Hardingstone’s very own ‘wicket rat’ reached 50 wickets for the season as the 1st XI clinched the Division Nine title by beating Old Wellingburians 2nds.
In a game played out in front of the famous Wellingborough School Pavilion, which features a step that once constituted the threshold of WG Grace’s house, Ben Mellor showed bowlers are worth watching too.
Mellor took 5-32 as Stone dismissed OW’s 2s for 94 on a slow pitch with a lush outfield.
Wellingborough School has hosted the likes of Sir Ian Botham and Sir Viv Richards in days of yore when it was used by Northamptonshire to take county grounds into the ‘provinces’.
But these days the beautiful surroundings can’t hide the fact the pitch isn’t best suited to high scoring encounters.
That said Ben Miller did manage to extract some early pace and bounce to remove Yousuf Ansary – caught behind by Jack Larkin – in the first over after the home side won the toss and elected to bat.
OWs were determined to play their shots, but never looked settled against the HCC bowling quartet of Miller, Mellor, Jonny Grove and Craig Lewis.
Number three Ankit Patel did manage to make a battling 18, but was dropped several times along the way – including a chance so depressingly simple for Dave Miller it is rumoured to be the inspiration for Radiohead’s next album.
Or perhaps a dark novelette by that master of horror writing Edgar Allan Poe.
Sadly no-one took any footage of Miller’s magic moment, so here’s a video of Mike Gatting putting down what is now the “second funniest dropped catch in cricket history”.
None of those who watched it will ever be the same again.
So affected was Mellor that he found pace not seen in about four years to bowl Wasim Zaman for 16 the very next ball.
And despite some resistance from OWs skipper Ashish Ganatra (20), the anti-pace of Lewis (2-16) helped wrap up the home side’s innings.
Ben Miller – who returned to shoot out Ganatra – finished with 2-22.
In reply, the usually reliable opening partnership of Jack Larkin and Lee Bennet faltered as Stone were reduced to 20-3, with Bob Anderson the third man to fall.
Bennet’s eight was countered by two earlier catches, including one blinder which was the first thing he remembered since being in McDonald’s in the early hours of the morning.
HCC’s batting rock James ‘Buttons’ Hall steadied the ship in tandem with Ian ‘The Finisher’ Roberts.
Hall eventually fell for 23 – somehow smearing a full toss high into the air and the hands of Zaman after seeing off more troublesome bowling – but Roberts (21*) was joined by Simon ‘Chappers’ Chapman (14*) to finish the job off.
It took 33 overs to score the 93 runs required, but that didn’t stop the Champagne tasting any worse* as the 1sts celebrated their fifth successive league title.
Draw cricket looms ominously in what will surely be the greater challenge of Division Eight next season, but in the meantime HCC have two games left to try and complete the season unbeaten.
They won’t be easy with third place Brixworth 3rds and promoted Old Grammarians 2nd standing in the way of a perfect season.
But as that old cricketing mantra says, “catches win matches”… Dave, could you get down to fine leg please.
* Seriously, I’m not sure the Champagne could have tasted any worse. It was dreadful.
The 2nds crushed Obelisk 2nds to move within seven points of promotion from Division 12.
This time last year the 2s had faced the same opposition in the last game of the season needing a win to guarantee survival.
As it turned out the game was abandoned due to rain with Obelisk stuttering on 33-8. The rest of the matches in the league were also washed out and the 2s survived.
This time around, they are sitting pretty at the top of the table, ten points clear of Irthlingborough 3rds with two vital games to go.
On Saturday, there was no rain around to save Obelisk as they were rattled out for a paltry* 56 at Wootton Rec.
The wickets were shared around with Mark Davidson taking 3-3 and Matt Mooney 2-2 to finish things off after Chris Peck (2-15) and Harry Middleton (2-22) had put the cat among the Obelisk top order pigeons.
Mike Waldrond (31) led the charge in reply as Stone bashed off the required runs in just 10 overs.
* it’s back