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STONY Stratford’s strong start to the 2012 season continued on Saturday with arguably their best result to date, as they held on for a draw at reigning champions Finedon Dolben.
The Northamptonshire club have won the Premier Division title for the last three years, with Stony struggling to take anything from their meetings during that time.
But having made an encouraging start to the season, Stony upset the odds by holding on for a draw – thanks largely to the efforts of new recruit Rob Keogh.
He is currently contracted to Northants and scored over 600 runs for the Academy side last year. And he’s certainly made a big impact at Ostlers Lane, scoring 91 to guide Stony to 212-9 in reply to Finedon Dolben’s opening innings of 276-7.
The visitors to Avenue Road won the toss and decided to bowl first, and were soon off to a fantastic start when Habib Ullah got the wicket of Andy Daniels, well caught by Sharn Gomes whose return to Stony this year has also been a massive boost.
Finedon responded with excellent knocks from Malachy Loye (57) and Greg Evans (54) but after they both went LBW to Keogh and Kevin Wijesinghe respectively, Stony sensed that it might be their day.
Keogh soon claimed his second wicket to see off Greig Hofbauer (42), but by then the home side already had 174 on the board and looked set for a big lead. And so it proved as the middle order heaped on another 100 to set Finedon up perfectly for their fifth win in seven games this term.
But Stony had other ideas. Despite Mihir Choksi (0) facing just nine balls, Keogh and Gomes steadied the ship to give the visitors an outside chance of taking something from the game.
Gomes was eventually dismissed by Jack Chopping for 27 and Keogh found little help from Ian Sandbrook (5) and Richard Scott (0) who departed to the same bowler, with Stony struggling on 58-4.
Nick Allen (5) was the next to depart, but Keogh found another steady pair of hands in Andrew Miller (21) who helped get the away side back on track before disaster struck as Keogh’s time at the crease came to an end when caught by Hofbauer off the bowling of Andy Roberts.
However, his work would not been in vain as Jarrod Pretorius held firm in the face of increasing pressure to fire off 45 from just 47 balls. Wijesinghe (6) and Habib Ullah (0) both came and went quickly, so it was down to Andrew Ellemore (1) to partner Pretorius past 55 overs, giving Stony a score of 212-9 and a richly deserved share of the points.
Next up for Stony is a home game with Old Northamptonians, who sit one place above them in fifth.
Stony Stratford 2nds have made a good start to the season but came unstuck when they took on Northampton Saints, losing by seven wickets at Ostlers Lane.
Saints won the toss and put Stony in first, and the hosts failed to find the sort of form that had seen them win four games already this year as they made a very disappointing 156-7 – only Chris Swain (32), Rob Arnold (38 no) and Neil Allen (21 no) hitting more than 20 runs.
In reply the visitors had no such trouble as Richard Brown (78) led them to victory on 157-3, with the three wickets lost all falling to different Stony bowlers.
Stony Stratford 3rds have enjoyed a fine start to the campaign and maintained their unbeaten form with a three-wicket win over Kislingbury Temperance.
Tony Roodt hit 95 for the hosts, but once he went to Neil Fewtrell, Stony smelt blood and restricted the Northampton side to just 206-7, with Joshua Whitehead and Prasanna Wijesinghe claiming two wickets apiece.
Steve Wharton then led Stony to victory, reaching 66 before being bowled by Dayne Manderfield who would give his side half a chance with impressive figures of 5-56.
He also got the better of Michael Brown (41), but after he fell, Andy Preston (11) and Graham Brandom (14) steered Stony home on 210-7 to put them second in the table.
BLETCHLEY Town’s hopes of another win were thwarted by Banbury 2nds’ last pair as they had to settle for a winning draw in a rain-affected match at Manor Fields.
After their excellent win over local rivals Great Brickhill, the home side couldn’t wait to get going. However, the game started 15 minutes late due to a soggy outfield, which was then delayed another hour after the bowlers’ run-ups were deemed unsafe.
All that made the match an 82-over contest, and as Bletchley had won the toss and decided to bat, they had 44 overs to complete their innings.
Another steady start from openers Paul Strong (17) and Matt Shepherd (20) saw off the new ball threat of Banbury as Bletchley began to grow in confidence. Shepherd was the first out – LBW to Freeman – and Strong followed trying to force the pace, to leave the hosts on 43-2 at the half-way stage.
With the platform set, Bletchley’s batting order was reshuffled and youngster Michael Houpe was promoted up to number four alongside the reliable Graham Simpson.
Their partnership of 31 set the tone for the second half of the innings, with Houpe (18) showing some attacking flair to take the game to the visitors. Raj Lall (25) then came in with a similar attacking intent and was particularly harsh on Banbury opener Risbridger who was duly dispatched to all parts of the ground as he began to tire.
