RUGBY continued their winning run in a nail-biting Warwickshire League Premier Division encounter at high-flying Olton that saw captain Owen Edwards lead a superb fightback to set up a one-wicket victory in the final over.
Chasing a target of 200 to win, Rugby had collapsed to a perilous 88 for 7 in the 24th over and the match looked all but lost when George Mackenzie joined Edwards at the crease.
However, with plenty of overs left in the game, the pair took their time to steady the ship with some watchful defence and gradually rebuilt the innings.
Earlier in the day, Edwards had won the toss and chosen to bowl first, a decision that was rewarded when Ewer (12-0-43-1) claimed a wicket in the fifth over.
It was then over to a high-class opening burst from in-form Henry Wilkins (11.4-3-33-4) who took crucial wickets at the start and finish of the innings.
Tom Wilkins (12-1-58-2) and Edwards (12-1-49-2) bowled tidily through the middle overs, while Gary Hawkins (46) and Liam Gately (42) top scored for Olton, before they were bowled out for 199 in the 50th over.
Mackenzie (31) played a crucial role and showed the value in Rugby’s batting depth, building an eighth wicket partnership of 59 but, just as Rugby had clawed their way back into contention, he was stumped off Michael Salerno’s bowling.
At this point, Edwards opted to throw caution to the wind and began to increase Rugby’s scoring rate, with valuable support from Tom Binding.
However, Olton struck back again at a crucial time, when Phil Trilloe trapped Binding (7) lbw to leave Rugby on 174/9 with four overs remaining.
With the game on a knife edge, number 11 Tom Wilkins did his best to rotate the strike and, with Edwards able to clear the boundary rope twice in quick succession, the final over began with just two runs needed to win.
It took them four balls, but the batsmen scrambled the two necessary singles to secure a memorable win and Rugby’s third consecutive victory.
Edwards top scored with an unbeaten 81, while Matt Ewer (40) and Steve Ward (25) had earlier shared a combative 65-run stand for the third wicket.
Rugby are still paying the price for a torrid run of five, successive winless matches earlier in the summer and are still 63 points adrift of league-leaders Handsworth.
Elsewhere, Willoughby’s inconsistent season in the South Northants Cricket League continues after they fell to a disappointing seven defeat at Croughton.
Openers Robin Corrigan and Martin Nichols started slowly with the visitors taking three overs to get off the mark and progression was equally as cautious due to the dampness of the wicket.
Corrigan managed to get to grips with it until he reached 32 to his name and the opening stand was broken in the 19th over with 48 on the board.
Skipper Hughes entered the fray and scored 32 before he was dismissed in the 30th over with Willoughby on 105 and the middle and lower order dragged the visitors up to 159 for 8 after 40 overs.
Two quick wickets in the sixth over provided by Lee Johnson gave the visitors hope but the hosts were able to sit back and wait for a regularity of bad balls without taking any risks, even though Croughton’s third wicket fell at 105.
Hughes tried eight bowlers on the day but WCC were unable to secure any more wickets, as the hosts cruised home with seven wickets in hand and with four overs to spare.