Going in to any game against one of the best club sides in the country is always a challenge. But try doing it when far from full strength and you’re on a hiding to nothing.
So it proved as Stony Stratford were thrashed by seven wickets by reigning champions Peterborough Town on Saturday in the NCL Premier Division.
Like Stony, Peterborough play in the Northants League despite being based outside of the county boundaries. But this is where any similarities between the two sides end.
Boro’s team is made up almost entirely of the Cambridgeshire minor counties side and paid professionals and credit to them for assembling such an impressive unit.
Such is their strength, they are only one game away from taking part in the televised national twenty20 club finals day at The Oval in two weeks time, having swept all before them in Northants and the Midlands so far.
Stony are going through a rebuilding process, with talented youngsters taking the place of several experienced, but now departed players this season.
And they’ve been going well of late, with four wins from their last six matches. They went into the game without their most experienced campaigner and leading wicket taker Steve Bellew, whilst impressive recent signing Vicram Sohal was busy performing twelfth man duties for the England Lions.
However, these and one or two other absences gave others an opportunity, not least to Graham Simpson, fresh off a match winning hundred for the 2nd XI the previous week.
But very quickly, it became clear that Stony would be on the back foot for much of the afternoon.
Asked to bat first by Boro skipper Lewis Bruce, Stony were reduced to 118 all out in just under 48 overs.
After surviving the early pace of Joe Dawborn and Jamie Smith, Stony struggled in a trial by spin led as usual by the outstanding Paul McMahon.
The Cambridgeshire captain and arguably the best bowler in the league for the past few seasons, tore through the Stony line up with 6-31 from his 17 overs.
No less than seven Stony players got ‘starts’, making double figures before failing to post a significant score. Tom Moore survived the longest and top scored with 28, while Mike Avery did his best to stem the tide, taking 59 balls to reach 19 in an innings which was against all of his attacking instincts.
McMahon is a fine bowler and has done similar things to better sides than Stony, but Alex Strong’s men will be disappointed nonetheless to have posted such a poor total, with so many of them getting starts and having been in great form with the bat of late.
One positive that can be taken from the day was the performance with the ball of Stony skipper Alex Strong. He bowled with good pace and aggression early on, particularly when removing the league’s leading run scorer Asim Butt in his first over for a duck.
Rob Sayer was bowled soon after for 1, but David Clarke’s 48 steadied the ship for Peterborough, who in truth were never in any real danger with their depth of batting. Clarke became Strong’s third and final victim before Callum French and Ashley Rodgers put on 62 for the fourth wicket to take their side comfortably past their target.
The defeat leaves Stony still in ninth place, well clear of the relegation spot currently occupied by Wellingborough, but also well adrift of the top half position that they have targeted this season. They will need to win 4 out of their last 5 games to have a chance of achieving that target.
Stony 2nds were involved in a strange game at Campbell Park against Northampton Saints 2nds.
Batting first, Saints found themselves at 68-8 thanks to four wickets each for young openers Josh Whitehead and Aaron Ashton.
Then came a rain break. Stony would have hoped to have wrapped things up soon after the resumption of play, but far from it, as Saints number nine Wayne Clark (46) and number 10 Naseem Yaqub (39) took their team’s total up to a much healthier 164 all out.
After tea, Stony opener Prassana Widgesinghe cracked 80, but unfortunately the rest of his side could only contribute a further 29 between them as the home side capitulated to 109 all out in the face of a fine spell from Yaqub (7-29).
The 3rd XI faired better, taking the lions share of a draw against Cogenhoe. Batting first, Stony posted 206-7 thanks to 44 from Craig Jolley and 35 from Rob Arnold. Stony were left needing two wickets at the end as the hosts hung on for the draw, Michael Brown (3-26) the pick of the bowlers.