FAVOURITES Rayleigh were made to fight all the way by a competitive Stanford team with plenty of youthful enthusiasm in the second week of the womens’ indoor six a side cricket event, sponsored by Thurrock Sports Council. Stanford won the toss and invited their opponents to take first knock.
The decision was immediately rewarded when Hales, bowling the first over, removed Freya Barnard. Then, in the next over, Molly McCarthy and Lucy Watson combined their sharp fielding skills to dismiss Kirby. However, the Rawreth Lane team staged a recovery as Kerry Lees and Louise Harmsworth shared an excellent third wicket partnership worth 41 runs, yet Stanford will rue two missed, albeit difficult, chances to take Harmsworth’s wicket, one of which occurred before the Rayleigh batsman had opened her account. This vital pairing was ended when Lees was bowled by Hannah Wellard, though Kingston was able to contribute 15 further runs. Harmsworth returned to the crease following an earlier compulsory retirement, to conclude an undefeated innings worth 35 runs. Elisha Brett’s wicket was also intact at the close of the innings, with 16 runs to her name, as Rayleigh finished with an exact century score for the loss of four wickets.
Of the Stanford bowlers, Rhiannon Hales picked up 1-18 from three overs, while Wellard returned 1-29, also from three overs. Offering good support, though without reward, were Olivia Wyatt and Casey Jenkins who both conceded 24 runs from their three-over spells.
After the break, the reply of the East Thurrock-based team followed a similar pattern to the first innings, as two wickets fell quickly in the opening exchanges. Kingston bowled Watson and in the following over, a brief foray from Hales was ended by Brett for seven runs. McCarthy and Wellard put on 45 for the third wicket as the former retired with 27 not out. Wellard then lost her wicket to Lees for nine runs. Jenkins and Wyatt added plenty of urgency at the end of the innings with some fast running between the wickets, but the pair were unable to see their team over the finishing line as Stanford fell short by 26 runs, concluding their team score on 74 for the loss of just three wickets.
Commenting on his team’s performance, Stanford coach Martin Leslie said: “It was a really good game, probably the best I have seen my girls play. It could have been so very different if we had taken one of the two return catches offered by Rayleigh’s match winner Harmsworth, as difficult as the chances were. Our batting was totally different from the previous week, we used our full allocation of overs and lost only three wickets. This was a very mature display from our young team and we all left with a good deal of pride”.
However, it is Rayleigh who will go into the final week of competition knowing that they are in with a good chance of lifting the crown for the third consecutive season providing they can overcome the challenge from Thurrock, who also have an unbeaten record this year following their success over Belhus in the evening’s first fixture at the Gable Hall School venue. The Blackshots-based team defeated their near neighbours by thirty runs as they scored 57 for the loss of three wickets. Belhus were restricted to 27 for four wickets, largely due to the impressive bowling of Thurrock’s Sarah Fergey, whose two overs were sent down without cost and who picked up the wicket of opener Jocelyn Sullivan. Eloise Downes and Carys Hammond also claimed one victim apiece.
This week’s fixtures (27th March) sees Belhus and Stanford meet at 7pm, while the title decider between Rayleigh and Thurrock takes place at 8pm.