After a run of demoralising defeats which has dragged them into a relegation dogfight, Stony Stratford upset the odds and held on for a gritty draw at home to title chasing Rushton on Saturday.
It was a result which would have been cheered not only at Ostlers Lane, but also as far away as Peterborough, who’s lead at the top of the table was extended thanks to the visitors inability to take the last three Stony wickets.
It was a disciplined opening 35 overs from Stony in the field, which saw Rushton score at under 4 an over and meant that they would have to bat their overs out to post a total Stony wouldn’t get near. Andy Ellemore was extremely unlucky not to claim several wickets in an impressive opening spell and then after Russell White (2-52) claimed the wicket of the dangerous Kieran Pierce, Stony had their tails up.
Skipper Alex Strong (2-51) returned from injury to bowl well for a full 17 overs and at 125-4 from 34 overs, the innings was in the balance. Stony then seemed to lose focus as three chances to get rid of the prolific Andy Reynoldson were grassed and the scoring rate accelerated. Reynoldson made the most of his repeated chances and played brilliantly for a crucial 106, with great support late on from Bradley Armer.
But with little to come in the way of batting after this pair, Stony were left thinking of what might have been had they taken those chances. Rushton recovered well to post 238-5 in 55 overs to take the momentum at the change.
The pitch remained ideal for batting and Stony openers Graham Simpson and Sai Ravikumar looked in no trouble early on against Rushton’s excellent new ball pairing of Marc Jackson and Jake Higginbottom.
Many of Stony’s batting woes have been self- inflicted this season, their inability to judge the pace of an innings proving far more lethal than much of the bowling they have faced this summer.
So with Simpson well set and looking in complete control, he then launched in to an expansive drive which resulted in his stumps being re-arranged by Higginbottom – a dismissal seemingly typical of Stony’s summer.
With their tails now up, Rushton and in particular Higginbottom launched into Stony with everything they had. Ravikumar (10) and Vicram Sohal (6) both fell to the left armer and at 65-4, there was a familiar look to the Stony scorecard.
But for once, there was an unfamiliar outcome thanks in the main to gutsy innings played by Hayden Mullins and Jilash Pattni.
Aussie Mullins has struggled for form of late, but curbed his attacking instincts here to anchor the innings with a very fine 56.
Stony actually got to the 30 overs mark on 99-4 – not far from where Rushton found themselves earlier in the day.
But as soon as they lost Russell White for 10, their chances of winning the game were over. Pattni (26) played Higginbottom as well as anyone all day, showing the experience and calmness under pressure that Stony have desperately lacked for most of the season.
Stony were seemingly cruising with ten overs to go, but then Mullins lost his patience and slog swept Andrew Reynoldson (2-23) straight up in the air to give the visitors fresh hope.
Buoyed by this, Higginbottom came back for one last big effort and cleaned Pattni up with a terrific yorker, but that was as good as it got for Rushton who could only watch on as Alex Strong and Mike Avery comfortably batted out the remaining five overs to give Stony a share of the points on 140-7.