CRICKET: Fifth win for Rugby as they hunt down league title challengers

Abhay Lal batting   PICTURES BY MIKE BAKER
Abhay Lal batting PICTURES BY MIKE BAKER

Up to fourth place in Warwickshire Cricket League Premier Division

WARCL Premier Division

Raj Chohan on his way to 18

Raj Chohan on his way to 18

Kenilworth vs Rugby

Rugby produced another impressive performance on Saturday to record their fifth consecutive victory, chasing down Kenilworth’s 212 at a canter, and continuing to hunt down the league’s title challengers.

Kenilworth is renowned as a formidable batting surface and, on a hot day, it was an easy decision for the hosts to bat first when they won the toss.

Openers Chris Prophet (43) and Dave Edmunds (22) added 56 for the first wicket, but both fell to Matt Ewer in quick succession, as Rugby fought their way into the game.

Chris Evans out for 18

Chris Evans out for 18

Left-arm spinner Tom Wilkins (12-0-37-2) also claimed two wickets, reducing Kenilworth to 71/4, but a couple of dropped chances meant Rugby didn’t force home their advantage.

Neil Goodman (52) and Jorget Singh (51) rebuilt the innings with an intelligent partnership and, although they both fell late in the day, they had given their side something to defend.

Ewer (12-2-52-3) was the pick of the attack, while Michael Powell (9-0-36-2) and Owen Edwards (9-1-38-1) picked up wickets at the death, before Kenilworth closed on 212/8.

Since his promotion to open the innings, Henry Wilkins has usually given his side an aggressive start and Saturday was no different, as he hit three boundaries in the opening over of Rugby’s reply.

However, Wilkins (15), Charlie Robards (4) and Powell (12) all fell in quick succession and Rugby found themselves in trouble at 43/3.

Lee James (27) was in fluent touch, as he and Ewer progressed to 94, but two more quick wickets put the game back in the balance at 104/5 after 24 overs.

This brought Edwards to join Ewer at the crease and Rugby’s in-form captain was soon into his stride and attacking Kenilworth’s spinners.

This counter-punch took the home side by surprise and the Webb Ellis Roaders were soon racing towards their target with a series of boundaries.

Both Edwards and Ewer passed half centuries and Kenilworth had no response, as the pair added an unbroken stand of 111 in 15 overs and Rugby romped home.

The reliable Ewer (72*) provided the anchor to Rugby’s run chase, while Edwards made his fourth fifty in as many weeks, racing to 75 not out from 45 balls.

Rugby reached the winning line with five wickets and 11.2 overs to spare, securing another 24 points and continuing their fine run of form.

The points haul consolidated Rugby’s position in fourth place on 228 points but, after their poor form earlier in the summer, they still have a lot of work to do to catch Marston Green (259), Olton (273) and, most critically, leaders Handsworth (283).

WARCL Division 4

Rugby 2nds vs Olton 2nds

Rugby’s second string kept promotion to WARCL Division 3 firmly in their sights after a nail-biting win over Olton and West Warwicks 2nds.

Although losing the toss, the home side were happy to find themselves batting on what appeared to be a good track at the immaculate Webb Ellis Road.

With surprisingly strong availability for the holiday period of the season, Rugby fielded a long batting line up, blistered by the return of Ed Benfield, Krish Dhokia, Henry Parker and Raj Chohan.

However, as the saying goes however, you don’t score runs on paper and Rugby failed to build a platform to set a big score with the Olton opening pair proving difficult to score from.

Moore (9-2-21-3) helped reduce Rugby to 25/2 and 65/5, despite a threatening 24 from the free-scoring Parker and Chris Evans chipping in with 18.

Thankfully for the home side, Chohan (18) and Jonathan Sage joined at the crease and looked to nullify the opposition attack, picking off ones and twos whilst playing simple cricket that showed what patience and application could do.

They took the score to 125 before Chohan was unlucky to be given out caught behind, the wicket perhaps coming from a very belligerent appeal.

The lower order lacked discipline and wickets tumbled again and, when top-scorer Sage was caught for 45 by a brilliant return catch off the impressive Rees (7.2-2-10-2), Rugby had posted a mere 142 from just 39.2 overs.

Knowing a win was essential, Rugby came out full of energy and their new-ball pairing of captain Neal McGrath and James Barker immediately settled into a good partnership, offering little in the way of width.

Bowling with real pace and seam movement, Barker was the first to strike, taking two wickets in the eighth over of the Olton innings.

This brought the aggressive Nadim Chawdhury to the crease, who immediately played expansively, but wickets were tumbling at the other end to McGrath (12-3-35-3).

When one skipper removed the other, the Olton reply was faltering at 68/5 from 20 overs, but Chowdhury was still at the crease and, defending such a low total, his was going to be a key wicket.

In his penultimate over, Barker was the man to stand and deliver, yorking the young number 3 with a devastating delivery.

With regular overs under his belt, Barker is proving to be one of the finest quick bowlers in the league and bowling unchanged for figures of 12-3-38-3, he was unlucky not to pick up any more to add to his seasons tally.

Sensing victory, Rugby’s spin twins Rob Stipanovic and Krish Dhokia looked to finish off the tail and, when the excellent Stipanovic (7-2-20-2) had McLeod caught behind by Evans, it seemed the game would be wrapped up soon.

Batting at number seven for Olton was 14-year-old Hayden Burke, who gave on an incredible lesson in how to bat in a pressured environment, patiently waiting for the bad balls and picking them off when they came.

Suddenly Olton were creeping closer to their target, but Abhay Lal (6-1-17-1) finally removed Burke (27) as the youngster flashed at a wide one, with only 13 runs required

The final pairing squeezed out another nine runs quickly but Dhokia, returning from a long spell out with injury, sent down a quicker delivery that was too good for Olton’s number 11 and Rugby had won by 3 runs.

It was another fantastic bowling display from Rugby to secure their sixth 24-point win of the season, but they know that they must address their batting frailties if they are to succeed in a next week’s crucial match against league-leaders Marston Green 2nds.

WARCL Division 11 East

Rugby 3rds vs Highway 3rds

Rugby’s third team have been sensational this season and, with three games left to play, have now secured the league title, after another 24-point win on Saturday.

Rugby batted first and lost early wickets to Guranand Shergill (10-2-25-4), but their experienced middle order ensured a competitive total was posted.

Tony Pasternak (51), Jag Barhey (38), Hem Mistry (22) and Kurran Barhey (20) all contributed well to Rugby’s 216 all out from 42 overs.

Highway’s response started well and, at 62/1, they looked to be threatening Rugby’s unbeaten record.

However, the introduction of spin turned the game for Rugby, with Sachin Sard getting a key break through, before young leg-spinner Avanish Mistry showcased his talents.

Mistry (6-2-19-4) was the pick of Rugby’s attack, supported well by his brother Hem (2/16), before Kurran Barhey, Ash Koria and Liam Slaughter took a wicket each.

Highway were bowled out for 100 and Rugby were compressive 116-run winners.