Stratford’s Birmingham League campaign started this past Saturday, with the 1sts aiming for promotion from Division 3 having missed out on the last day of the 2014 season, whilst the 2nds are looking to consolidate their position in Division 1 following last seasons promotion. Both teams were sporting updated kit featuring new sponsors REPL Group.

1st XI

The Stratford’s 1st XI opened their campaign at home to Worcester. Now captained by fast bowler Mike Brown, the Panther’s XI featured new overseas batsman Ben Cooper, a Dutch international, along with wicket-keeper Chris Calcott who was signed from Leamington over the winter.

Tom Grundy’s electric form with the ball in Worcester’s innings reduced them to 41 for 4, before Ed Cunynghame’s superb diving catch secured a fifth wicket – Worcester’s skipper, Muhammad Adeel, departure leaving them in trouble at 76 for 5. An important 40 from Owen Morris plus a frustrating and unbeaten last wicket partnership of 27 rescued their score to a more respectable 172 for 9. Grundy finished with figures of 3-12, bowling 6 maidens from his 10 overs and continuing his fine form from last year that saw him crowned Stratford’s player of the 2014 season at their recent pre-season dinner.

In reply, Stratford’s chase took a early setback as opener Adrian Witts was LBW for a duck, followed two balls later by Ben Cooper, making a two-ball duck on his league debut. After cameos from West and Purser, an expertly-timed knock of 70 not out from Chris Whelan got Stratford over the line. The three wicket win was tighter than anticipated at the lunch break, not helped by four ducks from the Stratford batting line-up, however their season is under way with the victory. They travel to Pelsall this Saturday.

For a video interview with Mike Brown, please see the Stratford Herald website.

Scorecard – 1st XI beat Worcester by 3 wickets

2nd XI

The 2nd XI started their season back in Division 1 with a trip to Coventry & North Warwickshire. Wicket-keeper Adam Joseph captained the side in the absence of captain Richard Sykes and vice-captain Harry Jolly, whilst an administrative delay meant only 10 players were fielded. Batting first, Joseph was out during the first over for a duck before Alex Marney made 19 – unlucky to be caught as his pull shot was held up by strong winds.

Gareth Langman looked in excellent touch – making several confident boundaries as he passed 50 – but had to drag himself off the field after miscuing a full toss to be caught for 94. Jim Harcourt also found the boundary with ease before being yorked for 55. Cameos from Harry Abell and Iain Lythall held the side reach 242, all out with a ball remaining. 

Pleased with their total at the halfway stage, Stratford were unable to capitalise on the work of Langman and Harcourt. After an early run out, Coventry & NW profited from several dropped catches before Joseph had Simpson caught behind. Their third wicket pair made swift work until Pathan was adjudged LBW to Abell for 93 before Beaufoy (85*) and Bristow (17*) took their side to the total with 7 overs remaining – with a six clinching victory. Sam Douthwaite bowled tightly for no reward – just 21 runs off his 10 overs – however the Stratford attack didn’t do enough to test the batsmen. They’ll be hoping to kick-start their season this coming Saturday as they host Shrewsbury at Swans Nest Lane.

Scorecard – 2nd XI lost to Coventry & NW by 7 wickets