Cricket round-up: Bletchley settle in for relegation scrap

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THE Cherwell League Division One table makes for bleak viewing for Bletchley Town who must find some fighting spirit to stand a chance of avoiding relegation this season.

Once again Town’s batting frailties proved their downfall as Great & Little Tew had them bowled out for a pitiful 75 before going on to seal a six wicket win, Bletchley’s third defeat on the bounce.

And skipper James Clarke pulled no punches after the match, saying: “The situation is we haven’t scored enough runs all season and that has put us in a difficult position.

“Our bowlers have performed well, especially Mark Roberts, but you can’t win many games of cricket when you do not score over 150 runs every week – and we haven’t done that since we beat Leighton Buzzard in June. It’s difficult to put my finger on exactly why we aren’t getting runs – we just seem extremely low on confidence with the bat.”

Victory for in-form Tew was all set up by the hosts’ young pace attack which blew Bletchley away in a devastating 20 minute period when the visitors fell from 27-1 after 10 overs – in what appeared to be a steady start to the innings – to 47-9 at one stage.

Bletchley lost the toss and were put in to bat on a good hard pitch that did have a tinge of green to it. A reshuffle in the batting order didn’t go quite to plan though as Graham Simpson was bowled for 2 early on by Liam Manley.

Raj Lall and Kenroy Hollis dug in well for Bletchley, and even though Lall was peppered by Gloucestershire bowler Matt Taylor, and Hollis saw one delivery crash into his shoulder, the visitors were getting a foothold into the game.

However, that was before Lall was clean-bowled by Taylor for 10. And in the same over, Matt Shepherd was unluckily caught at short leg fending off another ball from Taylor.

Hollis and Ward went in the next over to Manley – both bowled, before Taylor snared James Clark caught behind for a duck. Bletchley had lost five wickets for 1 run inside three overs.

Tew’s onslaught was led by Taylor (3-16) – the young seamer who played twice for Gloucestershire in the CB40 matches in the previous week was having a devastating effect in tandem with Manley (3-35).

Things got worse for Town as Tew captain Andy Harris removed James Sprittles – caught brilliantly at second slip – and Mark Grass before bowling Jude Ramanadanpulle for another duck.

Bletchley were in serious trouble at 47-9, however, some light relief came in the form of Saxon Wright who hit a useful unbeaten 18, and last man Mark Roberts who added 12 to take Town up to 76 all out before Harris bounced Roberts out to finish with 4-21.

As much as Town were disappointed, it was an excellent bowling performance from the hosts who really showed why they have been wining matches of late.

Town knew they had to get wickets to salvage any points from the game, and they battled away manfully. In-form Roberts had Hubbert caught down the leg-side for 0 as Bletchley began well, but it didn’t last.

Bletchley’s bowlers didn’t quite have the same pace as the Tew attack, and slowly but surely, Edmund Gross (25) and Harry Smith (23) took the sting out of the new ball attack.

Ramanadanpulle struck in his second over by dismissing Smith LBW, before Sprittles had Gross caught by Simpson. Slatter followed shortly after, bowled by Sprittles, but Robbie Shurmer (22 not out) saw Tew home by six wickets.

Bletchley are now really in a straight race with Oxford 2nds to ensure they don’t join Bourton Vale in falling out of the trap-door at the end of the season.

In-form Leighton Buzzard Town visit Manor Fields on Saturday while Oxford host Buckingham. Bletchley then have four more games to save themselves, including an away trip to – you guessed it, Oxford – on the penultimate weekend.

Captain Clarke added: “Confidence is everything in cricket – just look at how well England are playing against India in the Test series.

“The biggest difference is England are really confident and positive while India look short of any self-belief, and don’t look like troubling England at the moment.”

Cherwell League

Great Brickhill seem to be going from strength to strength and look on course for a fourth promotion in as many years this summer.

Defeat to title rivals Abingdon Vale last week saw the villagers fall to fourth in an incredible tight top half of the Division Two table.

But Brickhill bounced back on Saturday to record a three wicket victory over bottom side Banbury XX, which coupled with defeats for their rivals, saw Brickhill leapfrog their way back to the top.

