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26th Oct, 2021

Panthers' promotion hopes hit after play-offs heartache

Correspondent 21st Sep, 2021

STRATFORD’S dreams of promotion to the Birmingham Premier League are all but over after back-to-back defeats in the play-offs.

The Bards, the Warwickshire League champions, finished on the wrong side of two narrow contests, losing by two wickets at Stourbridge and then going down by 34 runs at home to Lichfield.

They entertain Worfield, the Shropshire League winners, on Saturday but are all but mathematically out of the race for Premier Division Two.

On Sunday, Stratford had no answer to Lichfield’s all-rounder Brinder Phagura, who produced match-winning figures of 7-20 from 11 overs to enable his side to defend a modest total of 140 at Swans Nest Lane.

In a match reduced to 44 overs per side after a late start due to overnight rain, Phagura also top-scored with the bat, hitting 37 from 71 balls as Lichfield struggled against a mean Stratford attack. Josh Colwell finished with 5-53 and James Urquhart took 2-34.

In reply, Stratford lost their first two wickets without a run on the board and only Josh Hickman, with 28, had any answer to Phagura as they slumped to 40-6. Henry Smith (25) and Urquhart (19) kept their hopes alive before they were, eventually, dismissed for 106 in 35 overs.

It had been another low-scoring game on Saturday as Stourbridge edged a closely fought contest at the War Memorial Ground.

In pursuit of Stratford’s disappointing total of 115 all out in 34.3 overs, Stourbridge had slipped to 72 for six when Jonathan McAll came to the wicket to join Dominic O’Reilly who then departed at 93-7. An eighth wicket fell at 97 but McAll (20no) stood firm and steered Stourbridge to victory.

Off-spinner Urquhart bowled beautifully and finished with 4-29 from 15 overs for Stratford and Colwell took 4-47.

Despite a battling 35 from Nick Pepper, the Stratford batters had found it difficult against Jitesh Jivan-Patel (4-23), Daniel Such (4-24) and Dan Wale (2-32) and their final total always looked vulnerable.

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