With Bletchley trying to up the tempo, wickets began to tumble as every batsmen chipped in. Simpson (25) was dismissed by smashing a full toss straight to cover for the second week running, whilst Lall (25) was bowled by veteran Hill.
Mark Grass, James Sprittles and James Ward all got into double figures as Bletchley closed on a very competitive 168-8 in their allotted overs.
Banbury had 38 overs in which to get the runs they needed, and began positively with Andrew Sabin and former Bletchley youngster Adam Wirth. The hosts knew they had to break this partnership up and it was Sprittles who had Sabin out caught behind by James Ward for 13 just as he looked in good touch.
Wirth continued to look in good touch, but Bletchley soon had their second wicket when Sprittles combined again with Ward to have Coles out for 7.
Wasim Fayyaz replaced Mark Roberts at the Rugby Ground End and was quickly into his stride, picking up two vital wickets in his second over, having the dangerous in-form Desai and Banbury skipper Beck both LBW to leave the visitors in trouble at 57-4.
With Simpson also getting in on the act, it was soon one-way traffic as the spin-duo combined to great effect. Wirth was run out on 31 after a good piece of work by Simpson, before Ward then took a smart stumping off Simpson to dismiss Jarvis.
Stafford and Murrey both perished after playing poor shots as Bletchley turned the screw again to leave the visitors clinging on at 84-8 with around 10 overs remaining.
However, with defence the only option to avoid a heavy defeat, the visitors began to dig-in to frustrate Bletchley’s bid for victory. Fayyaz (3-12 in 10 overs) and Simpson (2-15) impressed as Roberts and Sprittles (2-29) came back into the attack, but to no avail.
Skipper James Clark replaced Sprittles at the Football Ground End to remove the obdurate Freeman through an in-swinging yorker, but Hill – who survived a massive LBW appeal to Clark in the last over – and Risbridger held firm as Banbury edged to 100-9 in 38 overs and the match ended in a draw, much to the frustration of Bletchley who sit fifth in the table after four games.
With the rain taking some 18 overs off the match, Bletchley can be delighted with both their performance and their 18 points won in a convincing display. Next up is another home game, against Great & Little Tew.
Great Brickhill became the latest victims of a quality Horspath side currently setting the pace at the top of the table as they were beaten by 112 runs.
Horspath got off to a flying start with 28 off the first four overs before Nick Tweed removed their opener with a fierce short ball, before the next to fall left the hosts on 70-2.
Opener Robbie Eason (62) anchored the Horspath innings while the wickets tumbled around him, with Garth Davson the best of the Brickhill bowlers by taking 6-41.
A late flurry from the bottom order left Horspath with 209 all out, with the Brickhill wicket keeper Paul Little taking two catches and a stumping.
In response Brickhill got off to another bad start, before Graeme Carter batted stubbornly for an hour and 16 runs, while Nick Cadman added 26 runs in 68 minutes.
Wickets soon began to fall again until keeper Little dug in, carrying his bat for 17 not out. However, a strong and professional Horspath side soon overpowered Brickhill, who eventually fell for 97 all out.
Wolverton Town’s fine start to the season continued with a four-wicket victory against Oxford 2nds, lifting them up to sixth place in the table.
Oxford were restricted to 183-9 thanks to good spells from H Khan (3-47), Z Khan (2-16) and Akhlaq (2-39), before Wolverton got safely home on 184-6, led by Potter on 90 and Hussain (54).
That was their second win in four games and next up is a home game with bottom of the table Sandford St Martin, without a win to their name so far this season.
Wolverton Town 2nds top the table after their superb 141-run thrashing of Cropredy 2nds. Ross Butler led the way for Wolverton with 101 not out as the home side reached 221-6, before bowling Cropredy out for just 80 in reply, with Michael Yates (5-9) doing the damage.
Bletchley Town 2nds picked up their first win against Long Marston 2nds – and it was a comfortable one by seven wickets. Having bowled their hosts out for just 147, Bletchley got home in less than 40 overs on 148-3.
Great Brickhill 2nds (116-1) also enjoyed an easy win, thumping Sandford St Martin 2nds (114) by nine wickets. Jack Woodhouse (4-26) was the pick of the bowlers.
four counties league
MILTON Keynes City took full advantage of Eaton Bray’s free week to leap to the top of the Division One table.
Reigning champions North Crawley could not match the 171-8 City posted in the first innings and had to settle for a losing draw, though the result was enough to move City into pole position as Milton Keynes’ match with Newport Pagnell was cancelled.
Despite notching a decent total with the bat, Chris Timms top scored on 39, though there were good cameos from Iqbal John (33) and Shayan Naseem (29) as the home side set a competitive 172 to win.
