Bruce stars as Shenley retain Readers County Trophy

Shenley celebrate their win. Picture: John Smith

Shenley celebrate their win. Picture: John Smith - Credit: Archant

Shenley Village capped off a sensational season by successfully defending the Readers County Trophy, beating Enfield-based Botany Bay by 102 runs in Sunday’s final at Letchworth.

Shenley's man of the Match Tom Bruce in action. Picture: John Smith

Shenley's man of the Match Tom Bruce in action. Picture: John Smith - Credit: Archant

Tom Bruce’s second consecutive century in the competition, 137 like his effort in the semi-final against Preston, earned him the man of the match award. When he came to the crease Shenley were in trouble at 4-2 after being put into bat on a deceptively slow pitch. This soon became 33-3 but Bruce, together with Rob Laney, with whom he put on 178 for the fourth wicket, turned the situation on its head to set up a match-winning total of 280.

The New Zealand born batsman, who finishes his first season in English club cricket with 1,136 runs to his name at an average of 63.11, was necessarily cautious at first but put on a spectacular display of batting for a sizeable gathering of supporters once he had got to grips with the surface.

As usual he was particularly strong on the pull and the sweep, though his 12 fours also included a Jos Buttler-esque scoop to the fine leg boundary. He eventually fell in the 49th over, the ball after striking his second six, but by then he had more than done his job.

On another day Laney’s knock might have been worthy of the match award. The tall all-rounder has a reputation as an aggressive batsman but he restrained himself on this occasion, at least until the new ball threat had been seen off. Together with Bruce he ran the Botany Bay fielders ragged - singles were turned into twos and twos into threes - until the time came to cut loose. When he eventually holed out to long-on for 89 he had hit five fours and a six.

The chase never really seemed on once Shenley broke a 50 run opening partnership at the back end of the 15-over fielding restrictions. Craig Rawlings secured the initial breakthrough in the 12th over, bowling Henry Blackwell for 24, before Kasey Harris was caught behind off Kris Nissen for 30 with no further additions to the total. Number three Mark Bott then fell to the excellent Rawlings to leave Botany Bay 60-3.

Jason Coleman, who had earlier picked up four wickets with the ball, dug in to put on 29 for the fourth wicket with Dan Kastelik. However, by the time Kastelik was caught off the bowling of Will Gerrard with an unlikely 192 still needed off 22 overs Shenley had the champagne on ice.

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A run out and a stumping left the score on 93-6. Some late order hitting followed but a result that had seemed inevitable for some time was confirmed when Daniel Muschamp offered a return catch to Lloyd Willingham, giving the part-time seamer a third wicket in a spell that lasted only seven legitimate deliveries. The celebrations could begin.

Shenley had already won Division One of the Saracens Hertfordshire Cricket League with Botany Bay runners-up. Both clubs have thus been promoted to the Championship and will also compete against Premier Division clubs in the Readers County 20/20 next season.