South East Wales Cricket League Division 9 - Monmouth (143 all out) beat Barry Wanderers (130-6) by 13 runs

Monmouth’s Second XI maintained their promotion challenge with another close, hard-fought win, this time by 13 runs at home to Barry Wanderers.

The visiting side won the toss and put Monmouth in to bat on a baking hot day, with no one sure how the green-topped track would play. In the event, however, the home side’s opening partnership of Barry Jones and club vice-chairman Steve Gale continued their recent good form together, looking at ease throughout the early overs while making their way to a chanceless 64-0 at the 15-over drinks break.

However, as has been the case in a number of recent games, the break for drinks seemed to rob Monmouth of all momentum. Gale (25) was caught in the next over and the loss of Jones (42) was accompanied by other quick wickets as the excellent platform they had built looked in danger of being fruitless. Neil Saunders was particularly unlucky to be run out through a direct hit as the home side collapsed to 89-5 in the 24th over.  

At this point Monmouth, missing several key players from its batting line-up, looked to steady the ship with skipper Rick Parkes and the lower order re-grouping to see out as many overs as possible.  All of the remaining batsmen made contributions, although only Tony Brennan (13) got to double figures and, having been aided throughout by 28 extras from the fielding side, were finally all out for a below-par 143 in the 39th over.

For Monmouth, whose match day sponsor was Monmouth Dental Practice, their prospects were not aided by a bad leg injury to Brennan during his innings, leaving him unable to resume the opening bowler slot that he has assumed for much of this season and only able to field standing on the spot. The responsibility therefore fell to Steve Finn and Neil Saunders to take up the reins, who both were finding prodigious swing with the new ball. The first reward came in the sixth over thanks an lbw for Finn, whose opening six-over spell went for a miserly eight runs.

Looking to rotate bowlers with shorter spells due to the heat, Parkes made a double bowling change from the 12th over. This brought rewards for Lee Roberts, who bowled accurately and struck twice during his unbroken spell of 2-40 from eight overs.

At the other, Monmouth’s cause was aided considerably by debutant Gareth Jones who, in his first game of cricket for seven years, produced the remarkable figures of 2-11 with four maidens from eight overs.

Jones’s quicker and accurate away-swing bowling in particular pegged back any momentum that the visitors had been looking to build, and the breakthroughs from Jones and Roberts saw Monmouth well on top at 60-5 in the 22nd over.

As Barry Wanderers attempted a counter attack, led by the visitor’s dangerous-looking Anand, who remained undefeated at the end on 45, Parkes was able to turn to the experienced Aled Jones to work one end while his opening bowlers returned at the other. Jones was able to break through in the 29th over, leaving the score at 89-6 but with the game situation still tight with 55 runs required from 10 overs.

Two excellent overs from Finn on his return helped to blunt the counter attack, and saw him finish his spells with the impressive figures of 1-13 with three maidens from eight overs. Nonetheless, the game was not won, but Aled Jones kept the home side’s noses in front by producing a controlled spell right to the end, returning figures of 1-21 from seven overs.

He was joined in his task by the return of Neil Saunders who, with the pressure still on as the visitors looked to hit every ball, produced  three accurate and containing overs with the old ball at the death, finishing for the day with figures of 0-33 from 8 overs. 

The bowlers had been supported throughout by an excellent team performance with John Jones impressing in the field and Barry Jones doing the same behind the stumps, while an important wicket was taken thanks to a sharp low catch from Nav Sandhu.

With one over remaining but with 21 runs in hand, Nav Sandhu threw down the last six balls to leave Barry Wanderers stranded on 130-6 and Monmouth winners by 13 runs.

The win sees Monmouth, sponsored by Bürkert Fluid Control Systems, topping the league with total points scored but in third position on average points at the season mid-point as they prepare for the second half of the season at home next week to Ebbw Vale.