Stony Stratford on Northants League title mission

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Stony Stratford Cricket Club begin their Northants League Premier Division campaign in unfamiliar surroundings this Saturday, but with big plans for the future.

Stony entertain Wollaston at their adopted Campbell Park home, desperate to get off to a winning start after last year’s strong end to the season that saw them finish in mid-table.

The previous campaign had brought a nervous relegation scrap, but Stony are looking to start challenging at the top of the table in the near future, and hopes are high that their move to CMK will help them do just that.

Stony haven’t been able to compete with the league’s big spenders like Northampton Saints, Finedon Dolben and Peterborough throughout a largely successful decade in the NCL top flight. But playing at arguably the best ground in the league will now give the club a different type of advantage, according to chairman Mike Smith.

“Playing on the best wicket in the league is going to help our batsmen score runs, and make our bowlers work harder to get people out,” he said.

“We have a five-year plan to get us where we need to be to start challenging for the title and we started that last year.

“I think we have recruited a good squad and also have a promising youth set-up. But it might take us a while to be able to challenge the big sides. We’ve had a few good victories over them through the years, but never consistent enough to challenge at the top.

“We’ve also had a couple of scraps near the bottom which hasn’t been good. So we’re all keen to have a good season this year, and hopefully finish in at least mid-table again.”

The miserable weather at the start of spring hasn’t made Stony’s preparations for the new season easy, but they did enjoy a comfortable win in their first competitive outing on Saturday.

Andrew Miller top scored on 55 as Stony reached 214-8 in their Bucks County Cup first round game against Bledlow Village at Ostlers Lane.

There was also an excellent 37 from young bowler Andrew Ellemore who went on to take two wickets as Bledlow were bowled out for 133, giving the hosts victory by 81 runs.

Stony are looking for big things from Ellemore in 2013, as well as new recruit Graham Simpson who comes straight into the top of the order after his move from Bletchley.

The signing of England U19 wicket-keeper Ben Duckett is also a major boost for Stony, although it is not yet clear as to just how many fixtures the Northamptonshire batsman is likely to play this summer.

His appearances this year will be a bonus for Stony, who could not have wished for a much better first weekend of matches as all four sides won on Saturday and Sunday.

After the 1st XI cruised to victory against Bledlow, three other Stony teams recorded wins in friendly games.

The Sunday 1st XI enjoyed an eight-wicket victory over Dunstable Town, the 2nd XI beat Woughton by 22 runs at Osters Lane, and the 3rd XI edged past Bedford by seven runs.