THE Ashes may have slipped away, but Australian cricket was alive and kicking this weekend when Towcestrians 1st XI took on Irchester.
Or rather it was smashing the ball to the boundary and taking vital wickets as overseas stars Travis Ilka and Joseph Clarke racked up a remarkable 268 runs and three wickets between them.
This Northamptonshire Cricket League Division Two match saw Towcestrians, still looking for their first win of the season, take on newly promoted Irchester on a wet Greens Norton Road track, following overnight rain.
Tows lost the toss and were promptly put in, with early wickets falling despite a fast start.
The in-form Jimmy Edwards was the biggest loss, out for a duck in the first over of the match.
But Aussie star Ilka quickly get to grips with the conditions, in what was turning out to be a good track to bat on and Tows began to move at a good pace.
At the halfway stage the innings was well poised at 130–4, at which point Tows batting really kicked in.
Ilka (116) went on to record a brilliant maiden hundred for the club and was well supported by captain Adam Kelly (78) and Alex Blanchard (40 not out) as Tows posted a formidable score of 289-6 at tea.
In reply the Irchester innings got off to a flyer after the break with the opening pair putting on almost a hundred.
It was again down to that man Ilka (3-50) to drag Tows back into the game, picking up key wickets.
Ilka was well supported with the ball by Jack Parish, whose figures of 2-74 don’t give justice to a very good spell of bowling.
Only one man was causing Tows any problems with the bat – and, of course, he was of antipodean origin.
Joseph Clarke scored a fantastic 152, almost chanceless until right at the very end.
Unfortunately for him, none of his team mates were able to give him any support and the innings closed on 256-8 after 50 overs.
After the first positive result of the season, Tows travel to Brigstock next week with both sides still looking for that first win.
> An accurate spell of bowling helped Kevin Hawkins pick up a match winning 8-33 as Towcestrians 2nds struggled to beat off the challenge of Harlestone in their Northamptonshire Cricket League Division Seven match-up.
Harlestone were inserted by Tows on a soft track and progress was slow against the lively opening attack of James Kirk and Robson Kightley.
However wickets remained intact until the introduction of Hawkins. His spell had all batsmen in trouble and meant Harlestone’s total of 146 was well below par on this small ground.
Only opener Nigel Wright (57), who survived a number of chances, made a significant contribution.
Tows got off to a flying start in reply with Tony Roodt taking 20 runs off the first over.
But he and fellow opener Rob Jones were then dismissed in quick succession and Tows were in a difficult position.
It took some mature batting from James Kirk (46) and Robson Kightley (31) to restore the advantage.
All seemed comfortable until Kightley was bowled with only a few runs required.
Tows then contrived to lose three wickets during a nervous period before limping over the line for a three wicket victory.
Next week the 2nd XI is at home to Cogenhoe.