It was a good weekend for our Birmingham & District teams – the 1st XI kept hold of their lead at the top with a hard-fought victory, whilst the 2nd XI leaped into the promotion places with a strong all-round performance.
Stratford went to the top of the Third Division last Saturday and had a fight on their hands to keep that position at home to Newport. Without captain Chris Whelan and injured bowler Tom Grundy, Aidy Witts stepped in as skipper and opted to bowl. The former Bretforton all-rounder then led from the front, coming on as a second-change bowler to take a maiden five-wicket-haul for the club, recording figures of 5-41. He took the wickets of Paul Furniss and Craig Atherton in consecutive balls and was ably supported by off-spinner James Urquhart who picked up four wickets for 29. Opening bowler Nat Gregory (2-28) helped finish off the innings as Newport were bowled out for 147.
In reply, Stratford struggled to build a partnership and lost regular wickets. Several top order cameos were not substantial enough, and after Marney was run-out without scoring after a mix-up with Pigott, Stratford were 6 down and only half-way to their target. However Stratford were saved by an eight-wicket stand between Witts and Adam Joseph – both capable batsmen who have batted much higher up the order in recent times. They didn’t share the nerves felt in the clubhouse and batted calmly to reduce the runs required. Every run was applauded by their team-mates and spectators, and the pair dragged Stratford over the line with less than two overs remaining.
After two recent winning draws where on both occasions they were unable to take the last two wickets required for outright victory, Stratford’s Second XI were relieved to force force victory at the third attempt away to Bromsgrove. Their batsmen set a strong score of 229-6 from their 50 overs. Openers Sykes (42) and Jones (28) got the innings off to a positive start before Jim Harcourt’s half-century gave Stratford the momentum at the tea break.
Their bowling attack was boosted by the return of Harry Jolly, who missed the previous game due to a ‘3 peaks challenge’ charity event. He took 4 wickets, spread across the innings, for the cost of 39 runs. Bromsgrove were, however, looking confident during a partnership between Jones (31) and Russell (43) – it required a run-out to break the pair before Ant Pratley had the latter caught behind. The tail could only muster a few runs between them and the hosts were all out for 151 – an encouraging 78-run victory for the 2nd XI which saw them jump up to second place in the division.
Bards (Third XI)
The Bards suffered a heavy defeat at home to Leamington’s 4th XI at Alscot Park. The heavy rain during the week resulted in the uncovered wicket being very soft underfoot. It was a good toss to win, and Leamington wisely opted to bowl. The soft wicket brought seam movement and uneven bounce – this combined with a line-up short of recognised batsmen meant Stratford lost wickets frequently. Their total of 48 all out remained a poor effort, despite the challenging conditions. Leamington only required 12 overs to reach their target, though Stratford did pick up a bowling point as Dan Paton accounted for both opening batsmen.