagely, playing several brilliant pull-shots to end the game 26 not out, while Choksi was unbeaten on 98 and Stony cruised to victory on 193-4 in just 35 overs.