Merrell: We need three out of five

AN under-strength Ashwell were put to the sword by struggling Longstowe on Saturday, and as a result slipped to third, while their opponents hopes of survival were enhanced. Ashwell fielded first, and having given Longstowe captain Alford two lives, he

AN under-strength Ashwell were put to the sword by struggling Longstowe on Saturday, and as a result slipped to third, while their opponents' hopes of survival were enhanced.

Ashwell fielded first, and having given Longstowe captain Alford two lives, he was well caught by Richard Young from the bowling of Matt Skelding (2 for 47) for 10.

The run rate was up at around four an over in the early stages as the new ball raced across the outfield, and Ashwell's limited bowling resources on the day began to be exposed.

Wareham (35) and Murden shared a stand of 101 for the second wicket before Wareham was run out, but at 135 for 2 from 29 overs, Longstowe had a strong platform from which to attack in the closing overs.

This they did, as first Murden (93) clubbed a wilting Ashwell attack, and then Jakes made a rapid 29 not out as the hosts reached 227 for 4 from their 40 overs, assisted by a colossal 53 extras.

In reply, Ashwell's batsmen needed something special, and a stand of 34 for the first wicket between Steve Parkhouse and Pete Davis suggested that they might just pull things round.

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Following Davis's dismissal, skipper Jonathan Merrell came in an added a well-worked 25 before he was caught with more Ashwell wickets falling soon after.

Parkhouse went for 42, before Gary Simmons (20) and Matt Skelding (23) were both caught on the long-off boundary.

Richard Young (36 not out) and Martyn Deal (15) did ensure that the visitors took maximum batting bonus points though, as their partnership lifted the total to 200 for 7 by the close.

However, Longstowe, who have won just two of their last 10 league games, claimed the win by 27 runs, and as a result gave themselves a real chance of pulling away from the relegation zone.

Ashwell skipper Merrell said: "We were a bit short on the bowling front and Longstowe took full advantage of this.

"I thought if we could have kept them to around 200 we would have a chance, but the extra 30 or so just gave us too much to do.

"The defeat makes Saturday's game with USSC an interesting one, and although I wouldn't describe it as a must win it's certainly an important one.

"With only five league games left, we're looking like we need three wins to put us among the promotion shake up.

"A win would possibly take us back above USSC and put things back in our own hands."

THRIPLOW had no answer to John Woodgate's devastating 182 as Babraham made light work of their 163-run victory.

For the second time this season Thriplow were made to suffer at the hands of Babraham's Australian, and as a result fell well short of a challenging run chase.

Missing a couple of their senior quick bowlers Thriplow's game plan was based around batting first and putting pressure on the home side.

However when skipper Chris Neild lost the toss, Thriplow were put in to the field.

Andy Morris was hostile in his opening spell, but Tom Staley struggled to find his rhythm. And while Babraham's Tom McNulty never looked entirely comfortable, Woodgate was in imperious form.

Leg spinner Robert Craze finally made the breakthrough, luring McNulty (17) down the track for Theo Giasemidis to take a smart stumping.

However, Chris Palmer came in to provide the support for Woodgate, who at the other end was destroying all that was sent his way.

Eventually the carnage was ended when Morris (12-2-37-1) had Woodgate caught behind for a brilliant 182.

The remaining overs produced the usual slog, a good spell from Peter Richer (9-1-46-1) was rewarded with the wicket of Palmer for 38, but Babraham finished on a massive 321 for 3.

Thriplow started steadily in response, however no one was able to build a large innings.

Giasemedis (20), Morris (19), Duncan Walker (17) kept the scoreboard moving, but when Martin Craze fell for a duck to a smart Woodgate catch, any remote chance they might have had was gone.

Richer added a competent 32, but Alistair Cliffe (3), Andy Craze (4), Tom Staley (4) and Neild (0) were unable to stay with him for long, with their search for the bonus points also seemingly lost at 122 for 9.

Final pair Dickon Turner and young Robert Craze (16 not out) then proceeded to put together Thriplow's best stand of the innings by taking the score to 158.

With two needed off the final ball of the innings for another point, Turner (21) skied to deep midwicket.

Thriplow captain Neild said: "With some of our senior squad members to return next week for the visit of Doddington, we will be looking to put this result behind us, as we seek to consolidate a mid-table finish in the last few weeks of the season."

n A DEFIANT display from Thriplow seconds' Andrew Woolley went unrewarded as Helions Bumpstead recorded a 54-run victory.

Woolley starred with both bat and ball, and almost single-handedly challenged Helions Bumpstead on a day when his team mates were far from spectacular.

While Woolley was in fine form, demonstrating pace, control, swing and variation, fellow opener Jez Tuck struggled to gain any rhythm on a steeply inclined approach to the popping crease.

Woolley ripped out the top three batsmen in his first seven overs at a cost of only 9 runs, but runs were coming at the other end, and after 14 overs the score had moved on to 59 for 3.

A double bowling change led to a couple of quick wickets for Daniel Carr, and at 70 for 5, Thriplow felt they had the upper hand.

Helions Bumpstead had batting in depth however, and Nathan Williamson was quick to punish the bowling and his 60 runs quickly turned the match on its head.

Baxter (2-0-21-1), Carr (10-0-59-2), Tuck (10-0-61-1) all suffered at the hands of the batsmen, and even the returning Woolley (10-3-29-3) could not make a further breakthrough, and Helions Bumpstead were able to close on 228 for 9.

Thriplow knew that the score was not out of sight, given the small size of the ground and the lightning-fast outfield, but Helions Bumpstead showed them how to bowl on the responsive track.

Good line and length and a little movement off the wicket was enough to undo the top order, with Carr (1), Tom Evans (0), Gary Walters (0), and Dabnor (13) falling early as Thriplow were reduced to 21 for 4 in the 10th over.

However, Andrew Woolley and Duncan Baxter joined forces and put on 29 for the next wicket, with two sumptuous sixes from Baxter (20) showing what he is capable of, before a shooter took out his middle stump.

Goodacre (8) went quickly but stern resistance was provided by Woolley and the lower order, and as a result an improbable win seemed possible.

Jez Tuck (17) gave every indication that he could blast Bumpstead into submission, until he recklessly missed a delivery.

Jon Collins then offered support as Woolley edged passed his maiden second team 50.

With the scoreboard ticking over with increasing regularity, the hosts were given a boost when Collins was bowled for 19, and shortly followed by man of the match Woolley, for an excellent 60.

Nick Cliffe showed energy with his quick running at the end, but was left without a partner when last man Turner was bowled for 0 as Thriplow were all out for 174.