Round-up: Rugby 1sts tighten grip on second place in table with four-wicket win
PICTURES BY MIKE BAKER
ECB Birmingham League
Pelsall v Rugby
Rugby tightened their grip on second place in the table after a gritty fifty from Michael Hughes capped an impressive team performance, guiding his side to a four-wicket win.
The hosts won the toss and chose to bat first, but were soon in trouble against Rugby’s in-form new ball attack of Matt Ewer and Lee Golding.
Golding struck with the first ball of the second over, before Ewer picked up three wickets in quick succession, which included the dangerous duo of Tom Boyd and Todd Henderson for 14 apiece.
Ewer (10-4-29-3) was at his best and the pick of Rugby’s attack in a particularly nagging opening spell, but Pelsall fought back against the change bowlers.
With Vishaal Rathod nursing a groin injury, Owen Edwards still regaining fitness from a back problem and Neal McGrath unavailable, Rugby’s bowling stocks were diminished and the Staffordshire outfit cashed in.
Henry Wilkins replaced Golding and struggled for control in his first two overs which cost 25 runs, as Pelsall counter-punched against some wayward bowling.
Thankfully for Rugby, George Terry returned to the 1st XI and struck early in his spell when he bowled Paul Grainger (21), but Australian overseas Keith Moody was now scoring freely.
Having been 31-4 at one stage, Pelsall had recovered to 135-5 when Rathod finally removed Moody (56), but the lower middle order continued to chip in with handy runs.
Terry (10-0-47-2) removed the swashbuckling Dan Wale (19), before Golding returned and had Waqar Ahmed (14) well caught by Hugh Cochrane.
Edwards then picked up the ninth wicket in his solitary over, before Golding (8.1-2-35-3) accounted for Tom Wright (33) to bowl Pelsall out for 193 in the 42nd over.
The pitch was offering some inconstant bounce to excite the bowlers but, on a quick outfield, this scored looked around par in a crunch match between 2nd and 3rd in the table.
However, it wasn’t long before Pelsall were definitely in the box seat after Wale claimed the first three wickets in a fiery opening burst that reduce Rugby to 40-3.
Edwards was joined by Hughes at this point and the former Stockton duo steadied the ship and began to bring their side back into the game.
However, just as Rugby looked to be getting on top, a rash shot from Edwards (26) opened up an end and, when Ewer (8) fell soon after, Rugby were struggling again on 84-5.
With the game on a knife edge, Henry Parker put some pressure back on the bowlers in an enterprising knock that added 48 for the sixth wicket, whilst Hughes continued to frustrate the bowlers with his placement and deflections.
Once again though, a wicket fell just as Rugby seemed to be getting on top, as Parker (25) fell tamely to a caught and bowled.
With 62 runs still needed for victory, Peslall sensed an opening but Wilkins continued his return to form with the bat to keep Rugby on track.
Wilkins was watchful early on, but soon began to punish the bad balls and Rugby countered to the winning line.
Wilkins (43 not out) finished the game in a flurry of boundaries, whilist Hughes (59 not out) had played a crucial anchor role, absorbing a lot of pressure and playing the match-winning knock his side needed.
With Pelsall only picking up four points and Stratford also losing, Rugby have opened up a 20-point gap ahead of their opponents next week Old Hill, who have moved up to third place.
“It was a great win,” praised Rugby’s captain Edwards. “Pelsall are a strong side and play tough cricket, so to go to their place and get the win was really pleasing.
“Those are the competitive matches that really test a side and I was proud of our performance. They came hard at us with the ball, but Hughesy’s knock was the difference between the sides. He held our innings together and the two Henrys played really well too.”
“After getting promoted last season, we never expected to have such a successful year, but our confidence has grown through the summer and we are playing some really good cricket. It’s going to be hard to catch Stourbridge, but just being in contention at this end of the table is a real achievement and shows how far the club has come.”
Rugby 2nds v Kidderminster 2nds
Rugby struggled to a 59-run defeat against title-chasing Kidderminster on a day where the bowlers were on top, especially spinners.
After winning the toss, Rugby chose to field first, but the Worcestershire side started well through Mark Mansell (54).
Bhavk Rathod struck the first break through, before a superb diving catch by Jon Sage gave Mo Sadiq the second wicket.
James Kinder (67 not out) anchored the second half of Kidderminster’s innings, despite impressive spells from Sadiq (9-1-23-2), Naresh Kaushal (9-1-33-1) and Sage (7-0-36-2).
There was also a late wicket for Dave Marshall, but Kidderminster’s 198-8 looked a challenging total in good bowling conditions.
Rugby’s reply started confidently through Charlie Robards (14) and Rathod (17) but, once they fell in quick succession, Rugby soon found themselves behind the game.
Alex Smith (28) was the best of Rugby’s batsmen, well supported by Sadiq (21), but once their fourth wicket partnership was broken, the bowlers ran through Rugby’s lower order.
Gomez Vincent (4-26) and Charlie Staniforth (3-29) did the damage, as Rugby slumped to 139 all out.
WARCL Division 9 East
Rugby 2nds v Wolvey
Rugby’s third string held out for a losing draw against a strong Wolvey side, a result which looks to have secured fourth place with only one game to go.
Wolvey batted first and Jack Coleman (2-48) removed the usually high scoring John Hawkins (3) early on.
Rubans (10-2-31-1) bowled a tight spell, but the remaining opener Joseph Smith-Walker (99) provided the backbone of Wolvey’s innings, before being bowled by Nanak Singh (3-32) agonisingly short of his century.
Keith Bradbury bowled a tight spell in the middle overs and Rugby restricted their visitors to 207-8 from 45 overs.
Rugby’s reply started badly with two early wickets, before the in-form Zachary Wenham (37) and Jag Barhey (23) rebuilt the innings.
However, Rugby were never really up with the required rate and, as wickets fell, they switched their focus to a batting out the overs.
Keval Rathod (21) and Chris Evans (18 not out) ensured this happened, as Rugby reached 134-7.
Rugby v Marton
A youthful Rugby side hung on for a narrow 2-run victory over Marton in an entertaining match at Webb Ellis Road.
Rugby skipper Lee Golding won the toss, chose to bat first and saw opener Liam Slaughter (20) give his side a good start.
Number three Golding (56) scored a quick fifty, with good support from Will Browne (17), before Kyrone Dodd (3-24) took a flurry of wickets.
Charlie Robards (45 not out) ensured Rugby posted a competitive 183-8 from their 40 overs, with 13-year-old Augustus Wenham (13) contributing important runs.
Zach Anwar took an early wicket in Marton’s reply, before Rubans (57) and Jay Singh (18) looked to put their side on top.
However, Danny Sadiq broke this partnership and, despite Dodd (45) continuing his good day, wickets fell regularly with Mo Sadiq (3-33) doing the damage.
It came to the last over and Marton needed 8 to win and Golding turned back to youngster Danny Sadiq who held his nerve to secure the win.