With just four games of the league season to go, Stony Stratford’s 13-year stay in the top flight of Northants cricket remains in the balance after they fell to a 12th defeat of the season at Oundle on Saturday.
Stony may well still be saved because fortunately for them, fellow strugglers Burton Latimer and Brixworth keep losing as well, leaving the bottom three desperately trying to avoid the one relegation spot and a 2015 season in Division One.
Oundle have been one of the league’s surprise packages this season. Their charge into fourth place has once again been spearheaded by South African professional all rounder Petrus Jefta.
Jefta is the league’s quickest bowler, but in this game it was more his form with the bat that Stony had to worry about.
Batting at three, he smashed a quick fire 64 not out as the home side flayed the normally strong Stony bowling attacked all around Milton Road.
Opener Marc Bell found the going even easier, cruising to 101 not out as Oundle set an imposing 245 for 1 before declaring after 49 overs.
Fellow opener Ben Groom reached 70 from 75 balls before Vicram Sohal bowled him to take Stony’s only wicket of what was a poor effort in the field.
Stony’s main threat in reply was always going to be Jefta who took six wickets in the corresponding fixture earlier in the season at Campbell Park.
They actually played him well here and in particular Sai Ravikumar, who hit a maiden NCL Premier half century to help get his side off to a decent start.
It looked like being a familiar story for Stony when Jefta smashed Akheam Fox’s decision timbers for a duck.
But number three Hayden Mullins played well for 40 as he and Ravikumar saw off the threat of Jefta and built a solid platform for the visitors.
But with Stony well set, the game turned on a fine spell from Oundle spinner Harry Ramsden, who’s 5-33 battered Stony into submission. Ravikumar (54) and Mullins departures saw Stony lose a flurry of wickets, going from 123-3 to 164 all out inside 47 overs.
Graham Simpson (17) and Vicram Sohal (16) got starts but couldn’t go on and that was as good as it got for Stony who were well beaten on the day.
They now must regroup ahead of a huge game against Brixworth, a side just 19 points above them in the table.
With thirty points on offer for a win, they know victory here would be a huge step towards safety for them.
But with Burton now exactly thirty points behind Stony themselves, the Ostlers Lane side will be looking keenly over their shoulders over the next month as the season draws to what looks a dramatic close.
An under-strength Stony 2nds lost ground in the race for promotion from Division 2 after drawing at home to Thrapston.
The visitors batted first and accumulated 224-5 from their 50 overs.
Mark Hulbert was the best of the Stony bowlers with 2-23 with Angus Milborne (53) and James Cade (60) leading the way for sixth placed Thrapston.
Stony’s batsmen struggled in the main with the exception of Roger Rebbetts. Rebbetts has had a fine season and his 68 not out here proved to be the backbone of Stony’s 154-7.
A late 23 from youngster Glyn Lewis was also important for Stony who slipped to fourth place in the table. With two sides going up, Stony are now 22 points off the top in what is proving to be a very tight race for the title.
There was better news for the 3rds who moved back into 2nd place in Division 5 after an impressive 48 run win over Rothwell 2nd.
Stony’s 147 all out wasn’t a substantial target for the visitors. But in the end it proved to be more than enough for Stony who rushed Rothwell out for just 99 in reply. Neil Fewtrell’s 4-25 proved too much for the away side.
Stony are level on 307 points with Kislingbury.