AN unbeaten 52 from hard-hitting Jack Murphy led Shipston-on-Stour Cricket Club to an emphatic nine-wicket victory over Catherine de Barnes in the Cotswold Hills League Premier Division.

It was Shipston’s fourth triumph of the campaign and keeps them in the top echelons of the table.

They picked up 21 points from the match at London Road while the reverse cemented nine-man Catherine de Barnes’ spot in the relegation zone.

Murphy said: “It’s been a good start to the season for us.

“The title race looks to be a pretty open one this year with so many teams being so close together at the top.”

After losing the toss, Shipston fielded first on a muggy afternoon.

They were quick to make inroads into the batting line-up of the visitors who were struggling for players and fielded only nine men.

A wicket apiece from the opening pair of Paul Cross and Matt Corby reduced them to 5-2.

Much to their credit, Catherine de Barnes applied themselves well for the rest of the innings.

Opener L Hanlon was the bedrock, striking 56 to lay the foundations of their 121 all out.

A third-wicket partnership of 89 between Hanlon and skipper A Prince briefly gave Catherine de Barnes something to shout about.

However, the strugglers lost their remaining six wickets for 27 runs to be shot out for a low total.

Luke Canning was the pick of Shipston’s attack, picking up 2-22 off his 7.3 overs.

There was also a welcome return for Cross who bowled well at the beginning of the innings with figures of 1-24 from 10 overs.

Dave Pyne chipped in with his left-arm orthodox, taking 2-14 from 10 overs, and Corby was the other wicket taker for Rangers with 1-16 from his eight.

In the reply, Corby had an early let-off when he was dropped from the first ball of the Shipston innings.

He rode his luck for a quick-fire 26.

It was left to Shipston opener Harry Dube and Murphy to secure the win for the home side.

Dube played a measured knock to finish on 35 not out and Murphy was the aggressor in the partnership, punishing the loose deliveries to finish with an unbeaten half-century.

Shipston travel to Alcester and Ragley on Saturday.