The Stratford 1st XI continued their impressive season with two wins over the past three weeks, with the third game rained off.
In a season where sub-200 scores have been the norm, Stratford would have been disappointed when hosts Hawkins C&R posted 242, bowled out with two balls remaining. The innings had started promisingly, with Chris Whelan taking three top-order wickets. Mike Brown also contributed two wickets, opening the bowling in the absence of the injured Grundy. However, when it appeared they would set a low total, Hawkins rallied with 64 not out from Arshad and 71 from Ahmed, batting at 7 and 10 respectively. Abel Mokhuane had the latter stumped, one of four lower order wickets for the all-rounder.
In the chase, Stratford lost Rob West and Dan Protherough early, however positive half-centuries from Whelan (65), promoted to opener, Nathaniel Gregory (83) and Dex Purser (62*) saw Stratford to their target with over 10 overs to spare.
Following the abandonment at home to Streetly, there was a trip to Penn. The Stratford bowlers repeatedly pegged back the hosts, with no batsmen taking charge of the innings, as a top score of 29 suggests. Grundy accounted for the openers, whilst Brown bowled an extended spell to take 3-47. A pair of run-outs brought the innings to an early close, setting a total of 189 to win.
Stratford’s top order also struggled to make a telling contribution. Whelan and Mokhuane made 21 and 35 respectively without pushing on, whilst some single figure scores and a retirement for Protherough, who tore a bicep, left Stratford struggling in their chase. However a crucial 51 from Ben Pigott stabilised the innings, whilst Protherough was able to return to the crease and finished 33 not out. A two wicket win was tighter than Stratford had in mind, but enable them to consolidate their lead at the top of Division Three.
Not for the first time this season, the second XI were unable to force victory after setting a strong total batting first at home to Old Elizabethans. Each of the top three made fifty – Alex Marney top scored with 83 whilst fellow opener Sam Douthwaite made 56. An unbeaten 55 from Will Noble plus a swift 45 from Paul Malkin helped Stratford post 271 for the loss of just 4 wickets.
After an early wicket for Iain Lythall, Stratford were frustrated by a long partnership between opener French and number three Hills. After the former departed for 41, caught behind off Ant Pratley, wickets came more regularly – a pair each for Nick Jones and Charlie Blake. However Hills was unmovable – his unbeaten 101 meant Old Elizabethans could bat out the 50 overs. Although they couldn’t take the final three wickets, Stratford did earn a winning-draw to aid their promotion push.
After a trip to Ombersley was cancelled owing to the weather, Stratford hosting bottom team Eastnor at Swans Nest Lane. Watched by a group of American tourists, a rare event in the Birmingham League, Stratford batted first. Eastnor bowled poorly at the start, with one of their opening bowlers stuck in traffic and therefore arriving late, and opening Richard Sykes and Sam Douthwaite took advantage to reach 55-0 off the first 10. Douthwaite made 58, his second consecutive half-century, however the mainstay of the innings was Will Noble – he hit a well-paced and unbeaten 106 from number three. Gareth Langman provided some late hitting, with some confident strokes among his 50 not out.
The target of 266 was never in danger. Harry Jolly uprooted the off-stump in his first over and took two further wickets as he collected 3-23. Douthwaite contributed two wickets – the first well caught at mid-off by Jolly, the second a full-toss top-edged back to the relieved bowler. Leg-spinner Ant Pratley bowled plenty of impressive balls that had the batsmen groping at thin air, as well as several full-tosses and long-hops, but ultimately was too good for the lower order – he finished with a 5-fer and Stratford were victorious by 153 runs.
Bards (Third XI)
The Bards were, for once, on the winning side of a one-sided game involving Elmley Castle. Three wickets a piece for John Paton, George Dick and Dan Paton saw the hosts bowled out for a measly 62 in just 24 overs. This was a total Stratford reached for the loss of just two wickets, and inside 10 overs.