RUGBY Cricket Club moved up to fifth in the Warwickshire County League Premier Division table with a two-wicket victory over Aston Manor, extending their unbeaten run to two months.
Captain Matt Ewer was out with a back injury as stand-in skipper Neal McGrath made the difficult decision to bowl first.
And there was no better way to vindicate the decision than with a wicket as Rugby struck with the first ball of the second over.
Divan Posthumus struck soon after to leave the visitors on 13-2, but a dropped catch gave Ajwat Ali Mushtaq a lifeline on nought as the scoreboard began to tick over.
He added 39 with Muhammad Afridi (9) and then 49 with Sarfraz Ali (24), before they were out to Kasir Shah and Danny Sadiq respectively.
At one stage Aston Manor looked well placed at 101-3, but wickets began to fall regularly with Mushtaq (56) and the dangerous Shaeel Janjua (5) both dismissed by youngster Levi Gekis (2-45) whose leg spin impressed once again.
Sadiq (1-29) bowled an excellent spell and deserved more rewards, as Daanial Khan (24) and Abdullah Ejaz (19) kept Rugby at bay for a while.
However, once Wes Landsdale broke their partnership, the opening attack of McGrath (3-33) and Posthumus (2-34) cleaned up the tail and Aston Manor were 182 all out.
Rugby’s reply was in early trouble when Janjua trapped Posthumus (7) lbw, before grabbing the prized wicket of Landsdale (18) in the eighth over.
Spin was soon in operation from both ends and with Rugby struggling to score freely, the pressure then told on Gekis (7), who top edged a sweep shot to deep square leg.
When Kyle Taylor (5) followed soon after, bowled by a beauty from Ejaz, Rugby were in big trouble on 51-4 in the 21st over.
This brought Mike Powell to join Owen Edwards at the crease and the pair set about building a crucial stand for Rugby, as run scoring finally began to get easier.
They added the highest partnership of the match, adding 71 and dragging Rugby back into the ascendency.
However, just as they looked set to ease Rugby towards the winning line, Edwards (51) and Powell (38) were out in quick succession by Afridi and the game was tightly poised at 136-6.
At a tense moment, Henry Parker then played a key hand for Rugby, scoring 28 from just 30 balls and breaking the back of the run chase.
Although he became Ejaz’s fourth victim late in the day, Sadiq (16 not out) saw Rugby home with two wickets and four overs to spare.
Rugby’s second XI recorded a crucial victory over high flying Dorridge in a thrilling encounter despite fielding a vastly depleted side.
Skipper Bhavik Rathod lost the toss with Rugby made to bat first in overcast conditions on a difficult pitch.
Despite striking some delightful early boundaries, Rugby lost openers Alex Watson (4) and Mo Obaid (8) early on, and Keval Rathod (0) soon followed to leave Rugby reeling on 21-3.
However, captain Rathod joined debutant Jordan Strydom as they went about rebuilding the innings for Rugby.
They started circumspectly, opting to see off the dangerous Craven and cash in on the looser bowling on offer elsewhere.
Rathod fell softly for a well made 23 but at this stage Rugby had recovered to 84-4.
Youngster Dan Pinks (21) picked up where Rathod had left off whilst Strydom began to work through the gears, striking the ball cleanly to all parts of the ground as he eased to his half century.
Pinks was bowled and Liam Hebblewhite (1) followed soon after, but a brief cameo from Jonathan Sage (14) and some towering blows from Strydom boosted Rugby at the back end of their innings.
Strydom brought up his ton with another mighty six over midwicket but fell soon after for a superb 103 as Rugby eventually reached 192 in their 50 overs.
A rain delay meant that Dorridge only had 42 overs to chase down Rugby’s total.
Skipper Luke James looked dangerous as he struck four superb boundaries before Vish Rathod’s clean delivery saw him depart for 20.
Suj Barhey struggled up the hill in the his opening spell, but a change of ends for him and the introduction of young leggie Amaan Khan shifted the match in Rugby’s favour.
Khan (3-61) accounted for the dangerous Grant Harrison for 12 thanks to an excellent diving catch from Hebblewhite, before removing former Warwickshire player Ashish Chakrapani for 27.
Meanwhile Barhey (4-38) was really hitting his rhythm bowling down the hill with a strong tailwind. He ripped through the Dorridge lower order to leave them 132-7 and Rugby firm favourites.
However, Oliver Bevan was holding the innings together for Dorridge and took them within 12 runs of victory before Alex Watson cleaned him up with a beauty for 74 with the score 181-9.
A tense few overs ensued as Dorridge edged towards the winning total.
Skipper Rathod turned to youngster Obaid as his last throw of the dice and he repaid the faith, trapping Declan Bourke LBW to give Rugby a stunning victory by just two runs to lift them up to sixth in the Division Four table and away from relegation danger.
Rugby’s third team saw their promotion aspirations take a dent after clinging on for a losing draw against Kenilworth to drop to fourth in the Division Seven East table.
After choosing to bowl first, a poor display in the field really undermined the bowlers’ efforts and the visitors were able to rack up 271-7 from their 50 overs.
The bowlers did not cover themselves in glory either, leaking 20 wides and 15 no balls in a staggering 67 extras, whilst Babu Balasubramanian top scored on 73.
Captain Tom Rigby (2-35) was the pick of the attack, whilst Ben Haworth, Anil Oruganti and Advay Pophali took a wicket each.
After losing Ram Kumar Singh (9) with the score on 16, Shreyas Honnalli (53) and Advay Pophali (43) shared a 96-run partnership to put Rugby on top at 112-1.
However, once their partnership came to an end, wickets fell at regular intervals and only Rigby’s swashbuckling 39 gave his side anything to cheer about.
It was left to Euan Walker (11 not out) to shepherd his fellow tail enders to the draw, as the innings closed on 209-9.
Lastly, Rugby’s fourth XI suffered a four-wicket defeat against Griff and Coton, struggling to post a big enough score after being put into bat on a very lively wicket in Division 11 East.
Alan Wade (28 not out), Saj Hussain (28), Jack Coleman (27) and Reece Jones (27) all made useful contributions in Rugby’s 175-9.
Adam Milsom (4-32) knocked over the first four wickets in Griff’s reply and Jones added two more, but Griff opener Moban Michael (102 not out) carried his team to victory.