Stony stalwart Steve Bellew is cautiously optimistic that his side can achieve a top five finish this season, especially after Saturday’s comfortable win at Old Northamptonians.
The 37-year-old was the star of the show as Stony bowled the home side out for just 81 and went on to seal a memorable victory by seven wickets.
Affectionately known as ‘Dad’ to his Stony club-mates, Bellew’s form this season has been quite sensational, and even more impressive given that he actually retired from playing at the end of the 2011 season.
A freak off-the-pitch knee injury led to Bellew taking a backseat at Ostlers Lane the following year, but he is now back in full swing and putting fear into the minds of many a Northants Premier League batsman – returning figures of 6-11 from 10 overs in Stony’s emphatic thumping of an ONs side sat fourth in the table.
Despite his exploits with the ball, Bellew was quick to praise his Stony team-mates for their surprisingly routine second away win of the year, but even he admits that his services will be badly missed when they take on the mighty Finedon Dolben on Saturday.
Stony’s only other Premier Division victory this season came at bottom of the table Wellingborough Town, with Bellew claiming five wickets that day. But the former captain will be on family duty when Stony host the league’s best side at their adopted Campbell Park home.
Despite that, he still thinks his team-mates are capable of pulling off a surprise victory, and is confident they can go on to achieve a third top five finish in the Premier Division.
“I think the division is split into three leagues – Finedon Dolben, Northampton Saints and Peterborough Town are the best three teams, while at the bottom you have Burton Latimer, Wellingborough and Horton House,” said Bellew, who began his glittering Stony career in 1999.
“We are one of the sides in the middle of the table, but I don’t see why we can’t go and finish in the top five this year.
“Our problem has always been scoring runs. We bowl and field well, but batting has always been an issue. But we have recruited well this year and I think that can change.
“Playing on a flat pitch at Campbell Park will help. Our young batsmen will improve very quickly. Playing there is good, it’s attracting a lot more interest and people who may not have seen us play before are now doing so.”
Bellew captained Stony for two seasons before damaging his right knee in an accident on a night out. After initially being told by doctors that his best cricket days were behind him, the father-of-two called time on his career – fearing making the injury any worse than it worse.
However, time was a good healer for Bellew, and after sitting out most of 2012, he is back firing on all cylinders again.
“The thought of giving up and not playing ever again was too scary,” he said. “I damaged the medial ligaments in my right knee, but fortunately it wasn’t as bad as first thought.
“I have two little girls and a very supportive wife who is a cricket fan, so I’m not under any pressure to stop playing. I’ll take it a year at a time and decide what to do, but I’m enjoying playing again.”
For now Bellew is keen to go about his business quietly, and despite playing a leading role in the team’s victory over ONs, is very modest about his role in the team – preferring to pay tribute to the likes of new captain Alex Strong, Andrew Ellemore and Habib Ullah.
All three claimed wickets on Saturday, and will have to be at their best again to deny unbeaten Finedon a seventh win from eight games.