Rugby's newly promoted 1st XI still unbeaten at top of their Birmingham League
ECB Birmingham Premier League
Lichfield vs Rugby
An inspired bowling spell from Lee Golding fired Rugby into a 4-point lead at the top of the table, securing his side’s fourth consecutive win in the process.
Rugby maintained their unbeaten run since promotion into the Birmingham League, beating Lichfield by 71 runs in a low-scoring encounter, despite being on the wrong end of an important toss.
Lichfield’s covers had leaked during the heavy overnight rain, leaving a wet patch at one end that had the bowlers licking their lips in anticipation.
The hosts had no hesitation in asking Rugby to bat first when they won the toss and it was soon apparent that batting from one end was going to be very hard, as the ball misbehaved from a good length.
After losing Asaad Qureshi (5) early on, Jeevan Barhey (15) and Michael Hughes (21) battled hard from the wet end and looked fluent at the dry one.
Rugby looked well placed at 39/1 and 53/2 but, once the third wicket fell, Rugby lost their way and wickets tumbled in quick succession.
Henry Parker (14) was the only middle-order batsman to reach double figures as eight wickets for 64 runs to leave Rugby reeling on 103/9.
Alarmingly, the pitch had baked under blue skies during Rugby’s innings and batting was starting to look much easier.
Thankfully for Rugby, a spirited last wicket stand between Vishaal Rathod (24) and Naresh Kaushal (19 not out) propelled them to 134 before being bowled out in the 48th over.
Thomas Stone (5/42) and Jack Warren (4/31) were the pick of Lichfield’s attack.
With improved batting conditions and a low target, Lichfield appeared full of confidence during the break, but Lee Golding had different ideas and ripped through their top order.
A superb opening spell saw him grab two wickets in his first over, including a perfect away-swinging delivery to dismiss the in-form Warren (4).
The nagging Matt Ewer (10-6-16-1) built pressure from the other end and soon grabbed the third wicket of the innings, before a pair of Golding yorkers reduced the Staffordshire side to 20/5.
Richard Tibbott (12) was the only batsman to show some real resistance and Rugby had to work hard for the next wicket, but it came thanks to a sharp catch by Barhey from Rathod’s bowling.
This broke the back of Lichfield’s resistance and the introduction of Henry Wilkins (4.1-1-12-4) saw the tail collapse as Rugby sprinted to the winning line.
He was at his high-impact best, as the last five wickets fell for just 22 runs and the home side were bowled out for just 63, chiefly set up by Golding’s opening spell of 8-2-16-4.
24-point victors Rugby are one of two unbeaten sides in the league, along with Stourbridge who only picked up 20 points in their win, allowing Rugby to go clear at the top.
“It has been a brilliant start to the season,” stated captain Edwards, “We knew we’d have to bring our best form if we were going to compete in the Birmingham league, but the lads have continued from last year and the great atmosphere the in the side continues give us an edge.
“We are enjoying the success, but aren’t getting carried away either. We know there will be some tough games ahead and you can’t really judge the league table until a few more matches have been played.”
Rugby 2nds vs Barnards Green 2nds
A disappointing performance from Rugby CC 2nd XI left them ruing six dropped catches, ending up with a losing draw as they came up 5 runs short against Barnards Green.
Winning the toss and opting to bowl first to utilise the gloomy conditions, captain Hugh Cochrane’s decision looked to pay dividends as the new-ball pairing of George Terry and Neal McGrath soon settled into a rhythm offering very little to the young opening batsmen.
McGrath struck first with a beautiful delivery clipping the top of off stump and when Terry accounted for the other opener the visitors had reached 32-2 from 12 overs.
Abhay Lal was introduced to the attack and produced a miserly spell, but it was the introduction of club maverick Jon Sage that brought about a flurry of wickets.
Bowling the number three batsman with just his 3rd ball, he soon accounted for the visitor’s dangerous looking captain Wheeler when a short long-hop appeared to be heading to the boundary, only for Alex Smith to take a spectacular diving catch to leave the away side struggling on 54-4 off 20 overs.
A customary one-over spell before drinks brought the captain Cochrane a wicket of his own and Rugby were well on top at the halfway stage.
When McGrath grabbed a screamer of a slip catch off the impressive Mo Sadiq (9-1-35-1), Barnards Green had limped to 108-6 from 30 overs and were facing a struggle to reach a defendable target.
The last 10 overs of their innings however were 10 overs to forget for Rugby as the home side dropped no less than 5 catches off the bowling of the impressive Sage (12-1-46-4) alone, two of them regulation.
A bludgeoning 50 from number eight Smedley allowed the Worcestershire side to finish strong and they posted 70 runs in the final 10 overs, finishing on 178/8.
Whilst this was at least 30 or 40 runs more than they would have liked to have been chasing, Rugby were confident of reaching the target with the sun beating down and the wicket flattening out.
A superb Kate Sadiq tea was unfortunately not followed by the start they hoped for as Bhavik Rathod (6) and Stu Lloyd (3) were soon back in the pavilion with the score on 24.
A captains innings was required and Cochrane immediately looked at ease, working the opposition bowling into gaps to rotate the strike.
When opener Shreyas Honnalli (14) and Smith (0) departed in quick succession, Rugby were reeling on 58-4 from 20 overs, but Lal joined Cochrane and the pair looked to build a partnership as the run rate required was still only 4 an over.
They added 57 for the 5th wicket before Lal fell for 24 with 60 needed from 15 overs and another quick wicket put the away side seemingly back on top as the momentum of the game shifted once more as Cochrane (58) was dismissed leaving Rugby on 118-6.
Sage (7) was unable to replicate his bowling form with the bat and it was Terry (29) and Sadiq (15) who then built what looked to be the match-winning partnership to take Rugby over the line.
Despite reducing the target to 7 to win from the last two overs, it was not to be as Terry was stumped off the bowling of Ahmed (14-1-47-3) and Sadiq was run out.
Needing six to win of the last over, the final pair had to settle for a losing draw and, whilst there were some positives to take for Rugby, the fielding and composure during the last 10 overs is really needs to be addressed ahead of next week’s challenging trip to top of the table Kidderminster.
Rugby 3rds vs Atherstone 2nds
Rugby’s 3rd XI dominated their match with Atherstone, but were left frustrated by the visitor’s batsmen who shut up shop and secured a losing draw for their side.
Atherstone won the toss and chose to bowl first on a damp wicket, but Rugby’s top order worked hard to lay a foundation.
Chris Evans (42), Barry Taylor (20) and Tom Binding (24) did the hard work, before Tom Mitchell (40) and Ash Koria (17 not out) upped the tempo at the backend of the innings.
With the sun out and batting getting easier, Rugby’s 184/6 from 45 overs did not look that daunting, but Atherstone showed no interest in a run chase and batted for the draw the outset.
Their dead-bat approach nullified Rugby’s bowling attack, with Mitchell, Rubans and Kurran Barhey sharing the only three wickets to fall.
Rugby used nine bowlers in attempt to make something happen, but Atherstone limped to 96/3 from their 45 overs and restricted the Webb Ellis Roaders to 14 points.