Cricket round-up: Wolves claw out impressive victory

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WOLVERTON maintained their magnificent start to the Cherwell League Division Two season with a comfortable 66-run victory over Sandford St Martin.

It’s now three unbeaten for the Wolves who held on to second place in the table with their win over Sandford at Osborne Street.

The visitors made the decision to bowl after they won the toss, and although Wolverton skipper Jamil Raja said he would have done the same thing, it proved to be a mistake for the Oxfordshire team. They restricted Wolves to a score of 142, but Andy Gosling (4-32) and Atif Akhlaq (3-19) both produced superb spells to dismiss Sandford for just 76 in reply.

However, it started off well for the visitors with Asim Hussain falling for just six runs. Zak Wade and Sean Potter tried to dig in as the track was doing all sorts, but it was proving a bit of an uphill task. Potter fired off 10 runs and Wolves were on 26 when he fell to one that rose on him sharply.

Wade was then joined by Aky Hussain, and they again tried to bat some time away, but wickets kept falling at crucial times. The wicket of Wade (11) fell on 41 with 19 overs gone, and Akhlaq (0) went first ball to a brilliant slip catch.

He was shortly followed by Aky Hussain (17) and Charlie Maw (5), and the Wolves score was 63-6 off 26 overs. Kabir Arif came in at number seven for the first time this season and was joined by skipper Raja. The pair decided to bat for as long as they could and got the score over the 100 mark as they put on 35 - Wolves’ biggest partnership of the day.

Another decent partnership of 25 between Zaheer and Kabir Arif helped Wolves reach 142 in 49.5 overs, with the latter playing a superb knock of 35 not out off 91 balls and batting for 99 minutes.

Left arm spinner Hakim Khan was missing for Wolves, but they remained confident of winning and maintaining their unbeaten record. And they made a vital breakthrough almost straight away as Gosling clean bowled Sandford opener Taylor.

He struck again in the third over to remove Watts, caught at mid-on by Asim Hussain. It was now very much game on with the visitors in all sorts of trouble at 2-2 after four overs.

The next wicket fell in the 13th over with Sandford’s score on 25, Zaheer Khan clean bowling Kill who looked in great form having already contributed 18. By now the track had flattened out, but Wolves’ bowlers continued to do their thing well.

Akhlaq, who has been in prime form with the ball this year, came on to take three wickets. And with the 10th wicket proving difficult to take, it took Wasim Fayyaz just four balls to lure the Sandford skipper into a big shot, which he miscued to Khan at mid-on.

Sandford were bowled out for 76 in 33.4 overs as Gosling returned figures of 4-32, Khan 2-20 and Akhlaq 3-19, with Wasim Fayyaz also taking a wicket. The victory keeps the Wolves within touching distance of leaders Banbury 2nds going into their home game with Tiddington on Saturday.

Things may be going very well for the first team, but Wolverton 2nds are finding life difficult in Division Six. They fell to a second defeat of the season to Sandford 2nds, losing by eight wickets after setting a target of 145. They now go to Bledlow Ridge on Saturday.

Bletchley’s bad start continues

BLETCHLEY suffered a third successive Division One defeat as they succumbed to Oxford & Bletchingdon Nondescripts by seven wickets.

It could have been different had they built on a good start, but a batting collapse meant that their 135 was never going to be enough against a team high in confidence and sitting second in the table.

Bletchley gave debuts to teenagers Ben Talbot and Ricardo Brown in a team which was missing the injured Kenroy Hollis and influential wicketkeeper James Ward. James Clark won the toss and decided to bat, knowing he had three spinners to call on later in the game.

Town got off to a steady start as Matt Shepherd continued to impress with a series of boundaries off the bowling of Ayaz Khan. However, just as the openers seemed to have seen off the new ball, Graham Simpson chased a wide one and was caught behind for five.

Shepherd, in tandem with Raj Lall (23), was looking in good touch and the visitors had reached 74-1 in 21 overs, and it looked a good platform to build on.

However, Shepherd was bowled by Alam for a purposeful 38 and it was pretty much all downhill from there as Bletchley were cleared off for 135.

Nondies went into the game unbeaten and never looked likely to lose as they got home in comfortable fashion, with Jordan Gillies top scoring with 52 to help his side to victory on 136-3.

>> Great Brickhill made it two wins in as many games by seeing off Abingdon Vale by three wickets. Tweed, Blackwell and Davson all bowled well for Brickhill as they got the hosts out for 214, before Doug Aris fired them to victory with 74 of their 215-7.

Super Saints end Stony’s great run

AFTER handing the Northants Academy a convincing beating seven days earlier, Stony Stratford were themselves handed a cricketing lesson by table topping Northampton Saints on Saturday.

Stony, who went in to the game in fifth place in the Premier Division and with two wins and a draw in their last three games, lost by nine wickets to a side who many are tipping to win their first ever NCL title this year.

