All-conquering Aussies could well be a feature of this English summer and Peterborough Town had the misfortune to run into one at Bretton Gate today (May 23).
Rushden skipper Simon Branston cracked his first ton at Northants Premier Division level, claimed the wickets of both Town openers and the leading scorer, and also captained his side pretty well, possibly before putting a cape and trunks on and flying home.
It was a virtuoso performance worthy of settling a battle between two teams who started the day with perfect playing records. Town had been crying out for a competitive contest after four easy wins, but were found wanting as they slipped to a 53-run defeat, their first at Bretton Gate on a Saturday for over two years,
No team had reached 100 against Town this season, but Branston managed it on his own after launching a terrific counter-attack after Rushden had been reduced to 34-4 by opening bowlers Joe Dawborn and Jamie Smith. It’s believed to be the first individual century Town have conceded for five years and it was a cracker.
Branston started against the best two bowlers in the Premier Division last season, Dawborn and off-spinner Paul McMahon, and yet raced to 50 from just 42 balls. He attacked McMahon rather like Eamonn Holmes would attack an all-you-can-eat buffet, gorging himself as the home side’s professional struggled to find the right length or line.
The visiting captain found a willing ally in number eight Tom Smith, who was the next highest scorer with 25, and they added 73 for the seventh wicket after the latter had been dropped on 0 off the bowling of McMahon. Branston reined himself in as he approached his personal milestone, but deservedly reached three figures before holing out to Marcus Howard in the deep off the bowling of Town skipper Lewis Bruce to complete the Rushden innings of 213.
Dawborn (4-59) was excellent as usual, although he took his fiery reputation to a new level by sledging a team-mate after a dropped catch. Asim Butt sledged him right back forcing the umpires to break up a rather unseemly, and at times foul-mouthed, exchange of views.
McMahon rescued his figures slightly to 3-77 from 17 overs, but rarely can he have been treated with so much contempt and any chance Town had of winning was soon reduced by the opening burst of Branston and another impressive seamer, left-armer james Gaul. In fact Rushden possess an outstanding five-man bowling attack which will doubtless keep them in the title race all summer.
Branston forced Bruce to nick behind early on in the Town innings and saw David Clarke off courtesy of a brilliant one-handed reflex catch at short leg. Butt played a couple of fine shots before a loose one caused his early departure and Town struggled throughout until Dawborn and Chris Milner added 60 for the eighth wicket.
Dawborn played aggressively and Milner sensibly to give hope of a remarkable turnaround, but as soon as Branston returned he dismissed the former for a fine 38 and Town were all out for a 160 within five more overs.
Town, as the title winners of the last three seasons, are a big scalp in this competition as Rushden’s rather raucous celebrations inside and outside the dressing room confirmed. The city side can’t have enjoyed the singing in the visiting dressing room any more than they enjoyed the Eurovision Song Contest and if they have anything about them they will use this deserved defeat as motivation for the rest of the season.
B. Paine c Young b Dawborn 16
M. Phillips c Milner b Dawborn 2
C. Ruwansiri c Nutt b Smith 0
C. Davies c Williams b Dawborn 23
S. Fowler c Butt b McMahon 13
S. Branston c Howard b Bruce 105
S. Kumar lbw McMahon 8
J. Smith run out 25
O. Warwick c Dawborn b McMahon 7
M. Ansari b Dawborn 0
J. Gaul not out 0
Bowling: J. Dawborn 16-3-59-4; J. Smith 7-2-15-1; P. McMahon 17-2-77-3; L. Bruce 8.3-0-33-1; D. Mohammed 4-0-21-0.
D. Clarke c Paine b Branston 10
L. Bruce c Phillips b Branston 2
A. Butt b Gaul 12
T. Young lbw Gaul 23
M. Howard c Ruwanasiri b Ansari 8
S. Williams lbw Davies 19
P. McMahon b Davies 17
C. Milner b Gaul 20
J. Dawborn c Gaul b Branston 38
D. Mohammed not out 1
J. Smith b Gaul 1
Bowling: J. Gaul 13-3-36-4; S. Branston 11-6-32-3; C. Ruwansiri 6-1-27-0; M. Ansari 9-3-21-1; C. Davies 9-2-35-2.
Oundle were held to a draw at Geddington, the team that started the day bottom of the table.
The home side posted a decent 55-over total of 211-9, but Oundle looked set fair for victory on 136-3, but a rattle of wickets left them hanging on at 178-9 at the close. The last pair survived the final seven balls to secure the draw.
Cameron Wake cracked 62 for Oundle on his first appearance of the season, while Alex Martin (44) found some form and young Ben Graves (3-44 & 24) delivered a useful all-round display for a team missing several regular first-teamers.
Geddington 211-9 (M. Steele 59, C. MacAlinden 57no, B. Graves 3-44).
Oundle 178-9 (C. Wake 62, A. Martin 44, B. Graves 24).