As we approach the final day of the season with both the 1st and 2nd XI teams in the hunt for promotion, here is a quick update of the past few weeks.

1st XI

Home games for our 1st team have recently been covered in a series of three guest reports by Leigh Tranter. Away from Swans Nest Lane, they have also played Kings Heath and Millford Hall, plus an abandoned fixture at Astwood Bank.

Their promotion hopes took a hit with defeat at Kings Heath. Their total of 222, having been put into bat, was one of their better totals of the season. Nathaniel Gregory fell 5 runs short of a deserved century, but a lack of further contributions meant that Stratford were bowled out with 6.3 overs remaining.

They then endured a frustrating afternoon in the field, unable to take any early wickets as Kings Heath’s openers made a big century. Umeed and Thomas eventual fell to the part-time bowling of Dexter Parser, but only after having made 100 and 70 respectively. The target was reached for no further loss within 40 overs.

After bouncing back with a victory at home to Quatt, they travelled to Milford Hall. With Chris Whelan unavailable, Aidy Witts took over as captain and opted to bowl first. Opener Hollinshead fell just short of a half-century however wickets fell at regular intervals. Mike Brown and James Urquhart each took 3 wickets to leave their batsmen chasing 149.

Helped by some wayward bowling – the 34 extras included 21 sides – Stratford reached this for the loss of 3 wickets. Ben Pigott top scored with 40 whilst Gregory was unbeaten at the end with 31.

Ahead of Saturday’s game, the Panthers remain in second place. Victory will give them promotion back to the 2nd Division at the first time of asking.

Scorecard – 1st XI lost to Kings Heath by 8 wickets
Scorecard – 1st XI beat Milford Hall by 7 wickets

2nd XI

Since our last update, the 2nds have enjoyed a string of victories – 4 wins from their last 7 with 2 abandonments.

The first of these victories was away to Sutton Coldfield. They posted a strong total thanks to 90 from ‘keeper Jim Harcourt, whilst Nick Jones made an unbeaten 67. In reply, opener James Lunn made 54 however the middle order was ripped out by Harry Jolly who took 5-83. With less than 34 overs gone, Sutton Coldfield were bowled out for 136.

At home to Kings Heath, Stratford restricted their visitors to 164-9. The wickets were shared, with two-a-piece for Douthwaite, Jones and Abell. With an injury leaving him unable to bowl for the 1sts, Tom Grundy joined up with the seconds and made 56 opening the batting. The total was reached in 34 overs; another comprehensive win.

However the following week saw them slip to a narrow defeat against Water Orton. Bowling first, Stratford were unable to take early wickets and several contributions saw Water Orton set a target of 274, with fifties for Bennett and Singh. Adam Joseph made 40 opening the batting, whilst Sam Douthwaite and Tim Smart both passed 60. However late wickets dented their chase and they finished 11 runs short.

The following week they were given the opportunity to make amends with a chase of 166. Opponents Barnards Green were restricted by a good team bowling performance, with the wickets shared. However the chase did not go to plan. Ducks for Langman, Sykes and Cootes in the middle order left the lower order with plenty left to make. Nick Jones made 36 but after he departed, it was down to the last pair. Thankfully for Stratford, Harry Jolly and George Dick kept their composure to complete a 1 wicket victory.

The next result was barely more comfortable. Away to Stourbridge, Stratford posted 257 thanks to 94 from Alex Marney who fell just short of a second century of the season. However their bowling was wayward, with a staggering 40 wides bowled. Stourbridge reached the halfway point for the loss of just one wicket, with half centuries for Ali and Khalid, however middle order wickets stunted their chase. Despite 43 from Ahmed at 8, they finished 4 runs short when their 50 overs were up. Alex Hughes took 4 of the 8 wickets to fall.

Ahead of the final game of the season, Stratford top the 3rd Division South, meaning victory will crowd them league champions.

Scorecard – 2nd XI beat Sutton Coldfield by 138 runs
Scorecard – 2nd XI beat Kings Heath by 6 wickets
Scorecard – 2nd XI lost to Water Orton by 11 runs
Scorecard – 2nd XI beat Barnards Green by 1 wicket
Scorecard – 2nd XI beat Stourbridge by 4 runs

Bards (3rd XI)

The Bards’ season finished on the last Saturday of August, with victory at home to Welford. A remarkable batting performance saw Pete Richards make 164 – he dominated the first few partnerships and reached his hundred with the team total on 133. He was run out not far off the Bards record score. The bowling performance stuttered until Thadius Kaminski-Gaze took 2 wickets with successive balls – the cause not helped by 7 dropped catches across the innings. The lower order swung the bat and got to within 18 runs of victory before James Paton hit the stumps to take the last wicket in darkening conditions.

They finished in 7th position of the Cotswold Hills League Division 5. Several narrow losses saw any promotion hopes fade, however 6 wins for the season represents an improvement after a few seasons of free fall and they will look to build on this next season.

Scorecard – 3rd XI beat Welford by 18 runs