STOKE Gabriel have a big game in the C Division promotion race on Saturday when they make the short trip to Cornwood for a first-against-second showdown, writes Conrad Sutcliffe.
The C Division West is a tough division to get out of as there is only one promotion place and any game against a side in the mix is crucial
Stoke are in the middle of a breakaway group at the top comprising leaders Cornwood 2nd XI (134pts), themselves (134) and Ivybridge (127). The there is a 12-point gap down to Brixham in fourth place.
With Ivybridge and Cornwood to play in the next two games the promotion race is about to heat up.
Jake Robinson, the Stoke skipper, hit the nail on the head when he said: 'We have some big weekends coming up and cannot afford to take any game for granted in such a tight division.
'The challenge is really the tiny margin for error there is in our division. On our day I would back us to beat anyone, but it’ll be about us grinding out the right result when things don’t go our way.
'All we can do for now is focus on what we have control of, and that’s training well and preparing for games well, which we have done much better this year so far.'
Robinson was encouraged to believe Stoke have the grit needed to tough it out by the way they won at Ashburton earlier in the season.
'After a pretty woeful batting display when we were bowled out for 178, I thought we did well with the ball to win by six runs,' said Robinson.
'Bar the game against Ashburton, I think we have shown what we can do with the bat and ball.
'What’s really promising is it’s been different people each time: three hundreds and two ‘five-fers’, all from different people. I hope that gives credit and confidence to the depth we have available.'
Stoke could have pulled away from the breakaway group had they beaten Yelverton last time out, not lost a close encounter by 14 runs. Helpfully, Cornwood and Ivybridge both lost as well.
Mike Lemmings (66) and Lachlan Curtis (30) put on 92 for Yelverton’s first wicket and bits and pieces from Richard Townsend (18) and Sam Crompton (12) got the total up to 171 all out.
Wicket-taking by Stoke was a collaborative effort with two each for Jack Tolley, Dan Bullock, Justin Pringle and Kyle Lardner.
Stoke did not have a greater partnership than the opening one of 32 between Pringle (11) and Abhishek Anand (20) – and that summed-up their innings.
Tolley (92) and Pat Duke (20) chipped away at the deficit, but Alew Shutt (4-20) was doing the same to Stoke’s batting.
At 135 for nine it looked all over for Stoke. Lardner stuck around for 23 not out before last man Sean Rooney was dismissed on 157.