Express & Star

Fordhouses captain says unbeaten leaders are yet to play best cricket

Skipper Jem Stack believes Fordhouses are yet to hit top gear after beating Penkridge to continue their perfect start to the season.


Saqib Akbar’s blistering 105 from 70 balls helped them make it four wins from four and open up a 29-point gap at the top of the South Staffs County League Premier Division. And with Pakistan overseas star Muhammed Imran having only just arrived, Stack thinks the best is yet to come.

He said: “To be honest, I don’t think we have played our best cricket yet.

“We have not been at full strength so far and there is a lot of excitement around that we can continue to go from strength to strength.”

Fordhouses were given a decent platform by an opening stand of 50 between Niall Cooper and Mubeen Rashid but it was when Akbar came to the crease, with the score 124-3, things really accelerated.

His strike-rate of 150 was nearly matched by Matthew Gallear (30 from 21 balls) and actually exceeded by Adam Peat, who hit 26 from just 14 balls to help the home side reach 337-9.

It looked a tall order for Penkridge, who got off to a less than impressive start when opener Alan Lones departed for a 13-ball duck.

They still had hope when Jack Pope (62 from 57 balls) was in the middle but when he became the sixth wicket to fall with the score on 174 the result looked a formality. Rashid mopped up the tail, taking 3-6, while Awais Kurshid also finished with three wickets to his name. On Akbar’s performance, Stack said: “He is a complete game-changer and has done it for a number of years. Whenever he’s had the opportunity he’s shown he is a real class act.”

Milford Hall moved up to second in the table after winning at Pelsall. Jack Lee hit 80 for Pelsall, but struggled for support with Will Davis taking four wickets as the hosts were bowled out for 188.

Davis then completed an impressive all-round display by hitting 61 from 65 balls in the chase, while skipper Jordan Bulpitt anchored the innings with a patient 79 as the visitors got home with more than 10 overs to spare.

Wombourne fell to their first defeat of the season by 31 runs at Hammerwich. Wicketkeeper Andy Malkin top scored with 49 as the home team reached 209, his partnership of 76 with Scott Elstone (43) proving particularly pivotal on an afternoon when batting proved far from easy.

Seamer Sajid Ahmadzai then ripped through the Wombourne top order to leave them 55-5. That became 129-9 and though Charlie Walker (24) and Joel Craner (25 not out) then put on 49, there was to be no dramatic finish.

A five-wicket burst from Jack Stanier propelled Beacon to their first win of the year as they beat Walsall by eight wickets.

From 96-3, the hosts collapsed to 115 all out, with Stanier tearing through the team. He finished with figures of 5-24 and though Beacon then lost skipper Dan Green to an 11-ball duck, an unbeaten 64 from James Fildes ensured the chase was smooth.

There was a much closer finish at Aldridge, where the hosts beat Cannock by three wickets.

Skipper James Bye’s unbeaten 103 was the highlight of the visiting team’s 234-8 and they looked on course for a first win of the season when the home side slipped to 152-7.

But with Dulen Abaykoon’s 79 from 72 balls having kept the run-rate manageable, Ali Milne (47 not out) and Jaden Patel (24 not out) were able to patiently compile an unbroken eighth wicket stand to see their team over the line.

The biggest drama came at Tamworth, where Lichfield fell nine runs short in their run chase.

Tom Stone took four wickets as the hosts were dismissed for 147.

But the chase began badly as the visitors slumped to 20-3 and no-one could stay with Muhammad Daniyaal, who was stranded unbeaten on 44 as they fell short.