Another strong outing from seamers and unbeaten fifty from captain Owen Edwards
WARCL Premier Division
Sutton Coldfield vs Rugby
Rugby moved into the top half of the table with a third win in four matches on Saturday, thanks to another strong outing from their seamers and an unbeaten fifty from captain Owen Edwards.
Despite the recent hot weather, Rugby were greeted by a surprisingly green Sutton Coldfield track and Edwards was eager to bowl first when he won the toss, especially with rain in the forecast.
It didn’t take long for this rain to appear, with the players only making it half way to the middle before the heaven’s opened, delaying the start and reducing the encounter to a 37-over match.
With in-form Vishaal Rathod nursing a groin injury, Lee Golding shared new-ball duties with Edwards and the pair immediately found conditions to their liking.
Having beaten the outside edge on numerous occasions in his first two overs, Golding finally found the perfect line with an unplayable ball that hooped from outside leg to hit Mark Guest’s off stump.
At this point, the hosts threw caution to the wind through pinch-hitter Simeon Goode who rode his luck, but found the boundary regularly and the scoreboard began to race along at nearly 6-an-over.
The introduction of Neal McGrath ended Goode’s assault, when he miscued to cover for 31, before Edwards (2 for 38) struck twice in an over to claim the key wickets of Dinushka Nawarathnage (1) and Jack Smith (0).
With three wickets falling for as many runs, Sutton Coldfield were reduced to 60/4, which would have been much worse had Lee Thomason and Tom Eustace not survived a dropped chance apiece in the slips.
Matt Ewer then replaced Edwards and bowled well in tandem with McGrath, as both men bowled a tight line and Rugby conceded just 21 runs in the 12-over period after the first power play.
Ewer bowled immaculately and, with the batsmen clearly remembering the five wickets he’d taken against them in the reverse fixture, they were very cautious against Rugby’s stalwart and his seven overs conceded just 10 runs.
With the overs ticking by, Eustace (38) took responsibility for upping the tempo and struck two sixes to the short boundary, but he was well caught by Jeevan Barhey in Ewer’s final over.
This wicket exposed a long tail, explaining the home side’s caution during the middle overs and allowed the new bowler Henry Wilkins to get amongst the wickets immediately.
Wilkins (4 for 29) ran through the tail, whilst Thomason (55) fell to the returning Golding (2 for 36) and Sutton Coldfield were bowled out for 153 in their final over.
Rugby’s reply started confidently through Barhey and Lee James but, just as they looked to be laying the foundations for a comfortable run chase, James (8) was caught via a leading edge to mid-on.
The successful bowler was the home side’s Sri Lankan overseas Nawarathnage and he then trapped Barhey (14) lbw to put Rugby on the back foot at 30/2.
Edwards and Michael Hughes survived the rest of Nawarathnage’s probing opening spell and added 35 for the third wicket but, once again, Rugby lost a wicket just as they were taking control.
Hughes (13) dabbed a short ball tamely to point and George Terry (3) followed soon after, putting the game back in the balance.
Ewer (15) joined Edwards and moved Rugby along to 102/4, again putting them in the driving seat, only to lose a wicket carelessly to the impressive Nawarathnage (8-2-9-3).
When Wilkins (5) was unluckily run out backing up at the non-striker’s end, Jack Smith (3 for 25) trapped Henry Parker (3) lbw and Paul Ram removed Vishaal Rathod without scoring, Rugby had slumped to 124/8 and looked to be throwing away a match that should have been in the bag.
However, Edwards was still at the crease and both sides realised his wicket was crucial, as Golding joined him with 30 runs needed from six overs.
Knowing they needed to take it deep, they added a watchful 10 runs from the next three overs, leaving 20 to win from 18 balls.
With the game on a knife edge, Edwards (52 not out) picked his moment to attack and hit a four and a six in the 35th over, bringing up his fifty and putting Rugby on top.
