Radlett Women come through toughest test unscathed

Radlett Women came through the toughest examination of their playing strengths for some years against Orpington on Sunday at Cobden Hill.

An incredibly experience side, Orpington boasted three former England internationals in Caroline Barrs, Bev Nicholson and Sarah Clarke, amongst their ranks and they made Radlett work incredibly hard with both bat and ball in this Southern League clash.

Upon winning the toss Radlett skipper Alexis Mannion decided to bat first for the first time this season. The slow pitch proved to be one that made run scoring very difficult, especially given the accurate spin bowling of Clarke and Barrs.

Mannion top scored with a composed 48 before being caught behind, but telling contributions also came from opener Catherine McNeil (30), and Katie Pankhurst (28) and Sian Ruck (20) in the middle order.

That said the 45-over total of 164-8 seemed below par for such a strong batting line-up.

Given the required run rate of just 3.67 per over, Radlett needed to bowl tight lines and stay focused in the field. They did both superbly.

Off-spinner Anje Lague thrived in the situation, conceding just seven runs from her eight-over spell. Sian Ruck (3-25) also proved why she is considered one of the best bowlers in international cricket with a spell of ferocious left-arm seam.

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Lorraine Hartley (1-36) and Anna Harris (3-28) had the job to contain Orpington in the middle overs and were well supported with excellent fielding. At the 30 over mark Orpington were only three wickets down but barely half-way to their target.

With 15 overs left, 80 required and the run rate approaching a run-a-ball, the danger was still clear and present with Nicholson and Clarke at the crease. However, there was no let up from the Radlett team. Despite having some quick seamers at her disposal, Mannion elected to keep pace off the ball, bowling out Hartley and Harris and bringing on medium-pacer Kathy Morley to further stifle run-scoring opportunities.

The pressure eventually told with Clarke playing around a low delivery from Harris and Nicholson holing out to mid-on two overs later. The rate was soon nudging toward 10-per-over, but with bonus points up for grabs Radlett pushed hard to the finish, claiming a total of nine wickets as Orpington finished 31 runs short of their target.

The result means Radlett keep pace with unbeaten Brighton & Hove in the Championship Division. It also extends their run of consecutive 11-a-side victories to 23, which is a club record by some distance.

Matches against Shepperton and Hastings follow for the Southern League side, before the big, top-of-the-table clash on the south coast on July 13.