CRICKET: Rugby end five-game losing streak with nail-biting finish

Jon Sage hit the winning runs for Rugby 1sts against Handsworth
Jon Sage hit the winning runs for Rugby 1sts against Handsworth

Depleted 2nd XI close to unlikely victory against league leaders

Warwickshire Cricket League Premier Division

Rugby v Handsworth

Rugby ended a five-game losing streak on Saturday with a nail-biting victory over Handsworth, as their last pair edged them over the line in a low-scoring encounter.

After a week of non-stop rain, every other match in the division was abandoned, but a surprisingly dry Webb Ellis Road hosted a match between two sides desperate for points to move away from the relegation zone.

Owen Edwards won the toss and had no hesitation in choosing to bowl first, but Handsworth’s openers were typically aggressive against the new ball and added 29 for the first wicket, which turned out to be the day’s highest partnership.

In Lee Golding’s absence, Vishaal Rathod was promoted to new ball duties and immediately settled into a probing opening spell, but it was Matt Ewer who made the first breakthrough, trapping Dawkins (11) lbw.

Rathod followed suit in the next over, removing Waseem Mazhar (17) with the score still on 29 and Handsworth never recovered from this double setback.

Rathod (7-2-23-2) and Ewer (10-3-40-3) continued to make inroads through the top order, including a delightful Ewer delivery that bowled the dangerous Renrick Hooper (4).

Edwards replaced Rathod at the tennis-court end and, after a lengthy injury lay-off from bowling, showed that he is finding his way back to form and generated some typically sharp in-swing.

Edwards (7-3-18-4) ripped through the lower order, whilst Tom Mitchell grabbed a sensational one-handed catch at point to give Henry Wilkins the other wicket to fall and the Birmingham side were all out for 93 in the 27th over.

Whilst conditions were favourable for bowlers this score looked well below par and should have been a simple run chase for Rugby, but their recent batting fragilities soon came to the fore.

A breezy 19 from Wilkins eased the hosts to 22 without loss, before a series of poor shots from a batting line-up clearly short on confidence put their side in real trouble.

Only Ed Benfield (19) also reached double figures, as wickets tumbled far too regularly and Rugby gifted Handsworth a way back into the game.

As the momentum swung back their way, the Handsworth side grew in confidence with the ball and energy in the field, with Ittlan Bowens (3 for 21) particularly effective.

Suddenly Rugby had collapsed to 85/9, needing nine to win and with their last two batsmen now at the crease.

Thankfully, Jon Sage (7 not out) showed a calm head and solid technique that those higher up the order had lacked, seeing his side to a crucial one-wicket win.

Rugby moved up to ninth in the table, 46 points clear of the drop zone and actually only 50 points behind second place in a congested and competitive division.

Warwickshire Cricket League Division 4

Aston Unity 1sts vs Rugby 2nds

Rugby took a horribly depleted 2nd XI to face league leaders Aston Unity at the weekend and very nearly pulled off an unlikely victory, before succumbing to a 17-run defeat.

Stand-in captain Jack Coleman won the toss and chose to bowl first, knowing that the majority of his side came from the 3rd team, but his bowlers rewarded him with a whole-hearted effort.

Coleman himself took the new ball and struck in the first over of the match, before Adam Milsom (1-2-32-3) took the next three wickets to fall and continued to show his development as an opening bowler.

A rain break followed, reducing the match to 39 overs an innings, but a wicket each for Rubans and Abhay Lal upon the resumption of play kept Rugby on top.

Sam Bogle (28 not out) top scored for the home side, but the father/son combination of Mo and Danny Sadiq also claimed a wicket apiece to restrict Aston Unity to 134/8.

Rugby’s reply started disastrously when they slumped to 13/3, with Saliya Kumara (3 for 34) doing the damage, and things got even worse when Shreyas Honnalli (11) was run out when looking well set.

Lal (14) and Mo Sadiq (18) started to rebuild things, before Tom Smith (12) and Rubans (17) kept their side in the hunt, as the Webb Ellis Roaders fought to stay in the contest.

However, a lack of batting depth cost Rugby and they were ultimately bowled out for 117 in the 36th over.