Club end season on a high at Test ground
Warwickshire Cricket League
Twenty20 final at Edgbaston
Rugby vs Water Orton
Rugby finished their season in superb style, romping to a 71-run victory over Water Orton in the T20 final at Edgbaston.
It is a rare opportunity for club cricketers to play at a Test match ground, but Rugby seized it and rose to the occasion in front of some great support from the club faithful.
Rugby had eased into the final with a series of comprehensive wins, furthering their reputation as T20 specialists, but they knew that in-form Division 1 champions Water Orton would offer a sterner challenge.
As plentiful support from both clubs filed into Edgbaston’s fantastic new stand, there was a real sense of anticipation in the air, with both teams clearly charged with nervous energy.
Rugby captain Owen Edwards won the toss and, despite the overcast conditions, backed his powerful batting line-up and chose to bat first.
While Rugby’s Saturday form has been patchy this summer, they have been in blistering touch in the shortest format and this confidence was on show from the first ball which Henry Wilkins crashed to the extra-cover boundary.
Wilkins and Ed Benfield have formed a brutal opening partnership in the Rugby & District League and had no problem converting this form onto the bigger stage.
It was Wilkins who was first into his stride with two boundaries in the opening over and a delightful straight six in the next, before Benfield joined the party and the scoreboard raced along.
In what proved to be a pivotal period of the match, they crunched 59 runs from the six-over power play, eagerly taking advantage of the fielding restrictions.
They had moved the score onto 76, when disaster struck in the eighth over and Water Orton fought their way back into the game.
Richard Morgan (3 for 26) removed both openers, firstly having Benfield (34) caught, before Wilkins (39) chopped one onto his own stumps.
This brought Edwards and Matt Ewer to the crease together, but the Birmingham outfit had their tail up now and tight bowling from Morgan and Ed Harris meant Rugby had to rebuild.
After a few quiet overs, the pressure told and both men were out cheaply attempting to play big shots to wrestle back the initiative and, with their big names back in the pavilion, Rugby could easily have collapsed.
However, the middle and lower order showcased Rugby’s batting depth with some crucial contributions that turned the game back in their favour.
Bhavik Rathod launched a brief counter-attack, finding the boundary with some typically aggressive batting to sign off on a very successful debut season at the club.
By the time Rathod (23) was dismissed, the scoring rate was moving quickly again, allowing Mike Powell (20), Henry Parker (15) and Raj Chohan (13 not out) the freedom to finish the innings with some sharp running and impressive strokes.
Rugby’s final total of 167/7 from 20 overs was only a par score at such a venue, but they knew that scoreboard pressure in a cup final could give them edge.
This score soon seemed a lot better, when Rugby’s new-ball attack of Edwards and Henry Wilkins accounted for both openers in the first seven balls of Water Orton’s reply.
These early casualties meant that Water Orton did not have the same freedom to attack in the power play that Rugby did and limped to 32/2 from the first six overs.
Grant Roscorla survived two big lbw shouts against Edwards (4-0-20-1), who made up for his lack of batting contribution with a whole-hearted opening spell.
Roscorla was labelled as Water Orton’s danger man in the lead-up to the match and, having ridden his luck early on with the lbw appeals and a dropped chance, he began to attack Rugby’s spinners.
However, having reached 67/2 in the tenth over and laid the platform to accelerate the scoring, Rugby struck a crucial double blow that ultimately ended Water Orton’s chances.
Firstly Roscorla (34) was run out by Powell, before Chris Murphy (25) became Matt Ewer’s first wicket and the former RCC captain went on to rip through the middle order.
A rampant Ewer found the perfect speed and length to bowl on a used-pitch and the batsmen could not find any options to score from his medium pacers.
His spell of 4 for 13 from four overs ended the contest and earned him the man-of-the-match award, as 67/2 suddenly became 97 all out.
There was a wicket each for Powell and Lee Golding, before a diving catch by Golding gave Tom Wilkins the tenth and winning scalp.
It was a clinical performance from Rugby who showed their class in this format of the game and, Edwards was proud of his team, “It was a brilliant day and the guys handled the occasion perfectly.”
He admitted, “I was expecting to spend the day trying to relax everyone, but the lads took it in their stride and actually I think I was probably the most nervous of us all!”
“Obviously it would have been nice to make a big score myself, but the fact that it was such a team effort was a real highlight for me. Often it is one or two players who win you a match, but everyone made important contributions on Saturday.”
Edwards identified two critical moments in the game, “The start that Wilko and Ed gave us is something that very few other teams get. We are really lucky to have players with the ability to score that quickly and they do it consistently.”
“But after that great start, we lost four quick wickets. The character shown by the guys who came in next made me really proud as a captain. Bhavik’s innings took Water Orton by surprise; it was a perfect counter attack. Then Henry, Powelly and Raj all played busy cricket under pressure and got us to a match-winning score.”
The Rugby captain was also keen to pay tribute to the supporters, “We were cheered on brilliantly all day by the guys who came to watch. Our sponsors MJS Construction kindly paid for a coach to take us over there and we got to the ground quite early, so went to warm up in the indoor school.”
He explained, “It was a real shock when we came back into the ground and saw the stand full of RCC supporters. There were other Rugby members, friends, family and guys from other local clubs all cheering us on. This made the day extra special and the players are really grateful to them.”
“The Water Orton fans were pretty lively and made up some odd chants about Rugby being a small town in Bedworth, so fair play to our supporters who gave them a geography lesson and remained classy throughout.”
This draws the cricket season to an end for Rugby, but Edwards thinks it will make a difference for the 2017 season, “We’ve had a typical RCC season with more ups than downs, but a lot of inconsistency. This win means we can sign off on a big high and I think it will give us a lot of confidence and momentum to take into next summer.”
“Having said that, we have plenty of 30 and 40 plus year olds in our squad, so there are some aching bodies that are looking forward to a few months of hibernation now!”