Cricket: Champions found out their fate thanks to captain’s text message

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NORTH Crawley found out they needed just two wickets to win the Four Counties Division One title via a text message from an opposing captain.

Eaton Bray’s victory over Milton Keynes City, who started the day top of the league, left the door wide open for North Crawley to retain the title, when it looked almost impossible a month ago.

Going in to the final day, North Crawley knew they had to see off Olney Town to stand any chance of retaining their crown.

Days earlier, Crawley lifted the Wolverton Cup for the second year in a fierce, but fun-filled battle with fellow league contenders New City. This set up the potential for a double-double if Crawley were to snatch the Division One title at the last second.

Batting first, Crawley set an ominous looking total, 235-6, courtesy of a brilliant second wicket stand between Matt Esh (84) and Marcus Goss (71).

In reply, Olney never looked like troubling Crawley for the victory, but were proving stubborn in defence and holding out for the draw.

As it came down to taking the final two wickets, it was only then that Crawley knew how important it would be.

“We had no idea until my wife got text messages from the Eaton Bray captain, telling us they’d won,” said North Crawley skipper Richard Bryce. “Then, we knew needed to take two wickets to be the champions,”

And when they did, they went wild.

Richard said: “As you can imagine, there was a huge celebration on Saturday night. It’s not often you get to win the double, so to do it twice in a row is something else.

“It has been a strange season and one of the most competitive we have ever been part of. We haven’t been top of the league until the very last day, when last season, we led from the first day.

“A four or five weeks ago, we thought we were well out of the running for the title. Then Milton Keynes City began to drop points, we were playing well and we crept up.”

With two years of great success for the club, questions have been asked about whether North Crawley will step out of the Four Counties division and into the Cherwell League.

“It’s often a question we ask ourselves – where do we go from here? It’s a huge step up, moving to the Cherwell League. It’s a lot of travelling, and I don’t think it interests a lot of the players to be going to such distant places.

“We’ve seen teams like Cublington and Great Brickhill move on and up through the divisions, so it shows that we’re capable of doing the same.

“We’re a great mix of experienced heads and young players who have come up through our youth system.

“My two sons are part of the first team fold and it’s great to be out there playing with them. And I managed to beat them to the bowling prize too, so there’s life still in me yet!”

New City (189 all out) also benefitted from MK City’s demise as they beat Milton Keynes (177 all out) to take second spot, but New Bradwell (236-4) couldn’t lift themselves off the bottom of the pile, despite beating Elstow (233-7 dec) on the final day, and will have to play Division Two cricket next season.

Cranfield University will replace New Bradwell in Division One next season after their victory over Aspley Guise.

Zaka Quraishi started for the Uni, taking 4-16 as Aspley Guise collapsed in dramatic fashion, scoring just 83 - a score the visitors knocked off with ease to secure the eight wicket win and promotion as runners-up, behind Thurleigh.

It wasn’t such great news for the Open University though, who were relegated to Division Three. An ominous 287-6 was posted by opponents Buckland & Aston Clinton, and the OU made good grounds, but their tail failed to wag enough as they were all out for 207.

Willen won promotion from Division Three and MK City 2nds will move up to Division Five nexr year.

Cherwell League

BLETCHLEY Town lifted themselves off the bottom of the Cherwell League Division One with their first victory since May against fellow strugglers Oxford & Bletchingdon Nondescripts on Saturday.

Nondies won the toss and put Bletchley into bat on a very slow pitch with variable bounce.

Town had reached 73-4, but then lost 3 wickets for 1 run as Sprittles, Ben Talbot and debutant, Patrick Scholte were dismissed trying to force the pace. It meant that Town were 74-7 with just eight overs remaining.

Wicket-keeper James Ward and skipper James Clark were together at 8 and 9, and their experience told in the final overs, working the field and adopting a more attacking approach.

Their stand of 31 in 7 overs was vital, before Clark managed to top-edge a ball that stopped on him for 14 before Ward was bowled trying to attack Strong for a busy no-nonsense 17. This took Town over the hundred mark before they were finally dismissed for 106 in the last over of their innings.

Nondies must have fancied their chances, but the hosts dramatically collapsed to 40-7.

A late partnership between Ben Taylor and Matthew White helped the home side, but it wasn’t enough as they eventually fell with just 95 on the board, securing an 11 run victory.

Town finish off their season at Oxford Downs next week hoping to end the season on a high after what has been a difficult campaign, with one eye on building for a promotion campaign in 2013.

Elsewhere, Great Brickhill lost out to league leaders Great and Little Tew in a great day for the bowlers.

Pete Hastings and Garth Davson both took five wickets apiece as they skittled Tew for just 107 and looked strong favourites to take the victory.

But against the odds, the leaders performed brilliantly with the ball in hand, bowling out their visitors for just 78. Great Brickhill remain third, but a long way off the top two.

Wolverton slipped to sixth in teh Division Two table after losing out to title contenders Twyford.

Despite Zahoor ur-Rehman taking 5-73, Twyford posted 258 all out in their innings, leaving Wolves facing an uphill task with the bat.

And it was just that as Wolverton were all out for 169, despite Potter’s solid knock of 56.

Great Brickhill 2nds are on the verge of securing the Division Six championship as Lee Morgan made light work of Cropredy 2nds.

With the ball in hand, Morgan took an incredible 8-17 to reduce the visiting side to just 67 all out – a score Brickhill (69-5) achieved in less than 20 overs. They currently sit 14 points clear at the top of the table with a game to go.

And that game could not be more vital as they take on second place Twyford 2nds, with both sides knowing an outright win would see them crowned champions.

Northants League

STONY Stratford look set for a midtable finish after a disappointing day with the bat saw then lose out on the penultimate day of the season to the Northamptonshire Cricket Academy.

Electing to bowl first, Stony were immediately put on the back foot with Lewis Denmark (52) and Ryan Findlay (77) guiding with young visiting side to 219 all out.

In response, Stony never really got going, losing regular wickets along the way as they were all out for 124, to remain sixth.

Relegation is a genuine threat now for Stony Stratford 2nds who could only draw with promotion chasing Long Buckby.

Only two batsmen made it to double figures, but one was Sam Bevin was was unbeaten on 103 as the home side reached 204-9. Paul Brown was the star with the ball, taking 6-32.Stony then found runs hard to come by, holding out for a losing draw on 127-6. Stony are now just four points above the drop zone with a game remaining.