After an efficient bowling display, opening bats Hiken Shah and Jack Raimondo shared an unbroken opening stand of 127 as Stoke were back to winning ways with a ten wicket victory at Chertsey.
Acting captain Raimondo won the toss and chose to insert the opposition with the threat of rain in the air and the covers, when removed, revealing a green pitch that was spiced up by more spots of rain prior to the start time. Thankfully the rain never appeared.
Will Lander made an early breakthrough when Bussey offered no shot to a ball that kept low and was leg before, but despite good lines from Lander and Shah, Byrne played his shots and the fifty was posted in the eleventh over without further loss.
The next passage of play was all Stoke, however. Change bowlers Will Frost and Ralph Coleman each took a wicket in their first overs. Byrne was bowled by Coleman for 35, then Frost found Gibb’s edge to give a slip catch to debutant Robbie Arthur.
52 for 3 was soon 58 for 5 when Coleman bowled Mehtab for 2, and Frost snared the prize wicket of Menon who could only fend a ball that spat off a length to James Whitmarsh who dived to make a great one-handed grab. Mention must be made here of great teamwork between umpires Gareth Amer, (the best umpire in the division), and Drew Patrick who between them checked that the ball was gloved, and then carried before raising the finger.
In one passage of play, just three runs were scored in eight overs. Frost found savage turn and bounce and beat the bat repeatedly. Frost and Whitmarsh combined again when home skipper Burton skied to point trying the break the shackles. Soon after Frost bowled Shepherd to finish with exceptional figures of 10-5-16-4.
Hanger, who survived a chance before he had scored, and Cooper dug in, moving the score to 87; but the pair were separated when the returning Lander castled Hanger, (18), after terrorising him with three blows to the body and a beating of the edge.
89 for 8 but Raimondo was then left with the conundrum of bowling out his front-line bowlers – there were only four in the absence of captain Matt Gottschalk and others unavailable. Lander finished his allocation and returned figures of 10-3-28-2; and Shah, (10-3-25-0), was reintroduced into the attack to keep things tight whilst Raimondo himself rushed through some overs, conceding just 23 runs from seven.
After a couple of overs from Tim Handel to get the ends right; Coleman returned for the final overs. He yorked Cooper for 11, then next ball Goodman, who hit by numbers and made 22, called for a run but No.11 Ogle didn’t move and Raimondo closed the innings with the simplest of run-outs off the last ball of the 48th over. Coleman finished with figures of 9-2-16-3.
After a typically plentiful Chertsey tea Shah and Raimondo took strike, keen to preserve their wickets given the state of the pitch. Twenty runs were scored in the first three overs to settle nerves, and with little scoreboard pressure the pair scored runs at better than the asking rate.
With attacking fields the fifty was posted in the tenth over. Despite a switch to more defensive placements made by spinners Shepherd and Cooper, the popular opinion was that the horse had bolted. Boundary hitting was replaced by pushing of the gaps and hard running.
Shah reached his fifty with a straight six off fifth bowler Ogle, and as the pair reached their second opening stand against the same opposition this season in the 25th over. It was then a question of whether there were enough runs left for Raimondo to score a half-century of his own. He scraped home in what would be the 28th and final over of the innings. A two that brought the scores level brought up his fifty, and the bonus point win was secured with a four leg-byes next ball. Shah was unbeaten on 62.
So Stoke have done as much as they can do for themselves, but promotion is still out of their hands and they are still reliant on other results to go their way with four games to go. Next week, Dorking travel to the Rec in another must win encounter.