Just three points divide the top three teams in the AJ Sports Surrey Championship Premier Division as we approach the final round of matches. Richard Spiller reviews Saturday’s action
East Molesey v Reigate Priory
Double champions East Molesey saw their bid for a hat-trick take a dive as Reigate Priory dramatically enhanced their own credentials through an eight-wicket triumph at Graburn Way.
Victory would have meant the Moles needed just a handful of bonus points from the final round but now they find themselves depending on Wimbledon slipping up.
Nick Stevens saw his woeful run with the coin continuing – losing the toss for a 15th week out of 17 – and Moles were dismissed for 153, the best efforts coming from Cole Campbell (32) and Jake Kings, who made 26no down the order. Andy Delmont’s 2-21 did initial damage before spinners Angus Dahl (4-25) and Michael Munday (2-39) got to work.
Molesey’s hopes rose briefly when Andy Westphal trapped Richie Oliver leg-before for seven but Luke Haughton’s 22 was followed by James Crosthwaite (81no) and Alex Ross (32no) coasting to victory in an unbroken third wicket alliance worth 91.
Moles head to fourth-placed Esher and Priory, now a point behind them, host Weybridge with both hoping that Wimbledon slip up against Ashtead on Saturday.
Weybridge v Wimbledon
Victory over Ashtead tomorrow will take Wimbledon to their 12th Surrey Championship title – but the first for nine years.
Beating Weybridge by 47 runs, while East Molesey were losing, earned them a two-point cushion at the summit, just a week after their own hopes had taken a dive with defeat at the hands of Reigate.
The foundation of Saturday’s victory was an opening stand of 179 between Ben Coddington (120no) and Nick Welch (89), David Scott’s 36 helping on the way to 286-6 after 50 overs. Off-spinner Phil Mann’s 3-44 was the best of a hard-pressed attack.
Weybridge, who were still title candidates at the start of August but could now slip out of the top half, made an unconvincing chase, youngster Stuart Van Der Merwe’s 60 underlining his promise. There were three wickets each for Jack Palser and Charlie Whipple.
Ashtead v Sunbury
Sean Hunt was the hero for Ashtead in an overwhelming 103-run victory over Sunbury.
With safety assured for both sides, there was little to play for other than honour, Conor Young’s 37 giving the hosts early momentum before they tumbled to 129-7. Daniel Geddes (36) and Ben Sidwell (42) were responsible for raising them to 212-8 in the end and although Sam Burgess’s 25 in nine balls launched the reply speedily, Sunbury were quickly in trouble.
Left-arm seamer Hunt, a product of the Surrey youth scheme before moving to Sussex, carved his way through the rest as the visitors were dismissed for 109 in the 19th over. Sidwell finished with 3-66 in eight action-packed overs.
Malden Wanderers v Normandy
A win by seven wickets kept alive Normandy’s chances of pinching a place in the top half of the table.
They dismissed already-relegated Malden Wanderers for 170, Max Stevenson taking the bowling honours by claiming 4-39 from 10 overs. Pete Young was left unbeaten on 50.
Although Norrmandy lost Arya Khedekar for a third-ball duck and were in trouble at 37-3, opener Joel Foster cracked 87no and was joined by wicketkeeper Chris Booth (58no) in securing victory with 8.5 overs to spare.
Normandy will aim to beat Sutton and hope either Weybridge or Esher are beaten while Wanderers need to overcome Sunbury to ensure they do not finish bottom.
Sutton v Esher
It might have been far too late to save them but Sutton finally enjoyed the taste of victory after a season in which they have been locked in the Premier basement.
In doing so, they ended Esher’s theoretical title hopes and any chance of finishing in the top three.
Fabian Cowdrey’s four-wicket haul and century took the starring role and, in the process, the former Kent all-rounder underlined what a serious blow his broken thumb in the opening match of the season – putting him out for nine weeks – had been to promoted Sutton.
Cowdrey and fellow left-arm spinner Aneesh Jhalla claimed four victims each in dismissing Esher for 259 in the final over, despite David Brent making 105 and Andrew McCallum hitting 52.
Smaller targets have been beyond Sutton for much of the campaign and looked likely to be again when they sat at 30-3. But the return of Surrey wicketkeeper Josh Blake, having spent the past month playing in the Royal London Cup, proved a major boon as his 89 contributed to a third-wicket stand worth 187 with Cowdrey, who finished on 115. Victory came by six wickets with 3.5 overs in hand.
It gave Sutton something to smile about at last and a win over Normandy on Saturday may even take them off the bottom as they seek some momentum going into the winter.
Best of the rest
Promotion and relegation both remain on a knife-edge in Division One as the climax approaches.
The three top sides – Cranleigh, Guildford and Spencer – are still covered by two points after winning their matches, Cranes by far the most convincing as they smashed Old Wimbledonians by 222 runs. Jack Scriven (147) and brother Brad (121) hammered 249 for the first wicket, George Ealham inflicting more misery on the bowlers by cruising to 90no off 57 balls. The visitors stumbled to 175 all out.
Guildford had to work much harder before completing a 25-run victory at Stoke d’Abernon, slumping to 89-6 until they were rescued by a seventh-wicket stand worth 114 between James McMillan (56) and Joe Morse (45), finally reaching 226-8. Ben Townsend took 2-29 and Robbie Blackburn 4-52.
Stoke’s challenge was fading away at 102-6 only for Alistair Curran to take charge with a powerfully hit 71, finally terminated by a coolly-taken boundary catch from Freddie Geffen as the hosts were bowled out for 201.
It was even tighter for Spencer at Valley End, where the hosts made 222-9 thanks to Ed Young’s 87 and Josh Jayasingh’s 54. Will de Cani supervised the chase until he was run out for 96, former Gloucestershire left-arm spinner Young’s late entry to the attack earning him three wickets but Spencer inching home by two wickets.
Cranleigh head to relegation-threatened Dulwich – who have cleared the drop zone with two wins in eight days – while Guildford host Valley End and Spencer are at home to fourth-placed Banstead.
Any two of five – Chipstead, Dulwich, Stoke d’Abernon, Beddington and Wimbledonians – could still be relegated.
Promotion and relegation matters settled on Saturday included Walton joining Camberley on the ascent from Division Two while Kingstonian slip out of Division Three alongside Woking & Horsell.
Defeat by three wickets at Churt means Haslemere must join their hosts in exiting Division Four via the trapdoor.
Individual performance of the week must go to Farnham’s Nathan Thorpe. A week after the sudden loss of his grandmother Toni – mother of Ian, Alan and Graham – he was joint top-scorer with 36 (out of 159 all out) and then took 5-25 in bowling out champions Camberley for 133. His nan, a remarkable lady who did so much alongside husband Geoff at the club, would have been mighty proud.