Golding (11 not out) then struck two straight fours in the following over to see his side to a two-wicket win with eight balls remaining.
It was an exciting win for Rugby whose recent form has propelled them into the right half of the league table, but they will want to see their batsmen take more responsibility over the weeks ahead to maintain the team’s form.
WARCL Division 4
Rugby 2nds vs Leamington Khalsa 1sts
Rugby 2nds cruised to victory over Leamington Khalsa 1sts on Saturday thanks to a disciplined performance with both bat and ball.
Skipper Charlie Robards has lost every toss so far this season and continued his form in this area with an understrength Khalsa electing to bat first.
The returning James Barker took the new ball alongside Muneer Khan and the pair settled quickly, both bowling an immaculate line and length.
Runs were hard to come by for Khalsa and it came as no surprise when Khan (1-29) removed opener Indy Kalsi (2) with Rishi Tank taking a one handed diving catch at gully.
Barker (10-2-19-0) bowled well but without luck so Robards turned to strike bowler Jonathan Sage in search of further breakthroughs.
Sage (9-4-17-2) removed opener Yudh Sahota and no.3 Ram in quick succession, while Mo Sadiq (10-1-16-2) accounted for the dangerous Karan Sahota at the other end to leave Khalsa in deep trouble at 42-5.
Rugby were held up by a partnership between Bopanna Natolanda (30) and Manninder Arora (34), but as he does so often in these situations Bhavik Rathod (2-25) came into the attack and made the breakthrough, via a sharp catch at midwicket by Barker.
With overs running out Khalsa tried to up the tempo but with Rathod, Barker and Sage bowling tightly at the death there was no real acceleration as they limped to 133-8.
In reply Robards and Tank began brightly and were quick to punish any loose deliveries as Khalsa’s lack of bowling depth became apparent.
The pair looked to be seeing Rugby home to a 10-wicket victory before a stunning catch at square leg dismissed Tank for 48.
Robards, fresh from an unbeaten century last week, never looked like getting out as he made an unbeaten 48, whilst Shreyas Honnalli (19*) provided the support as Rugby cantered over the finish line in the 25th over to win by 9 wickets.
WARCL Division 11 East
Rugby 3rds vs Coventry WI Wanderers 2nds
A youthful Rugby 3rd XI succumbed to a four-wicket defeat to West Indian Wanderers, despite a maiden RCC fifty from Tom Rigby.
Rugby batted first but were immediately on the back foot against a devastating opening spell from Mohammad Afzal (7-2-22-7) who ripped through the top order.
Only Zachary Wenham (13) and Dave Marshall (14) reached double figures in the top five, before Rigby counter-attacked with a boundary-laden 68.
He was well supported by Tom Scott-Brown (38), but their efforts only managed to get Rugby to 156 all out in the 26th over.
Liam Slaughter claimed an early wicket for Rugby, but Afzaal completed a remarkable individual display, opening the batting and scoring 81 in his side’s reply.
Mohan Karri took the second wicket, before late wickets to captain Tom Smith (4 for 27) secured some additional bonus points for his side, but it was too little too late for Rugby.
Offchurch vs Rugby
Rugby lost by 24 runs in a free-scoring Sunday friendly at Offchurch, which was an impressive display from a side featuring only two players over the age of 20.
After being asked to bat first, Offchurch skipper Guy Mander (91) opened the batting and provided the backbone for his side’s 236/5, whilst Ian Anderson (50) also made a half century.
Manish Joshi (2 for 31) was the pick of Rugby’s bowlers, supported well by Anszar Ahmed, Euan Walker and Danishan Sivaraj who claimed one wicket each.
Rugby’s own captain and opening batsman also enjoyed himself, with Liam Slaughter (58) giving his side a great chance of victory, before the hard-hitting Tom Rigby (79) completed a fantastic weekend with the bat.
There were also useful contributions from Will Browne (18) and Alankrit Mata (17), but Rugby were bowled out for 212 in the final over of their 40.