Stony Stratford took a huge step towards securing their NCL Premier Division status on Saturday with a comfortable five wicket win at bottom side Burton Latimer.
It was Stony’s third win of what has been a difficult campaign, but it has opened a 64 point gap over their rivals in the battle to face the drop into Division 1.
Stony skipper Alex Strong decided that bowling first was the right tactic and he’d have been satisfied to see the hosts rolled over for 162 just inside 55 overs.
Burton got off to a solid start, in fact getting to 61 before they lost their first wicket. The Burton top order all got starts, but opener Daniel Bird’s 30 was the highest score made by the home side as the early promise of their innings was pegged back by a strong Stony bowling performance.
Strong was excellent, taking 2-13 from ten overs, whilst all rounder Russell White completed the first part of a match winning performance with 3 for 26 with the new ball.
Spinners Vicram Sohal (3-40) and Steve Richardson (2-42) were economical and slowed much of the momentum in the Burton innings.
162 was unlikely to be enough, but against a Stony side who have struggled desperately with the bat this season and on their home patch with so much at stake, Burton would have felt they were well in the game at the half way point.
Stony included Northants and England Under 19 star Ben Duckett in their side for the first time in the league this season, but he was one of three early wickets to fall as Stony made an inauspicious and nervy start to their chase.
When Sai Ravikumar departed for 13, Stony were 32 for 3 and the batting fragility which has crippled them this season looked like it might prove costly here again.
But Stony showed real grit on this occasion and a partnership of 69 for the fourth wicket between Mark Hulbert (35) and Sohal (33) swung the contest back into the hands of the visitors.
Batting was getting harder and two wickets for Burton with the score on 101 put the game back in the balance. It was a time for cool heads, and fortunately the coolest on the field belonged to Russell White.
Deciding that the deteriorating wicket meant that attack was the best policy, he produced a match winning innings of 46 from only 30 balls to make sure Stony left with the points.
Skipper Strong (15*) was there at the end, the pair adding 65 to see Stony home in 40 overs.
Whilst Stony will be breathing a little easier after this result, Burton should not be counted out of mounting a late season survival charge. They have been in similar positions in the last several seasons and have always found a way to survive and with nine games remaining, there is a lot of cricket to be played.
Stony face a much stiffer test against a strong Old Northamptonians side at Campbell Park this week.
Stony’s 2nd XI have been in fine form of late, surging to the top of the Division 2 table. But their progress was slightly halted on Saturday after hanging on for a draw at home to Wellingborough Indians.
Stony asked the visitors to bat first and after taking four quick wickets, they would have been slightly disappointed to have allowed the Indians to post 199.
Leg spinner Jamie Baxter was the most successful of the Stony bowlers, claiming 4 for 65 and there were two wickets for the impressive young left armer Sam Sibley. Stony’s reply was decimated by Hitesh Sharma, who’s 5 for 21 threatened to roll the leaders over for under 100. B
ut two more Stony youngsters, Jamie Walsh (37) and Henry Charter (29) batted excellently to solidify the Stony innings.
In the end, with nine wickets down, last man Sibley played an excellent unbeaten knock of 19 to leave Stony on 155 and with a share of the points.
Stony lie in second in what is looking like a promotion battle which will go to the wire.
Stony 3rds just can’t stop winning at the moment and they thrashed Wellingborough Indians 2nds to stay in 2nd place in Division 5.
Batting first, they posted 189 for 7 mainly thanks to 62 from Nabeel Ahmed, 30 from veteran Stuart Gulliver and 32 from Alex Stockton.
With the Indians last man unable to bat, only nine wickets were required for Stony and they quickly got them.
The home side were left well short on 94 with Neil Fewtrell, George Collins and Ben Arnold all claiming three wickets apiece.