It was the first of nine weeks of time matches in the AJ Sports Surrey Championship as players were forced to adjust to the different disciplines required; Richard Spiller highlights the talking points.
Normandy v Esher
They have never won the Premier Division but could Esher’s long wait be about to end this year?
A 90-run trouncing of Normandy was the New Road club’s fourth victory in succession and opened up a 19-point lead at the top.
Esher last won the Championship in 1996, taking the old Division One title, their previous successes having come in 1983 and 1993.
Openers Justin Broad (52) and Anosh Malik (39) put on 88 and skipper Will Edwards (59) contributed towards a total of 252 all out in 59 overs. It looked likely a few more when they were 180-3, off-spinner Chris Jones’s 6-87 from 23 overs assisted by Viggy Venkateswaran’s 2-108 from 25.
All-rounder Broad quickly removed Olly Batchelor (4) and in-form Oskar Kolk (8) at the start of the reply, adding Arya Khedekar for 29. Esher were held up by Harry Nielsen (61) and Chris Booth (29) but resistance was thin after that, seamers Ben Townsend and Alex French collecting two wickets each and veteran left-arm Dan Taylor claiming 3-20 as the hosts were toppled for 162.
Wimbledon v Ashtead
Dominic Sibley celebrated his first outing in six years for Ashtead by helping his club defeat champions Wimbledon.
The Surrey and England opener made an unbeaten 124 as the visitors cruised to victory by six wickets at Church Road.
His nursery club badly needed a lift, going into the game on the back of three defeats, yet bowled out Wimbledon for 230. Sussex seamer Sean Hunt struck a vital early blow by having Ryan Patel – who had made 210 runs in two appearances – caught behind for 20. The main obstacle proved to be Kiwi Jack Boyle, who made 103, but he got precious little support, three wickets each from Harri Aravinthan and Tom Homes finishing off the innings in the 66th and final over.
Ben Geddes joined Surrey colleague Patel in suffering a frustrating day, being bowled by Ollie Pike for 16, but the reassuring figure of Sibley was soon on his way, enjoying a third-wicket stand worth 93 with Aravinthan (41) and then putting on 96 alongside Conor Young (29). He cracked 14 fours and four sixes to complete the job, keeping out the cobwebs in preparation for this weekend’s resumption of the LV County Championship.
Cranleigh v Weybridge
Basement boys Cranleigh scrapped hard for a draw in a stalemate which ensured neither side has recorded a victory yet this season.
Having sent in Weybridge, the hosts briefly had the upper hand when they removed skipper Nathan Tilley (4) and Ben Curran (6), making it 13-2, before Stuart Van Der Merwe (77) was joined by Will Pucovski. The Australian Test player made 57 in a third wicket alliance worth 134, both men falling to Tommy Ealham, but former Somerset all-rounder Craig Meschede (77no) and Jacob Gordon (53no) enjoyed an unbroken stand of 152 which steered the visitors to 289-4 as they batted their maximum 66 overs.
Any prospects of Cranes challenging that total had expired by the time they slumped to 28-3. And when Jack Scriven (43), became off-spinner Phil Mann’s fourth victim, avoiding defeat was Cranleigh’s only option, Ryan Anderson (60no) and Surrey’s Yousef Majid (20no) seeing them to safety at 177-7, leaving Tilley to regret that he had not given his bowlers more time to finish the job. Mann, a teacher on half-term holiday, finished with 4-48 from 26 overs in an attack which has been under strength, perhaps explaining Tilley’s reticence in pulling the plug.
Weybridge at least took 13 points from the match but still find themselves ninth, 11 ahead of Cranes.
Guildford v Reigate Priory
Victory by two wickets with nine balls to spare was a heartening achievement for injury-hit Guildford but a blow to Reigate’s title chances.
Priory were dismissed for 243 after 64 overs, a strong recovery from being 146-6 with an eighth wicket partnership of 51 between Tom Massey (39) and Richard Stevens (35no) holding up the hosts. Opener Richie Oliver (37) and Alex Ross (47) had made early headway, seamers Jono Merlo and James McMillan collecting three wickets apiece and Olly Birts finishing with 4-53.
Missing the unavailable Geffen brothers, plus injured duo Don Butchart and Zac Donohue, Guildford got off to a rapid start through openers Ben Garrett (44) – having made a double-century for the second team a week earlier – and Matt Teale (28) putting on 70. Australian all-rounder Merlo (60) was joined in an entertaining fourth wicket alliance with talented 17-year-old Adam Thomas, who looked in increasing command and took 10 off two balls from James Taylor before the expensive Surrey seamer trapped him leg-before for 49. That was the first of three wickets for 12 runs, Merlo being run out.
But Alex Sweet (20no) marked his return from a dislocated shoulder with a typically calm innings while McMillan – needing a runner after straining his hip earlier – crashed 22 from 14 balls and Guildford claimed their first win in a Premier time match since 2017 as they moved into fourth place.
Sunbury v East Molesey
Centuries by Colby Dyer and Matthew Arnold gave Sunbury the upper hand – but East Molesey hung on for a draw.
It cost the Moles joint leadership of the Premier Division as their batting failed in chasing to 281, having to grind their way to 124-8 at the end.
But for the centurions, Sunbury would have been in trouble, slipping to 59-3 when they lost Surrey’s Nico Reifer (28), but Dyer’s 106 and Arnold’s 100 saw them add 186 for the fourth wicket. Once the pair were split at 245, the rest slumped – off-spinner Jamie Southgate grabbing three quick wickets – to finish on 280-9 at the maximum 66 over mark.
East Molesey were immediately up against it, losing Marcus Campopiano for a second first-ball duck in as many weeks, in skidding to 41-4. Resistance came from Martin Shean, making 57, but Sunbury were unable to get past the insurmountable obstacles of Matthew Tigg – who blocked solidly to finish 3no from 69 balls – and Jonny Fawcett, making a comparatively racy 7no from 28.
It meant Moles claimed five points, the hosts taking 13 which lifted them to third place.
Best of the rest
A run-filled clash at Malden Wanderers saw them get the better of Sutton.
Both sides were relegated from the Premier Division last year and have stuttered in the opening weeks, making them all the more eager to make a successful start to the time matches.
It was Sutton who looked most likely to do that when opener Cameron Tanner – whose 126 was his maiden league century, featuring 19 fours and three sixes – and Surrey’s in-form Josh Blake (100) led them to 208-1. Wanderers were rewarded for plugging away, restricting the visitors to a still formidable 308-7 when they declared in the 61st over.
Malden’s ace proved to be their South African opener Zac Elkin, who scored 1,037 runs in their promotion campaign two years ago. He hit six centuries then and his first of the current campaign was augmented by opening partner Nick Goh (49), Pete Young (45) and Alastair Curran’s speedy 67no which ensured the runs were knocked off with 17 balls in hand to triumph by seven wickets.
It’s Valley End who continue to lead the way, by a point from promoted Walton, after hammering Chipstead, Coulsdon & Walcountians by 174 runs. Ed Young’s 100 was the centrepiece of their 332-8dec in 58 overs after choosing to bat, the former Gloucestershire all-rounder adding three wickets although it was Jamie Stephens (7-48) who took the bowling honours in dismissing the hosts for 158.