We’ve reached the halfway stage of this year’s AJ Sports Surrey Championship. Richard Spiller reports on the latest round of Premier Division matches and what’s happening in the rest of the competition.
Sunbury v Guildford
Olly Birts bowled Guildford to the top of the Premier Division, his haul of 7-23 including a hat-trick.
The clash of the top two began with Sunbury holding a 16-point lead but, missing five players – predominantly because of a stag weekend – they crumbled to defeat by 106 runs, despite the efforts of Amar Virdi.
After Birts had chosen to bat on a dry and reused pitch, Virdi bowled throughout the Guildford innings to claim 7-81 from 23.3 overs. And when he was twinned with left-arm spinner Vishal Manro (3-33), the visitors slid from 99-1 to 130-7, the efforts of opener Ben Garrett (56) in danger of being wasted until Alex Sweet (18) led a fightback to finish at 172 all out in the 48th over.
Sunbury were soon in trouble at 21-3, Jono Merlo claiming two wickets and Oli Soames claiming a fine reaction catch at short-leg to remove Rajan Soni, giving Birts his first victim. The match hung on whether Colby Dyer and South African all-rounder Matthew Arnold could drag their side close enough to the target. But when they were parted at 52, Dyer (19) snapped up by Merlo off Birts, it sparked a remarkable collapse. While Arnold (24no) looked on, left-arm spinner Birts sliced his way through the rest. His hat-trick came when he trapped Matt Harpur in front, had George O’Connor pouched by Merlo and then took a return catch off Virdi. It was all over six runs later, Birts removing Manro to leave Sunbury 66 all out and finish with his best league figures.
Promoted last season, Guildford have gone four points clear and are relishing their summer but will face a severe test on Saturday when champions Wimbledon arrive at Woodbridge Road.
Wimbledon v Cranleigh
It’s looking increasingly critical for Cranleigh in the Premier basement, a 100-run setback at Wimbledon leaving them adrift by 41 points.
Having sent in the hosts, they could not prevent Kiwi Jack Boyle making 102, capitalising on the early work of Jonathon Webb (39) and Ben Coddington (41) while David Scott made 41.
Off-spinner Tommy Ealham, the sixth bowler used, engineered a slide from 227-3 to 264 all out in claiming 6-50 from 14.4 overs, Surrey’s left-arm spinner Yousef Majid finishing with 3-91 in 23.
That always looked like being too many for a side whose batting has consistently let them down and so it proved, Callum Kent’s 33 was the best as Billy Sewell (5-40) and Ollie Pike’s 3-36 wrapped up the innings for 164.
Relegation is not yet inevitable, East Molesey managing a Houdini-like escape from a desperate position five years ago. But Cranes will have to play like champions for the next nine weeks to give themselves a chance of avoiding an instant return to Division One, just as they suffered two years ago.
As for Wimbledon, the defending champions, they lie just 20 points off the top in fourth place with leaders Guildford in their sights.
Normandy v Weybridge
Kept waiting into July for their first victory of the season, Weybridge did it in style by the huge margin of 162 runs.
Having been inserted, the visitors were grateful to skipper Nathan Tilley (31) and Ben Curran (39) for early headway. Australian Test bat Will Pucovski took charge with 78no, adding 85 for the fourth wicket with Craig Meschede (43) and Joe Barrs (34) adding useful late runs for a declaration at 270-9 in the 63rd over. It might have been more but for off-spinner Chris Jones’s 7-94 from 22.5 overs.
Normandy’s reply was in ruins at 11-3, two of them falling to Harshil Patel. Harry Nielsen followed his 99 at Guildford a week earlier by making 59 but only two other players reached double-figures in crumbling to 108 all out. Patel, fellow seamer Brent Kay and off-spinner Phil Mann – now free of teaching commitments – all finished with three victims.
Weybridge remain just five points off the drop zone, sixth-placed Normandy 13 points in front of them.
East Molesey v Esher
They might have lacked consistency in the opening half of the campaign but it would be unwise to write off East Molesey’s title hopes. The 2019 and 2021 champions lie in third place following a five-wicket defeat of Esher, the early pacesetters who have now gone a month without winning.
Sheridon Gumbs returned from a broken finger to make 52 for the visitors but that was the best of his side’s 136 all out, Andy Westphal (4-62) and Oliver Haley (3-31) doing much of the damage.
Moles had to be dug out of strife at 26-3, Marcus Campopiano (60) and Cole Campbell (40) adding 84 for the fourth wicket. They might have ended up on the losing side but young pacemen Ben Townsend (3-53) and 15-year-old Alex French (2-37) were impressive.
That left East Molesey in third, 20 points off the summit, with Esher two places and 17 points behind.
Ashtead v Reigate Priory
Tom Homes was the hero for Ashtead as they dragged Reigate Priory into the relegation dogfight in thrilling style.
The left-arm spinner claimed 6-53 from 24.5 overs to earn victory by 111 runs with just one ball to spare, a win which could not lift them out of the drop zone but at least opens up a 41-point advantage over Cranleigh and closed the gap on several teams just above.
Ashtead’s 251-9 from 66 overs after choosing to bat first owed much to opener Kieran Powell’s 59, seeing Surrey pair Ben Geddes and Dominic Sibley depart for 16 each, before Ragu Aravinthan (38), Homes (40) and Ben Sidwell (31no) added valuable ballast.
Reigate’s danger man had been former Somerset leg-spinner Michael Munday (5-81) and after Homes took encouragement from his success. Priory were challenging at 91-2 but he had Luke Haughton (25) smartly caught at slip by Sibley to start the slide. When seamer Sidwell bowled Andy Delmont (57), one of three cheap victims, it was left to Homes to wrap up the innings for 140 from the penultimate delivery of the 54 overs back.
It was Ashtead’s second win of the season and left seventh-placed Reigate just 12 points away from danger.
Best of the rest
Banstead remain frontrunners for promotion despite a nine-wicket thrashing by Sutton.
The leaders were bowled out for 99, having elected to bat, Patrick Rowe (34) lasting longest against an attack in which Fabian Cowdrey claimed 3-13 from 11 overs.
Keen to get back down the A217 at speed, Sutton were hurried to victory in only 17.1 overs, in-form Cameron Tanner crashing 78no from 62 balls and former Kent all-rounder Cowdrey chipping in with 21no.
Banstead remain 12 points ahead of the rest, second-placed Spencer, promoted Walton and Sutton – all within six points of each other – looking eager to pounce.
Spencer deepened Chipstead, Coulsdon & Walcountians’ woes at the bottom in a nine-wicket hammering, off-spinner Gus Grant claiming 6-51.
How they stand at halfway
Premier Division – Leaders: Guildford; Drop zone: Ashtead & Cranleigh; Division 1 – promotion zone: Banstead & Spencer; Drop zone: Camberley & Chipstead CW; Division 2 – promotion zone: Stoke d’Abernon & Oxted; Drop zone: Dorking & Worcester Pk; Division 3 – promotion zone: Horsley/Send & Addiscombe; Drop zone: Leatherhead & Chessington; Division 4 – promotion zone: Maori Oxshott & SinjunGrammarians; Drop zone: Kingstonian & Paulines; Division 5 – promotion zone: Cobham Avorians & Egham: Drop zone: Thames Ditton & Churt/Hindhead.
Fixtures, results, tables and live scores can be found at www.surreychampionship.play-cricket.com.