League leaders Royston grab ‘invaluable’ win to edge them closer to title

Martin Leary made 55 in Royston's sixth straight Junior One South victory of the season

Martin Leary made 55 in Royston's sixth straight Junior One South victory of the season - Credit: Archant

Martin Leary praised his Royston side for picking up an ‘invaluable’ 20 points on Saturday as they defeated title rivals Wilbrahams by just one wicket.

Having put the hosts into bat after winning the toss, Matt Gillham shone with the ball, taking all four wickets as Wilbrahams posted 207 from their 40 overs.

A steady trickle of runs throughout Royston’s reply just saw them over the line with opener Paul Harris top-scoring with 40.

The Crows now sit 49 points clear of Wilbrahams at the top of the table with five games remaining. Next up is Linton at home on Saturday.

Following Royston’s 11th win of the campaign, skipper Leary said: “Given that we only took four wickets, Wilbrahams still never really got away from us and the runs didn’t flow as they’d have perhaps liked.

“I think that 207 on that pitch was probably just about par but still gettable.

“Credit to Wilbrahams for picking up key wickets at key times but ultimately I think we showed how deep our batting goes and Pete Merrell coming in at 11 and playing like he did just reinforces that point.

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“It’s a huge result for us as Wilbrahams are a strong side so the 20 points is invaluable.”

Despite early Royston pressure, the hosts managed to get to the halfway stage without losing a wicket and it was only with the arrival of Gillham (4-67) that wickets began to fall.

Only an unbeaten Toby Tippen who ended on 91, as Wilbrahams ended on 207-4, an achievable total for the league leaders.

Harris and Paul Leary led the response and the latter in particular looked in great touch, dispatching the wayward bowling of Alex Negus to all corners.

Leary (13) was eventually bounced out by Negus with the score on 37-1 and was quickly followed by his brother Martin who punched one back to Sam Charman to be caught and bowled.

Harris continued to plunder his way to 40 before finally being trapped lbw by Charman with the Royston total at 65-3.

Debutant Evan Goldman joined Paul Miller at the crease and the pair proceeded to put on 54 for the fourth wicket, Goldman striking some lovely boundaries before finally edging on behind for 29 off the bowling of Luke Gouldstone.

Miller then picked out Tom Sweeney in the deep to be sent on his way for 32 and with the score on 129-5, Royston still had work to do.

Rob Gill (20) came and went thanks to Ronnie Cameron, whose bowling also did for Sam Montague-Fuller and this brought Rohan Shetge and Max Kindred to the crease with Royston on 147-7.

With 60 runs still required from the last 10 overs, Wilbrahams looked to be favourites, however Shetge (26*) proceeded to launch an over from Sweeney for 20 runs and from that point, Royston were back in the hunt.

Kindred (three) departed and this brought Gillham (19) out who crunched four cover drives to take Royston within five runs of their target before edging one behind off the bowling of Charman.

With the visitors on 203-9, number 11 Merrell (six not out) strode to the crease, dropped his first ball into the covers to grab two runs and then flicked his next ball off his legs for four to take Royston to 209.

Royston stay top of the table with five games left to play, the first of which is against Linton on Saturday.