Four Counties League: Top five are a class above

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The difference in quality was highlighted on Saturday as the top five teams in Division One all won at the expense of the bottom five – and they all did it by batting first.

Reigning champions North Crawley remain on course to retain the title, but they were made to work hard for their latest maximum points after lowly Newport Pagnell went down fighting by 37 runs.

For hosts Crawley a total of 193 was surprisingly low as Alex Walker (85) once again led the scoring.

He eventually fell to the bowling of James Mead (5-37) who in tandem with James Fletcher (4-17) gave the league leaders something to really think about.

However, North Crawley have only lost one game this year for a reason, and that is often their deadly attack – Dean Bryce (4-39) this time the best of the bunch as the home side fought back, while three of his team-mates took two wickets apiece.

Lewis Hefferon topped the scoring charts for Newport on 54, but their brave resilience was ended on a score of 156.

Crawley are 41 points clear of nearest title rivals Milton Keynes who also made hard work of beating their bottom half opponents at Cranfield University.

Nick Hillman hit 55 and Neil Gordon 81 as the visitors posted 231-7 – the latter falling to Fakhre Ali (3-16).

But Neelabha Chatterjee soon began eating into that strong total with a mammoth innings of 138 and an unlikely turnaround was on the cards.

Unfortunately for him he had little support as only two of his team-mates could reach double figures and eventually Cranfield were seen off for 219, with Daniel Ramsell (4-48) the pick of the bowlers.

Luke Anamourlis took only one wicket – but it was the prized one of Chatterjee which probably won his side the game.

New City (MK) kept their slim title hopes alive with a routine 63 run win against Eaton Bray. A total of 215-5 put the home side on course for victory as Ashish Ratia (55 not out) led the way. And six New City bowlers claimed wickets, including Amit Mulay (3-27), as Bray were blown over for just 152 in reply.

Elsewhere MK City (112) suffered an 80 run defeat at the hands of Elstow (192-6), and Olney Town (80) lost to Thurleigh (128) by 48 runs.

Division Two

New Bradwell (171-1) picked up a welcome and impressive nine wicket win over Stoke Hammond (170) to move well clear of the bottom two.

But Old Bradwell (142-9) remain in relegation trouble after their losing draw at the hands of promotion hopefuls Buckland and Aston Clinton (214-7).

Division Three

North Crawley 2nds look set for promotion following another controlling win, this time at the expense of Shenley Church End who may well be going the other way at the end of the season.

Harmit Bahra (62 not out) helped fire North Crawley to 244-6 and Shenley never even got close – Ian Gillam (5-9) and Rahkesh Mistry (3-16) making sure of that and a 177 run win for the visitors.

Open University (203-5) remain on course for a safe mid-table finish after a solid five wicket win against Luton Caribbean (202). Alex Gray (53) and Sardar Ahmad (5-31) the OU’s star men.

Division Four

Printers and Westcroft both moved a step closer to promotion this season after commanding wins.

Printers (187-9) remain top of the table after a 96 run thrashing of Wilden (91) and Westcroft (203-5) beat Milton Bryan (197-8) by five wickets – Harry Singh the hero with an unbeaten 106.

Elsewhere Milton Keynes 2nds (199-9) were held to a winning draw by Harlington (172-8), despite the efforts of Ben Warren (3-8), New City 2nds (295) had a winning raw over Eaton Bray 2nds (152-8) as Vinod Tailor scored 76, and New Bradwell 2nds (131-5) beat Drayton Parslow (130-8 by five wickets – Carl Ward hitting 51 for the winners.

Division Five

Olney 2nds maintained their grip on the division with an eight wicket thrashing of Thurleigh 2nds to remain on course for the title.

The hosts were dismissed for just 123 thanks largely to Ben Brown (3-9) and Mark Hickman (3-30). And Olney made no mistake with the bat, cruising home on 125-2, with Dave Hurley unbeaten on 48.

Great Brickhill 3rds may well join Olney in the fourth tier next summer after their 158 run success over bottom of the table Newport Pagnell 2nds, who need a miracle to avoid the drop.

The basement boys were seen off for just 61 – that after Glenn Burrows (124 not out) fired Brickhill to an innings of 219-4. Burrows (3-23) was also in fine form with the ball, as was Gary Phillips (4-16).

Newport Pagnell look set for relegation, and MK City 2nds (119-7) still have work to do to avoid joining them after their nine wicket defeat at the hands of Elstow (120-1).

Division Six

Old Bradwell 2nds (197-7) kept their promotion hopes alive with a 20 run success against Stony Stratford 4ths (177), but Bletchley Town 3rds (109) were no match for table toppers St Andrews (110) as they lost by nine wickets and will need a major change in fortunes to stay up.