Peterborough Town’s players might not agree, but the Northants Premier Division has become pleasantly unpredictable in recent seasons.
The last three seasons have produced three different champions and it wouldn’t be the greatest suprise if that sequence continued into a fourth year.
The top two currently are Oundle and Rushton, neither of whom have won the top flight title before. And while an extraordinary bowling performance from seamer Bashrat Hussain (report here http://www.peterboroughtoday.co.uk/sport/cricket/northants-league-big-bash-keeps-oundle-on-top-1-8003002) kept surprise package Oundle on top yesterday (June 10), Rushton also displayed their title credentials in a drawn game against third-placed Peterborough Town.
Town at least avoided a third straight defeat and they showed plenty of fighting spirit in both innings of a game that twice threatened to get away from them. In the end just 31 runs separated the teams after an enthralling contest with Town only giving up their pursuit of 218-8 with four overs to go.
Rushton threatened a much bigger total when high-class opener James Kettleborough was wreaking havoc early in the day. The former Northants and Glamorgan player struck 14 fours in his 68 before he stunned a small, but enthusiastic, crowd by trying, and failing miserably, to hoist young Mohammed Danyaal over the pavilion just before the drinks break.
Rushton were 124-2 after 25 overs, but managed just 94 in the second half of the innings with 18 of those coming from the final over when Minor Counties all-rounder Andy Reynoldson brightened a rather scratchy half century by hitting Lewis Bruce out of the ground twice.
Bruce (2-51) did his part in checking Rushton’s rampant progress as did Joe Dawborn (3-51) and Danyaal (2-57), while leg-spinner Daniel Oldham, filling in for part-time professional Paul McMahon, bowled well to concede just 31 runs from his 10 overs.
Town openers Asim Butt and skipper David Clarke started brightly in reply, but the loss of the captain to a smart stumping by Market Deeping based Sam Malton prompted a collapse from 47-0 to 47-3 with the best three players all back in the pavilion. Butt fell for 31 to a fine running catch.
But Alex Mitchell (49) and Kieran Judd (28) steadied the ship, and maintained a good enough run rate to keep victory in Town sights, with a fourth wicket stand of 72.
Scott Howard (22) also played well, but Rushton’s safe catching and accurate spin bowling always seemed likely to keep Town at bay.
And so it proved, although Danyaal and Oldham saw out the final four overs with ease.
Town remain third, 22 points behind Oundle and 11 behind Rushton.
J. Kettleborough b Danyaal 68
B. Mansell lbw Smith 13
B. Coddington c Clarke b Dawborn 38
A. Reynoldson not out 62
M. Steed b Dawborn 3
B. Armer lbw Dawborn 2
J. Higginbotham lbw Bruce 9
D. McGovern b Bruce 2
G. Parker b Danyaal 0
B. Parker not out 9
TOTAL (8 wkts) 218
Bowling: J. Dawborn 15-2-51-3; J. Smith 6-1-31-1; M. Danyaal 10-0-57-2; L. Bruce 10-1-45-2; D. Oldham 9-0-30-0.
A. Butt c B. Parker b Higginbotham 31
D. Clarke st Malton b B. Parker 13
L. Bruce c Malton b Higginbotham 0
A. Mitchell c Steed b G. Parker 49
K. Judd lbw Steed 28
S. Howard c Armer b G. Parker 22
J. Dawborn c Steed b G. Parker 10
C. Milner c Armer b Steed 9
M. Danyaal not out 4
D. Oldham not out 3
TOTAL (8 wkts) 187
Bowling: J. Higginbotham 10-1-36-2; B. Parker 8-0-38-1; G. Parker 15-1-55-3; M. Steed 15-0-51-2; A. Reynoldson 2-0-2-0.