Captain Edwards leads 1sts’ fightback over Olton
PICTURES BY MIKE BAKER
WARCL Premier Division
Olton vs Rugby
Rugby continued their winning run in a nail-biting encounter at high-flying Olton, as captain Owen Edwards led a superb fightback to set up a one-wicket victory in the final over.
Chasing a target of 200 to win, Rugby had collapsed to a perilous 88 for 7 in the 24th over and the match looked all but lost when George Mackenzie joined Edwards at the crease.
However, with plenty of overs left in the game, the pair took their time to steady the ship with some watchful defence and gradually rebuilt the innings.
Mackenzie (31) played a crucial role and showed the value in Rugby’s batting depth, building an eighth wicket partnership of 59 but, just as Rugby had clawed their way back into contention, he was stumped off Michael Salerno’s bowling.
At this point, Edwards opted to throw caution to the wind and began to increase Rugby’s scoring rate, with valuable support from Tom Binding.
However, Olton struck back again at a crucial time, when Phil Trilloe trapped Binding (7) lbw to leave Rugby on 174/9 with four overs remaining.
With the game on a knife edge, number 11 Tom Wilkins did his best to rotate the strike and, with Edwards able to clear the boundary rope twice in quick succession, the final over began with just two runs needed to win.
It took them four balls, but the batsmen scrambled the two necessary singles to secure a memorable win and Rugby’s third consecutive victory.
Edwards top scored with an unbeaten 81, while Matt Ewer (40) and Steve Ward (25) had earlier shared a combative 65-run stand for the third wicket.
Having come together after Rugby had lost both openers for just one run inside the first two overs, their efforts had progressed the score to 66/2, before a flurry of five wickets for just 22 runs brought Edwards and Mackenzie together.
Earlier in the day, Edwards had won the toss and chosen to bowl first, a decision that was rewarded when Ewer (12-0-43-1) claimed a wicket in the fifth over.
It was then over to a high-class opening burst from in-form Henry Wilkins (11.4-3-33-4) who took crucial wickets at the start and finish of the innings.
Tom Wilkins (12-1-58-2) and Edwards (12-1-49-2) bowled tidily through the middle overs, while Gary Hawkins (46) and Liam Gately (42) top scored for Olton, before they were bowled out for 199 in the 50th over.
Despite a delightful batting surface, Rugby’s bowlers restricted the scoring with a whole-hearted effort and were well supported by an energetic display in the field.
However, Rugby are still paying the price for a torrid run of five, successive winless matches earlier in the summer and are still 63 points adrift of league-leaders Handsworth.
WARCL Division 4
Rugby 2nds vs Warwick 1sts
Rugby 2nd XI followed last week’s fantastic result with a commanding performance over local rivals Warwick 1st XI to win by 102 runs.
Enjoying the unusual luxury of fielding a team boasting 4 centurions from the previous week and aware Warwick’s lowly league position, captain Neal McGrath had no hesitancy in choosing to bat first when he won the toss, aiming for the full 24 points on offer.
Chris Evans and Barry Taylor looked to build a positive opening partnership, as they had done the previous week, but the opening attack of Austin (12-2-31-1) and Paul Jackson settled into a superb rhythm that kept the run rate well below 3 an over for the first 10 overs.
Extracting some pace and bounce from the wicket, Jackson had Taylor (4) smartly caught behind and when Evans (13) played on, the score had crept to 25-2 from just 13 overs.
Warwick looked to press home their advantage and, as the opening bowlers continued their nagging line and lengths, 25/2 became 35/4 with Mo Sadiq (7) and Rob Stipanovic (2) failing to make an impact.
New signing Abhay Lal, batting at number 4 and fresh from a third-team century on his debut last week, looked to counter attack, scoring freely around the ground, especially through the cover region.
With Jonathan Sage (22) playing a supporting role at the other end, the pair repaired the early damage and aimed to give Rugby a defendable total.
Their crucial partnership of 80 helped Rugby regain some control over the game, but the balance swung back in Warwick’s favour when Sage fell to Lohan (12-2-38-2) straight after the drinks break and Lal (59) was bowled in the 30th over, leaving Rugby on 119-6 with 20 overs still remaining.
Jack Coleman (14) and Alex Smith (10) looked to play out the remaining overs, but Warwick showed impressive patience and runs were hard to come by, as Jackson was brought back into the attack and finished up with fine figures of 11.1-4-26-5.
A flurry of late boundaries saw Rugby finish on 160 all out in the 49th over and, although a score of 200 had been the target, Rugby knew they had a defendable target if they produced a disciplined bowling performance.
McGrath opened from the pavilion end and straight away caused problems for the away side with his away swing, although the first wicket came via a direct-hit run out from Sage with the score on 2.
Warwick were immediately on the back foot and when McGrath (8-2-17-2) then took two in two balls, the away side’s batting frailties were being exposed.
Jamie Barker (12-5-23-4) was the start of Rugby’s attack, bowling a superb unchanged spell from the tennis-court end that blew the middle order away with some unplayable pace bowling, aided by a stunning catch at point from Taylor.
Warwick had crept to 40/7 and any hopes of the win had long since vanished, before Sadiq (5.2-2-12-2) continued his excellent form with the ball this season.
The lower order were unable to restrain themselves and dig in for the draw, as Warwick were dismissed for just 58 in 26 overs.
It was a crushing performance that moves Rugby up to 4th in the table, just 12 points behind league leaders Marston Green.
WARCL Division 11 East
Rugby 3rds vs Copsewood WIW 2nds
Rugby’s third team had to hold on for a losing draw on Saturday, their first negative result of the season, but are still brilliantly placed at the top of the table with a 60-point lead.
Copsewood batted first and had a number of contributions in their top order, but the most prominent partnership came from the final pair of Abdullah Asmari (24 not out) and Ehtisham Munir (16), before being bowled out for 204 in their final over.
Sachin Sard (3/37) was the pick of Rugby’s attack, well supported by Adam Milsom (2/36), three run outs and a wicket apiece to Tom Mitchell and Rubans Sugatharubans.
Rugby’s reply started well with the top three of Sard, Akram Ullah (15) and Ash Koria (17) scoring comfortably, but a sudden collapse left Rugby reeling on 86/6.
Opener Sard was joined by Rubans and the pair began to turn the innings around but, when Rubans (37) was caught, it was left to Sard and the tail to negotiate the final overs and secure a losing draw.
Sard completed a fine all-round display by carrying his bat for an unbeaten 63, as Rugby closed on 161/8.