EARLY leaders Shipston-on-Stour beat reigning champions Earlswood in the John Shepherd Cotswold Hills Cricket League Premier Division.

The London Road hosts’ third straight win, achieved by 61 runs, ensured a one-point advantage over Bretforton in the table.

Skipper Paul Cross lost the toss on a rare occasion but Earlswood opted to field first on a scorching afternoon.

The visitors bowled with control to restrict Shipston to 28-1 after 10 overs with Matt Corby departing for two.

But Australian Justin Saker, nephew of England bowling coach David, built a solid partnership with Julian Morris.

Morris was caught for 40 and three more partners followed for Justin Saker, who brought up his maiden Shipston half-century.

He departed soon after for 55 when caught in the deep attempting to slog.

Shipston reached 208-9 thanks to lusty blows from Gary Betteridge (29 not out).

In reply, bowlers David Saker and Marcus Ireland struggled in the heat and gifted extras, including 17 wides from the latter.

However, Shipston managed to reduce the visitors to 50-4 with two wickets apiece for the opening attack.

Cross and Corby showed improved accuracy and control but positive Earlswood chipped away at the target.

Corby (2-34) soon had Tariq caught and bowled before Jack Murphy secured a fine run-out.

At 90-6, Dave Smith marshalled the tail well but David Saker (2-29) returned to trap skipper Will Windeatt lbw and put the game beyond Earlswood.

Smith (46no) ran out of partners as Justin Saker bowled his off-spin.

A run-out from Dave Saker, caught and bowled for Corby and Justin Saker’s maiden wicket ensured Earlswood slipped to 147 all out.

Shipston hope to make it four wins at Broadway on Saturday.

In Cotswold District Association League Division One, Stow-on-the-Wold smashed 343-4 in a 223-run thrashing of Williamstrip.

Dan Smith (116), David Nieman (102no), Ben Close (52no) starred for Stow.

Great Rissington lead Gloucestershire League Division Four after a 24-run home win over Cheltenham thirds.

Al Hope (71) and James Seagrave (61) shone with the bat in their 192 all out.