It may not have been in the most convincing fashion, but Brickhill got the better of Banbury XX after they restricted the visitors to a score of 194-8. Any score of less than 200 normally wouldn’t cause Brickhill many problems, but this time they struggled slightly.

Graeme Carter was the man star man as he fired off an unbeaten 75 to lead the hosts to victory on 196-7, supported by Anton DeBeer (57) as Brickhill took advantage of surprise defeats for both Abingdon Vale and previous leaders Tiddington.

Brickhill had Wolverton to thank as they put Tiddington to the sword in a fantastic 13 run win that sees them up to sixth place.

Batting first and away from home, Wolves posted a thoroughly decent 226-7 thanks to three fine knocks by Potter (62), Baker (53) and Hussain (45). Tiddington responded well but Fayyaz (3-28) saw them cut down to 213 in reply, giving Wolverton a very impressive 13 run victory.

In fact it turned out to be a very successful weekend for Wolverton as the club’s 2nds also enjoyed an excellent win – seeing off Bledlow Ridge 2nds by three wickets in their Division Six clash. Butler (44) top scored for Wolves who made 150-7 in reply to Bledlow’s innings of 149, Amos (4-33) the best of the bowlers.

Bletchley 2nds (200-5) were five wicket winners over Long Marston 2nds (199) and Great Brickhill 2nds took the points after Bourton Vale 2nds forfited.

Northants League

Stony Stratford’s season appears to be petering out, but they should have done enough to avoid being sucked into a late relegation scrap.

It’s now four defeats on the spin for the men from Ostlers Lane after the Northants Academy became the latest side to leave town with a win.

After winning the toss, the hosts decided to bowl first and made an excellent start with openers Akash Shah (16) and Saif Bhohani (15) out early on to George Humphries and David Avery respectively. And when Andrew Ellemore claimed two quick wickets – including that of Vicram Sohal for a duck – the visitors were struggling on 66-4 and Stony hopes of a win were high.

But then came the recovery. Ali Birkby (89) and Oliver Stone (65) put on 87 for the fifth wicket before the latter was out to a caught and bowled from Sharn Gomes (2-48) who would return his side’s best bowling figures of the day.

Birkby stuck around though and with a couple of decent knocks from further down the order helped the visitors set a target of 256-6 – a tall order for a Stony side struggling for form and confidence with the bat.

And so it proved again as Gomes was dismissed for 2 after only nine balls fellow opener Mihir Choksi (11) wasn’t too far behind after Sainath Ravikumar (1) went to a fine catch from Stone who would add to his earlier runs by holding on to three during Stony’s reply.

When Nick Allen (7) was out to a Stone catch off Vicram Sohal (3-36), Stony were 27-4 and on the brink of collapse. A superb 65 not out from Andrew Miller – including nine 4s – made the hosts’ score a bit more respectable, but George Humphries (19) was the second highest scorer as the tail collapsed and Stony were out for 143.

Birkby claimed Stony’s last three wickets to finish with 3-22 and their defeat has seen them drop a place to ninth in the table going into this Saturday’s home match against Northampton Saints.

With seven fixtures remaining to play, Stony will have to pick up two or three more wins to make sure of survival, but repeating last season’s top six finish now looks unlikely.

Four Counties League

Newport Pagnell have been on a surprisingly good run of form, but came unstuck when they took on now runaway Divison One leaders North Crawley.

Robin Platten (4-47) and Steve Sharpe (3-32) were the protagonists of Newport’s downfall as they saw the visitors bowled out for 107. And although Daniel Broad’s near heroic effort of 3-15 saw Crawley wobble in reply, the inevitable home victory eventually came, courtesy of Alex Walker whose 77 not out helped his side to 113-4 and a six wicket win.

Crawley can now justify the tag of ‘runaway’ leaders because biggest rivals MK City and New Bradwell both failed to win. City (157-8) held on for a losing draw against Eaton Bray (193) while New Bradwell (165) went down to Milton Keynes (288-5) by 123 runs. Dharmesh Mistry hit a magnificent 103 not out for MK and Nimesh Chavda bowled 5-50.