STRATFORD prepared for a potentially history-making weekend by securing a four-wicket win against Coventry & North Warwickshire on bank holiday Monday.
It was the ideal response to a seven-wicket defeat to title favourites Walmley in Saturday’s Warwickshire League Premier Division fixture.
The Panthers, now in fifth place with two games to play, will look to boost their top four hopes when they head to Barby on Saturday before they take to the Edgbaston pitch on Sunday (11am) in their bid to become the first ever winners of the Warwickshire Smash.
Stratford will relish their appearance on Warwickshire’s grand stage when they face Knowle & Dorridge in the inaugural 100-ball county competition.
On Monday, Stratford’s bowlers were key as they skittled out fourth-placed Cov & NW for just 105 in their final home match of 2019 at Swans Nest Lane.
Opening bowlers Tom Grundy (3-23) and Archie Walker (3-22) led the way as the visitors slumped to 26-4 and then 42-5.
Opener Marco Higgins provided the bulk of the runs with 39 before falling to James Urquhart as the seventh wicket and Sam Douthwaite (2-32) continued the clatter of wickets as the visitors were dismissed in the 39th over.
Reaching their target proved far from straightforward but Luke Nardone (21) and Alex Marney (26) provided the foundation before Urquhart and Walker fittingly saw them home in the 44th over.
On Saturday, the roles had been reversed as Stratford, having been put into bat, were hustled out for 107.
Even that total had seemed unlikely when they stuttered at 47-8 but Urquhart (30no) and Dan Hackett (11) put on 54 for the ninth wicket.
Mohammad Fahim Jan was the destroyer in chief for Walmley with 6-23 while Recordo Gordon finished with 4-39.
Although Stratford had snapped up both openers with 22 on the scoreboard, Andrew Hendry (53) and Sarmad Bhatti (39no) snuffed out any chance of a shock and Walmley had the game won in the 22nd over.
Stratford 2nds did their survival hopes a power of good with a 46-run victory at Castle Bromwich.
With three games to go, starting with Saturday’s home game against title-chasing Smethwick, the 2nd XI now lie 14 points ahead of second-bottom Bedworth.
Half-centuries from James Harcourt (67) and Adam Joseph (50) set Stratford on their way to 189-7 in their 50 overs.
Then all six bowlers used by skipper Henry Stride took wickets in the Castle Bromwich reply.
Will Noble (2-5), Charlie Blake (2-15), Ben Simmons (2-25) and Tom Whiting (2-46) all took two wickets to dismiss the hosts for 143 in the 37th over.
Daniel Regan took four wickets and James Bryan hit 62 but it was not enough for Stratford Bards against Bidford in Cotswold Hills League Division Four.
Regan took 4-38, with Nishi Kant snapping up 3-35, as Bidford were all out for 179 in the 37th over.
Opener Bryan then led the Bards’ reply with 62 off 94 balls but only Simon Francis (34) managed to offer him any support.
They shared a 75-run stand for the fifth wicket to take the score to 125 but then both fell without the addition of a run and Stratford were dismissed for 154 in 42.5 overs.
The Bards meet visitors Rowington 2nds at Alscot Park on Saturday.