Cricket round-up: Batting frailties leave Bletchley fighting the drop

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BLETCHLEY Town look on course for a relegation scrap this season after slipping into the drop zone following defeat to Shipton at Manor Fields on Saturday.

James Clark’s men have now lost three home matches on the trot and now sit second from bottom of the table after another batting collapse effectively saw them hand Shipton victory on a plate.

The Bletchley skipper has put his side’s woes down to a severe lack of confidence at the crease, but insists his batsmen are still good enough to guide Town to safety in the Cherwell League Division One.

Despite a couple of great results this term – including back-to-back victories against Great & Little Tew and Leighton Buzzard – Bletchley’s inability to score in excess of 200 is their biggest problem. They’ve done that just one this season, strangely enough against Oxford Downs, who now top the table.

After a bout of heavy rain before the game, the toss was always going to be crucial. Shipton captain Simon Hole called correctly and the visitors unsurprisingly decided to field first.

Bletchley’s openers Raj Lall and Matt Shepherd started well despite the testing conditions and had taken their score to 36 in the first 10 overs before Lall (21) mistimed a drive off Charlie Brain and was caught in the covers. And shortly after Shepherd went early on a ball from Brain and top-edged for 10.

Kenroy Hollis started cautiously at first and in partnership with Jude Ramanadanpulle took the score to 65 before Ramanadanpulle was out caught by Bates off the bowling of Shaun Miller. Although it wasn’t easy to score runs, Bletchley were holding their own, and a partnership of 48 for the fourth wicket between Hollis, who top-scored with 30, and skipper Clark (26) set the home side with a platform on which to build. However, disaster struck as both players tried to up the run rate.

Hollis was caught top-edging a pull-shot off medium-pacer Shaun Cross before Clark, who had played watchfully for his runs, was bowled trying to over-attack when well-set.

In-form James Ward came and went cheaply, again a victim of being over-zealous, and with the score on 120 Bletchley then lost Ben Talbot and Saxon Wright cheaply as Town wasted their opportunity to post a competitive total.

Mark Grass was out for nine and Mark Roberts was left stranded on 10 not out as Ricardo Brown went to the final delivery of Bletchley’s allotted overs, with the home side 142 all out. Bletchley lost their last seven wickets for just 29 runs, with Miller (4-32) the best of the Shipton bowlers before Cross (4-19) simply blew the tail away.

In reply Bletchley simply had no option but to start well, and early on Shipton openers Brain and Hole found it tricky against Mark Roberts in particular, and with the score on 20, Roberts clean bowled Brain with a beauty for eight.

But it was at this point that the weather intervened and changed the direction of the contest. After seven overs Shipton were 20-1 and the ball was swinging in the sultry conditions. However, the rain came and started to make life difficult for Bletchley as the ball became wet and difficult to grip for the bowlers.

Shipton seized the initiative, and sensing an opportunity to exploit the conditions, Hole began to hit out with some terrific stroke play on his way to a match-winning 58. During this spell of rain Steve Bates was run out by a fantastic direct-hit from Wright, but Graham Newhook (16) steadied the Shipton ship with his captain Hole in no mood to delay matters.

By now the rain had subsided somewhat, and spinners Ricardo Brown and Ramanadanpulle had been introduced into the attack. In Brown’s second over he trapped Newhook LBW to give his side hope, and when Ramanadanpulle removed Hole LBW for 58, Bletchley sensed they might actually have a chance.

This hope was quickly dashed by Jason Hunt though as he made 25 to get the visitors over the finishing line, with their win by six wickets leaving them third in the table.

Despite missing a few key players, captain Clarke said he was extremely disappointed by the performance as his side drop to second in the table thanks to Leighton Buzzard’s shock win at previous leaders Cumnor.

And things don’t get any easier for Bletchley who visit new leaders Oxford Downs this Saturday hoping to upset the odds. They more than held their own against them earlier this season, but eventually lost out by two wickets.

Clarke said: “Our problem is this lack of confidence from the batsmen and our inability to post competitive totals.

“Our bowlers have won us games but we can’t keep relying on them if we’re going to avoid finishing in the bottom two.”

Cherwell League

Great Brickhill’s speedy rise up the Cherwell League shows no sign of slowing after they moved top of Division Two thanks to victory over Banbury 2nds.

Their win by four wickets saw the village side leapfrog over Tiddington who went down to Abingdon Vale in their top three battle, leaving Great Brickhill top of the pile and on track for a fourth successive promotion.

