Both Peterborough Town and Oundle had reason to feel satisfied at a bitterly cold Bretton Gate yesterday (May 6).
Town are poised to pounce on surprise early-season Northants Premier Division leaders Horton House after getting the better of a draw, while Oundle appeared happy to retain their unbeaten record after turning up at the title favourites minus a couple of key players. No-one fell ill with hypothermia either despite an icy wind blowing across a ground covered in cloud for most of the afternoon.
Bowler-friendly conditions one would have assumed, but this Town track has improved thanks to a higher level of care and attention over the close season. The outfield was rapid and there was plenty of ill-disciplined seam bowling for a couple of pro batsmen to feast on.
Asim Butt cracked 119 from 120 balls as Town piled up 277-5 in 49 overs, while Ben Smith, a man with just under 30,000 runs to his name for firts-class counties Leicestershire and Worcestershire, finished 113 not out for Oundle. Smith would have doubtless scored more, and maybe led his side to a shock victory, if Oundle had fielded a longer batting line-up.
For a while that win looked on for the visitors. From 16-2, including the third-ball dismissal of dangerous South African Hanno Konte, Smith and skipper Mark Hodgson added 155 in quick-enough time to make their hosts nervy. But a fine catch from Paul McMahon off fellow off-spinner Lewis Bruce dismissed Hodgson for 67 and the Town slow bowlers promptly strangled the life out for the game as Oundle closed on 227-7.
Smith, a fit 45 year-old, was imperious for his first 80 or so. The best players have so much time, even against quick bowlers half their age, and he drove and cut some decent performers to distraction. He eased back considerably when Hodgson went, but offered just one sniff of a chance when edging teenager Mohammed Danyaal to second slip, a ball after a fielder had vacated that area.
Butt was more dynamic after surviving a strong lbw appeal early on against Primesh Patel. He cracked 20 fours and starred in stands of 68 with captain David Clarke (38) for the first-wicket and 128 for the second wicket with Lewis Bruce (49), after the latter had been desperately close to falling lbw to his first ball from young Harrison Craig.
Alex Mitchell gave Town’s innings late impetus with a terrific 43 from 30 balls, while Bruce (3-34) was the game’s outstanding bowler.
Town are second in the table, three points behind Horton, ahead of a tough match at reigning champions Old Northamptonians (May 13), a game they must play without their holidaying skipper.
Oundle are third, nine points behind Town.
A. Butt b Patel 119
D. Clarke b Craig 38
L. Bruce c Jones b Bolsover 49
A. Mitchell run out 43
K. Judd c Bolsover b Patel 7
P. McMahon not out 12
TOTAL (5 wkts) 277
Bowling: B. Hussain 10-0-46-0; P. Patel 15.1-2-91-2; H. Craig 10-1-64-1; K. Jones 7-2-29-0; J. Bolsover 7-0-44-1.
H. Kotze c Bruce b Dawborn 0
J. Dalley lbw Dawborn 2
M. Hodgson c McMahon b Bruce 67
B. Smith not out 113
P. Adams lbw McMahon 7
J. Bolsover b Bruce 4
B. Hussain run out 4
D. Malik c Danyaal n Bruce 3
P. Patel not out 0
TOTAL (7 wkts) 228
Bowling: J. Dawborn 10-0-41-2; J. Smith 5-1-21-0; M. Danyaal 3-0-24-0; D. Sayer 6-0-59-0; P. McMahon 14-1-45-1; L. Bruce 13-2-34-3.