Maximum points for third-place Rugby 1sts as they keep up title chase
Olton & WW v Rugby
A blistering century by Henry Wilkins powered Rugby to a vital win at Olton on Saturday, as Rugby kept in touch with their fellow title contenders.
Heavy rain before the start reduced the match to 40-overs per innings and, with more rain due, it was a surprise when Olton captain Michael Salerno won the toss and chose to bat.
It didn’t take long for the rain to reappear and, after five overs of Olton’s innings, the players left the field for another long delay, which reduced the entire match to just 60 overs.
Olton were well aware of the dangers of batting their full 40 overs and leaving Rugby with an easy winning draw target in just 20 overs, so resumed their innings with attacking intent to set up a declaration.
The introduction of Wilkins (2-49) soon accounted for both openers, while Matt Ewer (9-1-25-0) bowled a tight spell that proved to the most economical in the match by some distance.
Marc Webb (42) looked in good touch and quickly upped the tempo, until he became the first victim of Vishaal Rathod (2-41).
When Lee Golding claimed the fifth wicket soon after, Olton had slumped to 113-5 and it looked like they would struggle to post a total they’d be comfortable to declare on.
However Gary Hawkins (68no) and Zaid Joseph (33no) had other ideas, plundering 84 runs from the next 8 overs, allowing Salerno to declare on 197-5 from 30 overs.
This bold move gave Rugby the same number of overs to bat, setting up a straight 30-over contest, which both sides were desperate to win given their respective league positions.
Rugby’s reply started with a maiden but it wasn’t long before the runs began to flow and, despite the promotion of Wilkins as pinch hitter, it was actually Raj Chohan who struck two straight sixes to get things moving.
Chohan raced out of the blocks, allowing Wilkins to get his eye in, before the all-rounder took over and began to strike some monstrous blows.
They added 92 for the first wicket but, when Chohan (45) and Owen Edwards (2) were caught on the boundary in quick succession, Olton sensed a chance to get back into the match.
Jack Rosser (22) joined Wilkins and was busy from the outset in a crucial cameo, while his partner was now in full flight and racing towards three figures.
They added 68 for the third wicket and Rugby looked to be home and dry with the score on 177-3, but there was a sting in the tail as both men fell for the addition of just two runs.
Wilkins’ dismissal for a brilliant 69-ball 101 buoyed Olton and, with the new batsmen scrambling for runs, Rugby lost three more wickets to run outs inside three overs, which left 12 to win from the last two.
Thankfully, Steve Ward (14 not out) kept a cool head to see his side over the line with five balls and three wickets to spare.
The 24-point win moved Rugby up to third place in the Premier Division, cutting the gap to four points behind Olton who are second, but leaders Bedworth are still 19 points away.
Rugby host both of the teams ahead of them in the final two matches of the season, so it is gearing up to be a fascinating conclusion, although the Webb Ellis Roaders have a number of tough matches to negotiate before then and can’t afford to look too far ahead.
Warwickshire Division 3
Rugby 2nds v
Olton & WW 2nds
Rugby’s 2nd team produced a strong display on Saturday, securing the lion’s share of the points in a winning draw, although rain stopped them short of securing the full victory.
As in the 1st team match, early rain reduced the match to 41 overs per innings, before another shower took overs out of the game later on.
Olton batted first and started well through Manraj Johal (33) and Darren Kok who added 54 for the first wicket, before Abhay Lal (9-2-27-2) removed them both.
Mo Sadiq (9-3-15-1) bowled a very tight spell through the middle overs, but Callum Lamb (55) and Jeremy Bishop (46*) upped the tempo in the later overs.
Suj Barhey picked up a fourth wicket for hosts, before Olton finished on 186/4 from 41 overs.
Rugby’s reply started watchfully, through Jeevan Barhey (13) and the in-form Stuart Lloyd (44), while Sadiq chipped in with 15.
However, with rain reducing Rugby’s innings to just 34 overs, the run rate needed to increase if they were going to push on for the win and Lal (31) added the necessary injection of pace.
When he was out stumped, Suj Barhey came to the crease and immediately launched into Olton’s bowlers with a rapid 49 not out.
Despite his effort, supported by Barry Taylor (11*), Rugby ran out of overs and closed 6 runs short on 178-5 from 34 overs.
WARCL Division 9 East
Nether Whitacre 2nds vs Rugby 3rds
A depleted Rugby 3rd team suffered a heavy defeat against a more experienced Nether Whitacre outfit, despite a committed effort in the field.
In another rain-reduced match, Nether Whitacre batted first and made 175/8 before declaring after 29 overs, which left Rugby with 22 overs to bat.
Impressive leg-spinner Keval Rathod (7-1-32-4) was the pick of Rugby’s bowlers, while youngsters Euan Walker (2 for 20), Zachary Wenham and Finlay Hamill also took wickets, which included a stunning catch by Liam Slaughter.
Despite only needing to bat for a short time, Rugby’s inexperience was exposed by some testing bowling, particularly by Warren Blears (7-2-10-5).
Only Wenham (16) reached double figures, as Rugby collapsed to 47 all out from 19 overs.