04:45PM, Monday 26 July 2021
Stoke Green kept themselves on course for the Thames Valley League Division 1 title on Saturday with another confident performance to beat Slough 2nds by 71 runs.
Last week skipper Sukh Dhillon admitted he and his teammates were ‘pinching themselves’ to have made the final four of the National Village Cup for the first time in their history after completing a five-wicket win over Foxton in the last eight.
However, the bread and butter of their summer remains the Thames Valley League and Saturday’s victory, their fourth on the spin, maintains their slim lead over second placed Gerrards Cross.
They can’t, as Dhillon readily acknowledges, afford any slip ups and have some big hurdles to overcome in the next few weeks if they are to be successful on three fronts and make it to the final of the Village Cup at Lord’s.
On Saturday, Munir-ur Rehman Tanzil top scored with 62 and Gagan Singh ably assisted with 41 as Green posted a challenging total of 216 all out in 47.1 overs. Spin once again turned the game in their favour as Zulfi Butt took 4-24 as Slough were dismissed for 145 in 46.1 overs. At times Slough looked capable of playing out their overs for a share of the spoils, with Lakhani scoring 40, but Dhillon’s side got the job done when the pressure was on.
This Saturday they face a tricky trip to fourth placed Falkland, before taking on Calmore Sports away from home in the semi-final of the Village Cup on Sunday.
The club has come a long way in recent seasons from being, to use Dhillon’s words ‘the laughingstock of the area’, to the most consistent side in their division.
He knows defeat in the league could see them lose momentum and plummet down the table in a congested division, but for the time being at least, they’re maintaining their focus admirably.
Speaking before their victory over Slough, Dhillon said: “If anyone said we'd be top of Division 1 after 11 games I'd have taken their hands off for that. But, while we're in a good position, we don't want to let it slip.
“We want to win our next two league games and we'll see where we are after that. It's a very tight league this year, probably the tightest I've known so any loss or bad day at the office could be the difference between being top and falling to mid-table and the lads all know this.”
Ahead of Sunday’s clash they’ve had some ‘intel’ from Cookham Dean’s players who played Calmore in an early round of the competition, losing narrowly in a game that went down to the wire.
“The guys are dressing it up differently,” he said. “Some are calling it the final of the South because South plays North in the final.
“We’ll give it our all in that game and can’t leave anything to chance because we’ve come so far. We’re one game away from Lord’s. The club has come a long way. At one point we were almost the laughingstock of the area, but now we’re beating the big boys in our area, and we’ll give it our all to get to the final at Lord’s.
“We’ve spoken to some of the Cookham lads, and they’ve filled us in a bit. But you don’t know what their availability was like. It was earlier in the competition; they might have had a different team out and in the national semis you probably would try to get all your best players out. But we have had a lot of intel so we’re not going completely cold into the game.
“They obviously played a good game against Cookham, who are a good side, and they’re top of Hampshire Division 1 which is known as a tough league so we’re going to come up against a very good side.”