CHERWELL LEAGUE: Bletchley Town’s Division One campaign kicked off with a narrow defeat at promotion front-runners Shipton on Saturday.
Despite coming so close to upsetting the National Village Knockout Cup finalists on their home turf, Bletchley suffered up against the accuracy of slow left armer Shaun Miller who took a match winning 6-35 inside 19 overs to see the home side to victory by just 25 runs.
Bletchley skipper James Clark won the toss and even though the pitch looked good and true, he invited the hosts to bat hoping that the Friday evening rain would play a part. This decision paid immediate dividends when from only the fourth ball of the innings, Australian newcomer Saxon Wright hurried opener Charlie Brain into fending a ball to gully where another debutant, Raj Lall, took a neat catch.
The opening combination of James Sprittles - who was back after a lengthy lay off which kept him out of nearly all of 2010 - with Wright caused Shipton some early problems, and Andy Hemming was fortunate to get away with a nick behind to James Ward when he had just 10. This proved to be pivotal as he, in partnership with captain Simon Hole, saw off the shine of the new ball and made batting look easy.
Mark Roberts was introduced into the attack, and he was the one to make the breakthrough when he induced Hole into a drive with a fine away swinging delivery that Ward held onto diving forward. With Hole gone for 50, Shipton were still handily placed at 116-3, but all of a sudden they lost three wickets for no runs. Hemming was on his way in the next Roberts over when he mistimed a shot to mid-wicket, also for 50, followed by Wood who was clean bowled for a duck by Roberts, and then Barrett who hit a simple return catch to the effervescent Graham Simpson.
And more success followed when Jack Chapman was run out by Saxon Wright’s direct hit, reducing the home side to just 122-6. However, Shipton new-boy Graham Newhook, in conjunction with the powerful Jason Hunt, quickly turned things around. Even though Newhook was stumped after a rush of blood, Hunt hit some lusty blows in a quick-fire 43 off just 24 balls. He was particularly harsh on Simpson while the returning Sprittles found the trees outside the ground on a regular basis, before he removed Hunt caught and bowled.
Miller was trapped LBW next ball before Simpson collected his third victim in the next over as Shipton were out all for 181, with Simpson taking 3-35, Roberts 3-47 and Sprittles picking up 2-63 on his return to action after suffering a brokern hand.
Bletchley had all of 58 overs to get the runs, and began cautiously in their reply anxious not to lose wickets. However, this caution was having an effect on the run rate that was beginning to creep up.
Bletchley had crept up to 31 in only 18 overs before they lost their first wicket, when Simpson mistimed a drive to mid-on for eight. And worse was to follow when youngster Matt Shepherd was pinned LBW by Miller. The same bowler then accounted for Hollis and Lall in quick succession, leaving Bletchley in serious trouble at 34-4.
Jude Ramanadnanpulle was promoted up the order to number six and he fired off a quick-fire 14 to lift some of the gloom before he was out LBW. Sprittles (42) in partnership with wicketkeeper Ward (28) then put on the best partnership of the innings with a stand of 54 as Bletchley sensed they could snatch victory.
However, just as Ward was about to cut loose, he was adjudged LBW to Newhook and Sprittles followed, offering a tired shot against the returning Miller (6-35). James Clark and Mark Grass took up the fight, and things were looking good for a draw until Miller deceived Clark (9) before Mark Gross (17) was bowled by Brain the ball after hitting him for six. Wright was the last man to fall, leaving Bletchley all out for 155.