Victory in final game at Newport would secure back-to-back league titles
ECB Birmingham League
Rugby v Stourbridge
Rugby produced a stunning fight back with the ball on Saturday to secure a four-run win a dramatic finish over Stourbridge, leapfrogging their opponents to the top of the table.
It extended Rugby’s run of form to seven consecutive wins and means that victory in next week’s final match at Newport would secure the league title.
Stourbridge skipper Josh Banks won the toss and no hesitation in asking Rugby to bat first on a green wicket underneath grey skies, as batting was to prove difficult all day.
Young opener Jeevan Barhey started with a bang, pulling his first delivery over mid wicket for six, but it was a relatively slow start otherwise for Rugby.
Having moved onto 20 without loss, Raj Chohan (5) and Hugh Cochrane (3) fell in quick succession.
Barhey (17) and Owen Edwards (10) started to lay foundations for Rugby’s innings, but they both fell to a nagging spell from Daniel Such (10-4-26-3).
When Henry Wikins and Vishaal Rathod both edged to first slip off Jitesh Jivan-Patel soon after, Rugby had collapsed to 69/6.
Henry Parker was joined by George Terry and the pair showed great aptitude to start repairing the damage, despite the challenging conditions and quality bowling.
Parker (36) top scored for Rugby in a characteristically determined innings, furthering his reputation for scoring his runs when his team most needed it.
They added 31, before Terry (19 not out) added another 16 with Lee Golding (4), but Aussie quick bowler Nathan Crudeli (3/21) returned to see the last 3 wickets all fall with the score on 116.
It was disappointing conclusion to Rugby’s innings, after the hard work done by Parker and Terry, but the bowler-friendly conditions meant Rugby still had a chance.
In Matt Ewer’s absence, Henry Wilkins was promoted to take the new ball and struck in his first over when he removed Jujhar Johal (9).
However, Ali Rashid was joined by Matt Bradley and the pair took the sting out of Rugby’s new ball attack and soon had the scoreboard moving along as they picked off the loose balls.
As the score passed 50 Rugby’s belief started to fade and, when Neal McGrath removed Bradley (16) with the score on 64, it only appeared to be a consolation wicket.
Three overs later, having struggled for rhythm at the start of his spell, Rathod finally hit his straps and clean bowled Rashid (27).
At 76/3, Stourbridge only needed 41 to win, but Rugby sensed they could apply some real pressure and Rathod responded with an inspired spell of bowling.
The over that really opened the match up came soon after, when the dangerous Maverick Perry (9) miscued a pull shot off Rathod and was caught one-handed by Edwards running back at mid on.
In the same over, Rathod got one to swing back and bowl Crudeli (4) who was shouldering arms and he’d removed two men averaging over 50 this season inside four balls.
Rathod struck again in his next over, beating Dwayne Crossgill (1) for pace and clattering another one into the stumps, as the game turned on its head.
The pressure on Stourbridge’s batsmen was being applied by some devastating seam bowling and backed up by some great fielding by Rugby, something rarely seen at Webb Ellis Road.
Lee Golding was brought back into the attack and clearly had fire in his belly as he steamed in for a second spell, picking up wickets with his first two deliveries, both unplayable away-swingers.
The scoreboard now ready 99/8, but Stourbridge still had their captain Banks at the crease who was trying this best to marshal the tail towards the winning line.
After a four more tense overs, Golding struck again to remove the number 10 Such (2) with the score on 105.
There plenty more drama to come as Henry Wilkins replaced Rathod and, after a no ball, he bowled Banks with the free hit that followed.
The score had crept up to 112 but, with Rugby setting fields to get Banks off strike, a mix-up between the batsmen saw him run out by sharp work in the deep by Barhey and a cool head from McGrath who collected the throw.
Rugby know they still have a tough challenge next week when they travel to in-form Newport, but they have everything to play for and a chance to secure back-to-back league titles after last season’s promotion to the Birmingham League.
Stourbridge 2nds vs Rugby 2nds
Rugby’s 2nd XI match at Stourbridge was rained off with Rugby batting first on 152/9 after 40 overs, a result that secures 4th place regardless of next week’s results.
Tom Smith (31 not out), Jack Coleman (25 not out) and Shreyas Honnalli (23) top scored for Rugby.