CRICKET SLIDESHOW: Victory keeps Rugby 1sts in title hunt with six games to go
Battling batting display and ruthless bowling performance in 78-run win over Lichfield
PICTURES BY MIKE BAKER
ECB Birmingham & District Premier League
Rugby v Lichfield
Rugby moved back into second place in the league with a 78-run win against Lichfield on Saturday, thanks to a battling display with the bat and a ruthless bowling performance.
Having missed the last three matches with a back injury, Rugby welcomed back skipper Owen Edwards who lost the toss and his side were asked to bat first.
The wicket had more than a tinge of green in it and, with some moisture still in the surface, Lichfield’s seam attack were a handful early on, but Raj Chohan and Jeevan Barhey combatted them well.
Rugby’s openers got through the tricky new ball spell unscathed and added 49 for the first wicket, before Chohan (20) fell to an overly ambitious shot to the first ball from leg spinner Ben Douglas.
Hugh Cochrane (12) immediately looked comfortable, so it was a surprise when one stuck in the pitch and he chipped it limply to mid-wicket with the score on 82.
This brought the returning Edwards to join Barhey at the crease and the pair took Rugby past the 100 mark and the Warwickshire colt reached his fourth fifty of the season.
Frustratingly for Barhey (52) he failed to convert another good start and miscued a full toss to mid-on soon after.
He was replaced by Ewer and, with two of their most attacking batsmen at the crease, Rugby would have expected the scoring rate to quickly increase, but neither man found their usual timing on a pitch that was offering plenty of assistance to the bowlers.
Although they added 63 for the fourth wicket, Ewer (21) never really got into his stride, whilst Edwards punished the loose ball, but never moved through the gears in his usual fashion.
Edwards (70) was the fifth man out with Rugby on 221, having anchored the middle overs and provided a key contribution, before Henry Wilkins (28no) and Mike Powell (16no) added a late flurry to propel their side to 246-5 from 50 overs.
Given the challenging conditions, Rugby’s score looked well over par and this was underlined when Ewer and Lee Golding got the new ball in their hands and immediately looked threatening.
They claimed a wicket apiece and soon reduced Lichfield to 11-2 in probing opening spells, with Golding particularly unfortunate not to make further inroads.
Number four Adam Braddock survived an early drop, as well as a very close lbw shout, but then began to expand his game and put some pressure back on Rugby’s bowlers.
He and Rich Taylor-Tibbott added 40 for the third wicket, before Henry Parker grabbed a superb catch at cover from Vishaal Rathod to account for Tibbott (29).
A tight spell from spinner Powell (10-2-39-1) included the fourth wicket, as Rugby continued to pick up wickets at regular intervals.
Henry Wilkins claimed the next two to reduce Lichfield to 115-6, but Braddock was still at the crease scoring freely and found an ally in James Wilkinson.
They added 39 quickly to give their side some hope of a comeback but, with the require rate approaching 10-an-over, Rathod returned and bowled Braddock (75) with the score only on 154.
The tail did not have much wag in it as Wilkins (8-0-39-3) and Rathod (7.2-0-20-4) finished the game in a hurry, as Lichfield were bowled out for 168 in the 46th over.
With Stratford narrowly losing to Newport, Rugby moved back to second in the table where they sit 27 points behind long-time leaders Stourbridge and, with six games to go, Edwards believes they are still in the title hunt, “We are keeping ourselves in touching distance,” he explained.
“Obviously Stourbridge have been the most consistent side all year and have opened up a gap, but they certainly aren’t out of reach. We are playing them in a few weeks and, if the gap is no bigger, then that’s a real chance to put the cat amongst the pigeons.”
“We’ve got plenty to do before then though, so can’t look too far ahead, as we’ve got hard matches in the next couple of weeks against Pelsall and Old Hill, who are both in the top five.”
“We can take belief from last season, where we were a long way back from the leaders for most of the season, but we took it one game at a time and got on a great run that took us to the title.”
Barnards Green 2nds v Rugby 2nds
Rugby 2nd XI suffered a disappointing away defeat at Barnard’s Green, as they were denied victory on run-rate in a close and weather affected game in Malvern.
Stand-in skipper Jonny Sage lost the toss and was asked to bat, with Rugby looking to keep their winning momentum of the last few weeks going.
Asaad Qureshi (12) and Bhavik Rathod (17) made a watchful start, putting on 41 for the first wicket, but they both fell in quick succession as the low and variable bounce of pitch caused them problems.
Jack Rosser looked in good touch as he made 19, but four quick wickets including the inform Alex Smith (4) and a series of poor shots from the middle order meant Rugby were in trouble at 71-6.
Monzur Ahmed did the damage in a fine spell of 3-16 off his nine overs of off spin.
Sage was joined in the middle by Naresh Kaushal and the pair repaired the damage in brutal fashion putting on a boundary-laden 93.
Sage in particular dished out the punishment, including 26 in an over off young leg spinner Callum Morris as he passed fifty for the second week running.
Kaushal fell for a well-made 38 and Sage followed soon after for 52 to leave Rugby in a much improved position of 172-8, before some vintage late hitting from Jag Barhey (16) saw Rugby up to a respectable 193.
Barnard’s Green lost opener Robert Wilson for a duck in the first over, clean bowled by David Marshall as Rugby made a dream start.
However, with rain in the air the opposition knew that they just had to keep up with the run rate for twenty overs to secure victory irrespective of wickets lost.
Sujahn Barhey removed the dangerous looking Banks for 20 and the early introduction of Kaushal (8-3-20-2) accounted for Ahmed (8) and skipper Andrew Wheeler (15).
Two wickets for Keval Rathod (2-12) meant that Barnard’s Green were struggling on 124-6 after 25 overs when rain ended the match, with Rugby apparently in the driving seat, but the Worcestershire outfit’s superior run rate meant they grabbed the points regardless.
Warwickshire Cricket League Division 9 East
Atherstone 2nds v Rugby 3rds
Rugby’s third string secured their second win in as many weeks, beating Atherstone by 106 runs after youngster Zachary Wenham scored his first century.
Rugby lost the toss, were asked to bat first and made a terrible start when Rubans was out to the second ball of their innings.
Wenham looked confident from the start and, after the second wicket fell on 34, he shared a 63-run stand with Tom Binding (29) for the third wicket.
Tom Smith (50no) then joined him in an even bigger and unbroken partnership of 122, before captain Jack Coleman declared with his side on 219-3 after 41 overs.
The impressive Wenham showcased his talent in striking 15 fours and carrying his bat for 115 not out.
Atherstone’s reply started steadily with their openers adding 46 for the first wicket but, once Rubans made the breakthrough, wickets began to tumble in a hurry.
Rubans (4-20) was the pick of the bowling, whilst debutant Nanak Singh (3-19) removed top scorer Paul Oldham (38) as Atherstone collapsed.
Zak Smith (2-4) and Coleman (1-20) polished off the tail, as the hosts were bowled out for 113 in the 37th over.