Northants League: Gomes fires Stony to first league win

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A REMARKABLE innings from Sharn Gomes helped Stony Stratford bounce back from an opening day defeat with a comprehensive 106 run win away at Rushden Town on Saturday.

New recruit Gomes hit a faultless 183 from 152 balls in the Northants League Premier clash, in what Stony skipper Steve Bellew described as the best innings he had ever seen at that level of the game

For the second week in succession, Bellew won the toss and elected to bat on a dry but hard wicket at Short Stocks. Stony lost Richard Scott in the very first over caught and bowled by Jake Higginbottom for a duck.

There was a clue as to what was to come when Gomes smashed a huge six and crashed a four through square leg in the next over, bowled by Aussie paceman Simon Branston. Despite the impressive start from Gomes, the signs were ominous at the other end as two more of Stony’s top order were dismissed for ducks - Paul West and Kevin Wijesinghe both falling lbw.

A period of consolidation followed from Stony, with Gomes still scoring at a good rate but taking no chances, Jarrod Pretorius joined him and was looking good before a needless run out put paid to his innings on 17 with the score at 66-4. That became 115-5 after Nick Allen - who had looked in fine touch - fell victim of a brilliant catch by Higginbottom in the gully off the bowling of Branston for 27.

At this stage there was little clue of what was to come as Gomes appeared to be running out of partners as Stony would have been happy to get to 200.

But youngster Prassana Wijesinghe came out and played the innings his side desperately needed and allowed Gomes to play his full array of shots.

The pair put on 159 as an elated Gomes brought up his first hundred in England with a cover driven four, one of 21 he hit in his innings. Branston had returned to the attack and looked to have Wijesinghe in a pickle with his aggressive short pitched bowling that the 19-year-old nervously defended.

However, as his confidence grew, he began to accumulate runs of his own and made a fine 33 from 77 balls before being finally deceived by Branston who bowled him with a slower ball.

Gomes was now racing along and with the Rushden bowlers tiring, he soon passed 150. George Humphries came in and the 16-year-old impressed by smashing 21 from 12 balls as Stony passed 300. They eventually reached 307-7, with Gomes leaving the field to applause by both sets of players, umpires and the healthy crowd who appreciated seeing such a fine knock.

Stony came out after tea fired up and skipper Bellew helped get them off to the best possible start, trapping Tom West in front for three in just the third over. And with the ball swinging prodigiously, the home side found life tough against the left armer and all rounder Chris Guy at the other end, who used the new ball to great effect.

Moving the ball away from the bat, Guy soon had three wickets of his own, courtesy of two outstanding catches up to the wicket from keeper Pretorius and one at cover from that man Gomes. When Wijesinghe came on and took two wickets in two balls - including that of Rushden’s danger man Higginbottom thanks to a superb stumping from Pretorius - the hosts’ innings was in tatters with the score on 47-6.

An early finish looked to be on the cards, but to their credit, Rushden pair Tom Smith and Branston turned things around for their side with some carefree hitting. With 30 overs still to go, Rushden knew that blocking for a draw wasn’t an option and proceeded to look to score off almost every ball.

And that’s precisely what Smith did, hitting the ball powerfully down the ground at every opportunity. He took 22 off Humphries’ first over on his way to 50 from just 29 balls. With plenty of runs on the board to defend and with four wickets needed, Bellew kept the field up and was prepared to sacrifice runs for wickets.

Humphries held his nerve and got revenge on Smith by bowling him out with a slower ball, before brother Andrew came on and took two of his own, with skipper Will Liptrot (7) and Gareth Griffiths (22) both accounted for by the youngster.

Branston passed a well deserved half century and continued to attack well, but it was left to Bellew to return to the attack, this time bowling left arm spin, to grab the final wicket, Branston top edging a slog sweep to Paul West at slip who took the catch and wrapped up the win for Stony.

A tougher test lies ahead this week in the shape of Peterborough Town at Ostlers lane, but Stony will go into the game full of confidence after a much improved performance.

Stony’s 2nds were not so fortunate as they came out second best against Irthlingborough in their first home game of the Division Two season.

Irthlingborough, who were playing in the Premier Division two years ago, won the toss and elected to bowl first. And it proved to be a good choice as Stony were dismissed for only 159 in 42 overs - that almost entirely down to Michael Avery (36) and Jamie Baxter (53) after their side had earlier been reduced to 70-5.

The visitors then had few problems reaching the total, passing the Stony score inside 33 overs with 56 not out from opener Martin Hills and a rapid 85 from Zaheer Khan, 60 of which came in boundaries.

Stony’s 3rds also suffered defeat in their first game of the season against Isham in Division Six. Isham batted first and made 189 from 44 overs with Abdul Satter and Neil Fewtrell both taking three wickets each for Stony, while George Chudley hit a valuable 73 for the home side.

In reply, Stony were rushed out for 99, their young side having no answer to Isham’s Peter Willis, who claimed four wickets for just two runs as the visitors fell to defeat.