It was an unfamiliar looking Stony 11 who made their way to Saints on Saturday with skipper Steve Bellew, Habib Ullah, George Humphries and Richard Scott all missing through injury or unavailability. This meant a debut for Jamie Baxter and a rare start for veteran Stuart Gulliver, while young paceman Andy Ellemore was rewarded for a fine start to the season with the 2nds with a new ball spot.

Stony were also boosted by the return of one of last year’s leading run scorers, the flamboyant Mihir Choksi. But after captain for the day Jarrod Pretorius lost the toss and Stony were asked to bat, they were soon on the backfoot as Choksi was caught and bowled by Mark Wolstenholme for a second ball duck.

Much of Stony’s early season success has been built around run machine Sharn Gomes and he again started nicely with five boundaries including a huge six. But as has been the case so far this season, it was at the other end where Stony have struggled. Nick Allen (11), Ian Sandbrook (4) and Chris Bolton (0) all went quickly and then the hammer blow was stuck as Gomes went lbw to Wolstenholme for 30.

At 56-6 Stony were in huge trouble, but debutant Baxter was joined by Gulliver and the pair showed the application that had been lacking by putting on an impressive 54 for the seventh wicket. Baxter, a leg spinning all rounder, batted with flair for 31 while Gulliver was more obdurate but supported his young colleague well for his 17. However, after they were dismissed the innings was soon wrapped up and Stony were all out for 126 - well short of any sort of challenging total for the league’s most powerful batting side.

And so it proved to be the case as Saints wasted little time in chasing down the runs. There was some early success for Chris Guy who had Dan Harris caught by Stuart Gulliver for a quick 14, but then former Northants and Lancashire opener Graeme Swann (38) was joined by rising start Andy Reynoldson and his 67 really put Stony to the sword.

It included 11 fours and three sixes and made sure that the points went to Saints who chased the runs down in under 23 overs. With champions Finedon slipping up to Peterborough and with second placed Wollaston drawing, Saints extended their lead at the top of the table, while Stony slipped from fifth to seventh.

This Saturday Stony will be back to full strength and looking to bounce back, but face another tough test at home to champions Finedon. It’s a fixture that has produced some outstanding games down the years and with both teams coming in to the games off defeats, they will both be looking to bounce back and get their title chances back up and running in what is promising to be a tight league this year.

Stony’s 2nds were also on the wrong end of the result up against Brigstock in Division Two. Brigstock set Stony 187 to win the game with Robert Pack smacking 58 opening the batting for his side. Young left armer Paul Brown was outstanding for Stony - claiming 5-44 - and looks to be a fine player of the future.

In reply, Stony only needed to score at three an over but found the target too much in the end. John Lambe (31), James Pickles (21), Mike Avery (27) all got good starts, but none were able to go on and post the big total that would have taken Stony over the line as they lost by 27 runs.

Milton Keynes keep pace at the top

NORTH Crawley lead the way in Division One of the Four Counties League, but Milton Keynes are hot on their heels after both recorded superb wins in their latest outings.

Crawley were seven wicket winners against Studham who were dismissed for a mere 84, thanks mainly to the efforts of Crawley’s Richard Bryce who cut through their innings by taking 4-10. And his side made light work of reaching the winning target as James Armstrong hit 41, helping them recover from a couple of early wickets to take victory on 87-3.

Milton Keynes are also in excellent form and thrashed Eaton Bray by 136 runs. Bray won the toss and decided to bowl first, which proved to be a big mistake as they found MK in superb scoring form. They set a target of 290-3 as openers Neil Gordon and Dharmesh Mistry put on more than 150 between them. In reply Bray were taken out for 154, with Nimesh Chavda (3-20) the best of the bowlers.

Newport Pagnell were beaten for the third time in four games as they went down at Elstow by eight wickets. The away side won the toss and decided to bat, but they were indebted to Mick Page who smashed off 100 of his side’s 212-9 to give them a chance.

However, his efforts were eventually in vain as the hosts raced to victory on 215-2. An excellent caught and bowled from Gary Hefferon got rid of Paul Jackson (81), but other than that it was a bowling display to forget for Newport.

Elsewhere in Division One, MK City (83-5) beat Olney Town (82) by five wickets – Paul Loveland’s three wickets for just three runs conceded the highlight. New Bradwell (160-6) saw off Biddenham (159) by four wickets. James McMillan returned (5-26) after John Mulholland had top scored on 55, seeing Bradwell go fourth in the table.

In Division Two, Old Bradwell (169-6) drew with Aspley Guise (265-5) while Shenley Church End (168-5) shared the points with New City MK (268-7). Open University top the Division Three table, but couldn’t quite do enough to beat Wilden (188-6), although Willen (277-7) are not far behind following their winning draw against Totternhoe (176-6). Willen’s Ollie Harrison deserve a mention for his fantastic 135 not out. There was a win for New Bradwell 2nds (208-8) who beat Stoke Hammond (204-9) by two wickets and North Crawley 2nds (115-1) saw off Thurleigh (112) by nine wickets.