Brickhill won the toss and chose to field first, boosted by the return of opening bowler Nick Tweed from injury. He and Lee Morgan opened the bowling and kept things tight, with Banbury’s scoring rate of just under two an over after the first 25 overs testament to that, although the breakthrough didn’t come until the 29th over when Tweed took two wickets to leave the visitors on 67-2.

This brought skipper Steve Beck to the crease and the scoring rate increased with several quick singles and well placed 4s to the boundary. Working to stem the runs, Graeme Carter juggled his bowlers around, resulting in Doug Arris picking up a wicket, whilst Tweed continued to keep things tight from his end.

Nathaniel Gregory joined skipper Beck and the pair began striking the ball well, with the latter reaching his half-century and Banbury quickly approaching the 150 mark.

An early tea was called after the weather took a turn for the worse, with Banbury on 175 and Tweed in the middle of a productive spell of 60-3. And when play resumed the visitors lost their remaining three batting overs and Brickhill received 41 overs to chase the total of 176-6.

Brickhill’s reply was tough, with Anton De Beer and Nick Cadman facing some testing deliveries as the Banbury opening pair looked to keep the run rate down. The first wicket fell in the fifth over when De Beer was caught at slips with the score on 19. Cadman continued to be resilient and joined by Carter in the middle continued to add runs, until Cadman was bowled to leave Brickhill on 56-2 off 12 overs.

Carter soon got into his stride and got Briclhill back on track with several boundaries, but the middle order were in for a tough time. The runs continued to flow from the bat of Carter while a steady procession of batsmen returned to the pavilion with single figures to their name,

And so it fell to the skipper to come up with a minor miracle and get Brickhill home. He began to play some excellent strokes and sweeps to get Brickhill closer to the target.

When a chance of capturing his wicket was wasted from a dropped catch, Carter made no mistake and steered Brickhill to victory on 175-5 and to the top of the pile on 90 not out.

It also proved an excellent day for Wolverton Town who beat Banbury XX by six wickets to move further away from the bottom two.

Andrew Gosling was the hero for Wolves after returning 5-31 as the hosts were bowled out for just 101.

Banbury put up some resistance and at 80-6 seemed to be creeping towards a decent score, However, the introduction of Hakin Khan and Wasim Fayyaz helped bundle them out as both took two wickets apiece in four overs.

And Wolves secured the points in relatively comfortable fashion, with Aky Hussain (29) leading them to a score of 103-4 in 22 overs.

Great Brickhill 2nds (200) were on the end of a surprise four wicket defeat to basement boys Bledlow Ridge (201-6) while Wolverton Town 2nds (208) went down by 53 runs to Abingdon Vale 2nds (261-5).

Bletchley Town 2nds had a lucky escape when their match against struggling Sandford St Martin 2nds was abandoned. Bletchley had been bowled out for 96 before play was stopped with Sandford 31-1. Town remain second in the table but they have lost more ground on leaders Horspath who beat Long Martson.

Northants League

It was so near yet so far for Stony Stratford as they lost by just three runs to Wollaston who moved back to the top of the table as a result.

It looked like Stony were on for a surprise win when they restricted the hosts to 161-9 – thanks mainly to an exceptional spell from captain Steve Bellew who returned 4-31.

Only Wollaston’s tail saved their blushes after five of their top six batsmen were dismissed for less than double figures.

But after openers Sharn Gomes (47) and Mihir Choksi (40) were out Stony struggled and fell agonisingly close on 158 all out.

Four Counties League

Newport Pagnell’s recent Division One revival continued as they beat Olney Town by 40 runs to climb to a season’s high sixth place.

Olney were put to the sword for a mere 74 after James Fletcher (3-3) and James Mead (3-4) ran riot. That was in reply to Newport’s efforts of just 114, with Fletcher again the best of the bunch by making 55 while all others failed.

New Bradwell (93) were on the end of a surprise two wicket defeat to Eaton Bray (94-8) while leaders North Crawley (211-9) had to settle for a winning draw with Biddenham (165-8) and second placed MK City (246-9) thrashed Studham (119) by 127 runs.

Old Bradwell (167-6) continue to improve in Division Two and saw off Caddington (165) by four wickets, but Shenley Church End (150) were beaten again, this time by Cranfield University (210) by 60 runs.

Open University (87-1) thrashed Willen (86) by nine wickets to stay top of Division Three, while Milton Keynes 2nds and Newport Pagnell 2nds both suffered more defeats in Division Four.