Crawley’s wickets fell steadily but opener Alex Walker was proving to be a big thorn in City’s side as he added 63 before falling to Mohammed Shahid. Like City though, the Crawley batsmen failed to really get going as they closed on 165-8. Shahid ended the day with 4-35, supported by Pete Heady’s 3-29
City move to the top of the pile, but it’s still very tight at the top, with just 12 points separating them from North Crawley down in fourth.
New City heaped more misery on bottom club New Bradwell, beating them by five wickets. Viral Shah claimed a fantastic five wicket haul to destroy the Bradwell middle order as they fell for just 147.
Opener Jay Singadia went unbeaten in the New City innings, hitting 60 not out as the hosts made it home with five wickets in hand on 148-5.
The result moved them up to seventh in the table, with Olney Town slipping into the relegation zone after losing to Division One new boys Eggington Foresters.
Olli Knowles’ five-wicket haul helped bowl out the Foresters for 178, but Olney couldn’t match it with the bat and were all out for just 103, confining them to a 75-run defeat.
Old Bradwell remain in touching distance of the promotion spots in Division Two after their excellent seven-wicket victory against early league leaders Thurleigh.
Graham Downard’s 4-44 helped slow the early Thurleigh pace, but the visitors still managed a strong-looking 204-9 from their overs.
After losing opener Greg Tite (0) early on, Ross Poulter (69) and Rob Felce (70) looked in great form as Old Bradwell crossed the line with seven wickets in hand.
They were given a huge helping hand in closing the gap on the pace-setters as Cranfield University collected a winning draw against Milton Bryan. Fakhre Ali top scored with 64 and Karthik Nallamuthu’s 54 helped Cranfield on their way to a huge 230-8.
And despite 4-14 from Zaka Quraishi, Cranfield couldn’t take the last two vital wickets to wrap up the victory, but were satisfied with points from the draw.
The Open University made hard work of their three-wicket win over bottom side Aylesbury Town. Sam Brightwell took 4-29 as Town limped to 112 all out. The OU lost regular wickets, but eventually made it over the line with 10 overs and three wickets in hand.
Elsewhere, Studham beat Buckland & Aston Clinton to remain top, and Aspley Guise came out with a winning draw over Biddenham.
Sam Marley’s 86 helped keep Willen top of the Division Three table as Willen beat New Bradwell 2nds by a huge 161 runs.
Marley, along with Ifthakar (58) guided the visitors to 227-4, but their dominance didn’t stop there. With the ball in hand, only one New Bradwell player got into double figures as the home side crumbled to 66 all out – Abu Hassan Jumel the most prolific bowler, taking 4-26.
Bromham beat Stewkley Village to keep the pressure on at the top, and there were also wins for North Crawley against Wilden and Caddington, who beat Eggington 2nds.
Milton Keynes 2nds came unstuck in their Division Four encounter against Printers as they struggled to reach the 210-5 set in the first innings.
Vijay Baburaj (93 not out) and Asela (65) top scored for Printers. But MK’s batsmen just didn’t get started and limped home to 133-8, remaining fourth in the table.
This allowed New City to close the gap in fifth thanks to their magnificent win over third placed Tring Park 4ths. Despite Nick Wakes’ unbeaten 106 as Tring set a target of 204-2, New City made the total with overs to spare, with Rajiv Kapur top scoring on 59.
And it was more bad news for the sides at the top as Westcroft upset the odds by beating high-flying Harlington. The home side’s tight bowling restricted the side in second to just 139-7, and despite slipping to 7-2, Kashif Khan’s fine 62 not out helped Westcroft score 140-3 to wrap up the seven wicket win.
Only three games went ahead in Division Five. Leaders Wing beat mid-table Newport Pagnell by 40 runs to extend their lead at the top of the table. Kevin Woodhouse’s 73 not out guided Wing to 215-5 but Newport came up short, skittled for 175.
Stony Stratford’s 188-9 was too much for Olney Town to muster as they fell for a mere 124, handing a 64-run victory to Stony, and Andy Harwood’s 92 wasn’t enough to help Great Brickhill 3rds (211-9) overcome Milton Bryan 3rds’ first innings total (229-7) as they had to settle for a losing draw.
Thurleigh stay top of Division Six thanks to their win against Stoke Hammond, but Bletchley are keeping pace with the leaders thanks to their 105-run win over Cublington.
Battling first, Gladwin (81) top scored as Bletchley set 181-5, but Kieran Turner and Ali Dawson took five wickets each to decimate the Cubs as they crumbled to 76 all out.
Even opener Ian Foll’s 96 wasn’t enough to help Aspley Guise reach Edlesborough’s mammoth 244-2 dec, aided generously by Graham Simpson’s 111 not out in the first innings. A top order collapse certainly didn’t help Aspley Guise’s cause, but they came home on 214-6 for a losing draw.