Here is an update for the past four rounds of matches.
The 1st XI have won two of their first four games, including a nail-bitting chase at home to Astwood Bank. The 2nd XI have found life back in 1st Division challenging, with consecutive 96-run losses following their first win of the season. Meanwhile the Bards have started with two wins from their opening three games, including back-to-back hundreds from Ed Cunynghame.
After opening the season with victory against Worcester, Stratford 1st XI travelled to Pelsall and soon had the hosts in trouble, reduced to 54-4 and later 136-7, with Aidy Witts taking three wickets. However a eighth wicket stand of exactly 100 frustrated Stratford and although captain Mike Brown ended the partnership and also finished with 3 wickets, a target of 245 was larger than they would have liked.
Much is expected of Ben Cooper, Stratford’s overseas player and current Dutch international, and he didn’t disappoint with an impressive century including 15 fours and 2 sixes. His 109 should have been the foundation of Stratford’s chase, however he couldn’t find a willing partner – Stratford only made one fifty partnership, and once Cooper fell the last four wickets could only add 9 to the total as Stratford were bowled out for 205 and a 39 run loss.
The following week, they hosted Whitchurch who batted first. 7 batsmen fell for single figures, however Maisam Hasnain Jaffri was playing a different game, hitting 123 from 149 balls to set a target of 220 from 50 overs. Spinner James Urquhart took 3 wickets and Mike Brown 2.
Stratford’s reply got off to a poor start, with both openers falling with the score on 14. Cooper hit four early boundaries but fell for 16 as Stratford lost frequent wickets. 44 from Dexter Purser and 40 from Ben Pigott were encouraging however the 1st XI were bowled out for 188, their second consecutive loss.
A third chase in three weeks followed at home to Astwood Bank. The visitors were restricted to 189-8, with no batsman passing fifty. Urquhart impressed with 27-3, ripping out the middle order, whilst all-rounder Ben Pigott took 2-52.
The chase got off to a disastrous start as openers West and Calcott both made ducks. But Purser joined Cooper and both batted positive in a century stand. Purser hit 3 sixes in his 63, whilst Cooper made 64 from just 67 balls. When both fell, Stratford wobbled – Noble made a duck whilst Langman hit his own wicket for 1. Ben Pigott, batting at 7, made an unbeaten 30 to take Stratford to a 2 wicket win – his all-round effort earning him the REPL Man of the Match award.
The 2nd XI secured their first win of the new season at home to Shrewsbury. The visitors were bowled out for 203, with Harry Jolly and debutant Lee Clarke each taking 3 wickets. Without 51 from captain Anders at 7, the total would have been much lower.
Stratford’s chase was anchored around a fine innings from Pete Richard – the REPL Man of the Match for his 73. He was helped by 43 from Sam Bishop, and although some late wickets fell, an unbeaten 37 from wicket-keeper James Harcourt saw Stratford home for a 4 wicket win.
Their side was depleted the following week due to captain Richard Sykes’ stag weekend, joined by Jolly and Lythall. Fielding only 10 players, Stratford took regular wickets, including three for Will Noble, and Shifnal’s batsmen could only manage a high score of 41, however 42 extras made the score far competitive.
Chasing 222, Stratford made slow work and though they lost Jones and Noble early, they reached the drinks break just 2 wickets down. However stand-in captain Adam Joseph (28) and Harcourt (23) fell soon after the resumption and Stratford collapsed to 125 all out.
Extras cost Stratford again the following week. 38 extras plus 18 penalty runs offset any good work by the bowlers. Iain Lythall took 4-45 and Josh Hickman 2-34, however they couldn’t stop Astwood Bank setting a challenging target of 262.
Much like the week before, Stratford were soon two down before a much needed partnership between Joseph and Harcourt. But once they fell for 34 and 45 respectively, Stratford again collapsed and were all out for 165 with 19 overs remaining – a second 96-run loss in eight days.
3rd XI (Bards)
The Bards started their second season in the 5th Division of the Cotswold Hills at home to Leamington IV. A strong bowling performance saw Leamington restricted to 118-9 from their 45 overs. In reply, Stratford lost 3 early wickets but a strong fourth wicket stand between James Paton and Martin Malone took them to 80-3, however quick wickets then fell and the Bards were 95-8 and then 105-9. However captain John Paton made an unbeaten 14 to secure a nail-biting 1 wicket win.
The following week they travelled to Winchcombe where they were set a much larger target of 227. Their batting line-up was strengthened by the presence of Ed Cunynghame and following a 90 minute batting session with Andy Flower two days prior, he put that practice into action to make a fine century. However Stratford fell 23 runs short, finishing on 203-8.
They would make no mistake the following week. Earlswood, the visitors, started slowly as both John and Dan Paton bowled unchanged for just 16 runs each from their 10 overs, however Earlswood kept wickets in hand and accelerated after drinks, with wicket-keeper Massey making 89. Set a target of 193, Stratford were soon 2 wickets down, however Cunynghame took control and his unbeaten 124 took the Bards to a 7 wicket win with 16 balls remaining.