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Stratford's chances of promotion to Birmingham League looking slim after play-off defeats to Stourbridge and Lichfield

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STRATFORD look like they will be playing in the Warwickshire League again next season after two defeats in the Birmingham League play-offs at the weekend all but ended their chances of promotion.

Archie Walker and wicketkeeper Dan Hackett lead the appeals. Photo: Mark Williamson
Archie Walker and wicketkeeper Dan Hackett lead the appeals. Photo: Mark Williamson

The Panthers lost by two wickets at Stourbridge on Saturday before suffering a 34-run reverse at the hands of Lichfield at Swans Nest Lane on Sunday.

The defeats mean Dexter Purser’s men are almost certain not to finish in the top two places for promotion, a disappointing end to what has been a fantastic season for the Warwickshire Premier champions.

On Saturday, Stratford were asked to bat first by hosts Stourbridge and there was just 12 runs on the board when Purser (5) was trapped lbw by Daniel Such (4-24). Such struck twice more soon after, firstly clean bowing Josh Hickman for four before having Gareth Langman (13) caught out by Josh Banks, leaving Stratford reeling at 23-3.

Things went from bad to worse for the Panthers when 16 runs later Such claimed his fourth and final wicket, trapping Josh Colwell (5) lbw. Nick Pepper (35) and Luke Nardone (16) set about the recovery and soon got the scoreboard ticking along.

The pair put on 36 runs when Nardone (16) was caught out by Banks from the bowling of Dan Wale (2-32). Wale then claimed the prized wicket of Pepper to put the score at 81-6. Jitesh Jivan-Patel (4-23) then entered the attack and cleaned up the Panthers’s low order, as the visitors finished on 115 all out in the 35th over.

Stourbridge got off to a steady start in their reply through openers Alex Bingham (10) and Harshad Patel (28). The pair put on 32 runs for the first wicket before Bingham was caught out by Henry Smith off the bowling of spinner James Urquhart (4-29). Shameer Ahmed joined Patel at the crease but could only score 14 runs before he unfortunately hit his own wicket from Josh Colwell’s (4-47) delivery.

Wicketkeeper Dan Hackett cheers as the stumps are hit. Photo: Mark Williamson
Wicketkeeper Dan Hackett cheers as the stumps are hit. Photo: Mark Williamson

Although looking strong at 55-2, Stourbridge lost a flurry of wickets which started to swing the game in Stratford’s favour.

Patel was the third wicket to fall when he was stumped by wicketkeeper Pepper after trying to score big from Urquhart. Urquhart was at it again when he caught and bowled Marvarick Perry for six before clean bowling Seth Rogerson for a three-ball duck.

Colwell returned to the attack and when he had skipper Banks lbw, Stourbridge were at 72-6 and it was very much game on. The seventh-wicket partnership between Dominic O’Reilly (11) and Jonathan McAll (20 not out) helped steady the Stourbridge ship.

However, they could only put on 21 runs when Colwell had O’Reilly caught behind by Pepper. Colwell then trapped Wale (4) lbw, leaving Stourbridge in trouble at 97-8. That would be the last wicket to fall, as McAll and Jirvan-Patel (8no) ticked off the remaining 19 runs between them to give Stourbridge a crucial victory.

Stratford knew they needed to bounce back on Sunday to stand any chance of keeping their promotion hopes alive. After winning the toss, Purser put Lichfield into bat. Opening bowler Tom Grundy made the breakthrough when Rich Taylor-Tibbott sent one into the hands of Dan Hackett with the score on 32.

A mini collapse ensued as visiting Lichfield slumped to 49-5 and it was Colwell (5-53) once again doing the damage with the ball. He removed Jack Warren (18), Stuart Fielding (0), Riley Ward (6) and Adam Braddock (7) to give Stratford the advantage. Brinder Phagura (37) and Thomas Stone (21) calmed things down and looked to swing the game back in Lichfield’s favour. The pair looked to be going along nicely until Stone missed Urquhart’s delivery and was subsequently stumped by Hackett.

Tom Grundy cuts a frustrated figure after his delivery is signalled as a wide. Photo: Mark Williamson
Tom Grundy cuts a frustrated figure after his delivery is signalled as a wide. Photo: Mark Williamson

Urquhart followed that up with the dismissal of skipper Callum Heanan (4) for a caught and bowled. Colwell returned to the attack and when he eventually removed Phagura, Lichfield were in trouble at 113-8. A late rally from Joe Seager (19) and George Turner (6) added a few extra runs, but when they were both run out Lichfield were all out for 140 after 44 overs.

Having led the way with the bat, Phagura then shone with the ball, taking an impressive 7-20 from his 11 overs as Stratford were hustled out for 106 in reply.

Stratford did not have a run on the board when Phagura removed Langman and George Burford for ducks. Purser was next to go when he sent Phagura’s delivery into the hands of Taylor-Tibbott, putting the Panthers at 12-3.

Phagura’s impressive spell saw him then claim the wickets of Colwell (6), Nardone (1) and Archie Walker (3), as Stratford crashed to 40-6.

Hickman (28), Smith (25) and Urquhart (19) provided some resistance, but when they were sent back to the pavilion by Jack Warren (1-6), James Wilkinson (1-43) and Phagura respectively, the Panthers were limping at 80-8. Four runs later Riley Ward (1-35) removed Hackett before Phagura returned to the attack to claim his seventh wicket, trapping Urquhart lbw to bring Stratford’s innings to a close on 106 all out after 35 overs.

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