STONY Stratford’s Northants Cricket League Premier Division season got off to a disappointing start after a narrow three wicket defeat at home against Wollaston on Saturday.
Skipper Steve Bellew won the toss at Ostlers Lane, and with changes to the League’s points system coming in to effect that reward sides for batting first, he wasted little time in deciding to bat.
But on an extremely dry wicket in the April sunshine which offered no pace but prodigious spin almost from ball one, Stony’s batsmen struggled against Wollaston’s Chris Perry (4-66) and Steve Musgrave (3-20) and could only post a score of 141.
Despite the loss of Richard Scott for 8, Stony were off to a reasonably good opening with new professional Sharn Gomes looking assured and untroubled by the away attack early on. Youngster Kevin Wijesinghe also looked good, but on the slow wicket his attacking style was always going to be difficult to score with, and he chipped one to skipper Musgrave at cover off the bowling of Wollaston’s pro Kiwi James Cowell for 12.
Stony then began to die a death by spin with Perry and Musgrave taking control. They lost five wickets for 42 runs as they simply had no answer on a pitch that by now was turning almost at right angles. The crucial wicket of Gomes was amongst that cluster to fall and his 39 was the best that anyone managed on the day.
At 90-8 the hosts were in danger of being blown away, but were indebted to a fine knock from number 10 Chris Guy. He put on 47, with last two Andy Humphries (11) and captain Bellew (1 no) mixing solid defence with precise attack when loose ball was offered up by the tiring Wollaston attack.
In the end Guy was out for 31 after a brilliant ball from Cowell deceived him and he clipped his leg stump to close the Stony innings on 141.
Stony got off to a great start with the ball when Bellew trapped Jimmy Hart in front with just the third ball of the innings, and then soon bowled Matt Jones for 14.
In a game that was to ebb and flow all afternoon, Bellew then helped his side right back into the game with a third wicket, the prolific Liam Bates also adjudged lbw to Bellew for 8.
When dangerman Robert Newton, who hit his maiden first class century for Northants last season, went for 19 off the bowling of Gomes (1-18), the visitors were on 50-4 and suddenly it was anyone’s game.
Scott produced a great spell in his first bowl at NCL Premier level for Stony to then account for Ralph (12), Perry (19) and Musgrave (0) and at 101-7 Stony were the favourites. But they were unable to press home their advantage thanks to an innings of great patience from Sam Kumar (27 from 106 balls) and a good innings of contrast from keeper Mark Carter, whose 28 from 39 balls took the game away from a flagging Stony at 142-7.
The home side were left kicking themselves after dropping two very sharp chances from Carter that may well have changed the game again if they’d been taken, as Stony were left to reflect on what might have been
Paceman Habib Ullah will return to bolster the seam bowling ranks on Saturday as Stony aim to bounce back and inflict another defeat on a Rushden side who crashed to a big defeat against Old Northamptonians last time out.
Stony’s 2nds picked up a creditable draw away at Overstone in their first ever game at Division Two level.
After making a good start with the ball, Stony reduced Overstone to 67-4 thanks to a fine early spell from Andy Ellemore who grabbed three wickets. However, brothers Vikesh and Parim Patel then changed the game with an incredible stand of 191, with Vikesh hammering an unbeaten 150 to steer Overstone to a mammoth 306-7.
Stony got off to a very solid start in reply, James Pickles (50) and Tom Moore (63) helping the visitors reach 104-1. Then at 182-3 Stony still looked to be well in the contest, but a flurry of wickets saw them drop to 221-8 as Parim Patel followed up his earlier runs with 4-42.
Stony hung on eight down for 223, just shy of a final batting point, and with the hosts probably regretting not declaring earlier in the day, the match ended up petering out into a draw.