Even the belated arrival of rain fringing the county could not interrupt a tense and exciting final week of the AJ Surrey Championship. Richard Spiller rounds up the final week of Premier action
Wimbledon v Ashtead
A clinical display from Wimbledon landed their 12th Surrey Championship title – and first for nine years.
Holding a two-point lead at the top of the table, they knew that beating Ashtead would be sufficient to secure the summit and duly did so by eight wickets, a 12th win in 18 outings this season.
Surrey’s Ben Geddes (37) was the only obstacle among the top-order although a fifth wicket alliance worth 82 between in-form Paul Harrison (67) and Daniel Geddes (40) had to be overcome. Once they were split at 148, the rest were rounded up speedily to be 176 all out.
Wimbledon made short work of the chase, Nick Welch’s typically aggressive 117 in 60 balls – which included 11 fours and seven sixes – dominating an opening stand of 155 with Ben Coddington (45) before Ryan Patel (8no) finished the job in the 22nd over.
Welch’s 689 runs at 68 in 11 outings – where Leicestershire commitments allowed – were a great contribution to his team’s success but it has been the depth of Wimbledon’s side which has earned them top spot. For Ashtead, Matthew Breetzke’s 901 at 75 was the outstanding contribution in a side which finished seventh, leading the Premier Division run scorers.
Reigate Priory v Weybridge
An overwhelming victory over Weybridge wasn’t quite enough for Reigate Priory to snatch the title, missing out by three points.
They followed defeats of Wimbledon – who beat them to the title by three points – and East Molesey with a 10-wicket stroll on Saturday against a Weybridge side whose form went south with bewildering speed in the final weeks.
Sent into bat, the visitors were immediately in trouble at 2-2 and limped to 122 all out, only reaching three-figures thanks to Craig Meschede (72) and youngster Stuart Van Der Merwe (20). Former Somerset leg-spinner Michael Munday did most of the damage, his 5-14 taking him to 52 wickets for the season, the best in the Premier this year.
Richie Oliver’s 50 and Sam Hall’s 65 ensured Priory knocked off the runs in only 19.1 overs, Priory having to wait before hearing their late charge was not quite enough. They last finished top in 2014.
Esher v East Molesey
On track for a title hat-trick only two weeks earlier, East Molesey sank to third as Esher completed a double over the former champions, pushing them into fourth.
Nick Stevens won the toss for only the third time this season but his Moles side were bowled out for 177, Tasmanian Mac Wright (40) and Jamie Southgate (43) making most headway against an attack in which Justin Broad (4-27) and Freddie Harrison (3-38) excelled.
Broad’s 53 at the top of the reply completed an outstanding all-round campaign, bringing him 836 runs and 36 wickets, Nicolas Smit’s 30 taking him to 747 as Esher won by five wickets with 17.2 overs in hand.
Given they saw it as a season of transition, third place was a fine effort by East Molesey, too dependent on Wright (898) for their runs, skipper Nick Stevens applauding Wimbledon as “the best side and deserved winners”.
Normandy v Sutton
The rain which fringing west Surrey claimed its first victim of what has been a historically dry summer when a monsoon alighted on Normandy.
Just 2.3 overs had been bowled, Sutton having reached 23-0 when the players were forced off. Two inspections proved fruitless and the match was called off, depriving Normandy of an opportunity to break into the top half of the table.
It also blocked Sutton’s chance to climb off the bottom of the table, having been relegated midway through last month. Given they were fielding two Surrey players in Josh Blake and Conor McKerr, it seemed an appropriate metaphor for their season. They will doubtless be keen to bounce straight back, having done so last year, and at least the award of a Surrey contract to wicketkeeper Blake midway through the summer gave the Cheam Road club something to cheer about.
The Division Five match between Egham and SinjunGrammarians was the only other first team match to be abandoned this year.
Sunbury v Malden Wanderers
Kristian Baumgartner’s barnstorming 87 was the highlight of an entertaining finale at Sunbury.
Entering at 95-4, he smashed 87 from 63 balls, which featured five fours and seven sixes, so that in company with Rajan Soni (55) and Alex Hughes (39) he ensured the home totalled 316-9. Sam Hopkins took 4-45.
Already condemned to the drop, Wanderers needed a good start from their South African opener Zac Elkin but he was the victim of a direct hit run out by Kevin Smith for 19 – leaving him on exactly 900 runs – which left Cameron Steel with much to do. The Surrey all-rounder cracked 84 from 61 balls, including 14 fours and two sixes, and Aamir Raza chipped in with 43 but the visitors were all out for 205. Sam Burgess’s 4-42 left him with 23 wickets plus 593 runs at the top of the order.
Best of the rest
There was joy for Cranleigh and Guildford as they both secured returns to the Premier Division.
Three points divided as many teams at the top, Cranes heading to Dulwich in the lead and having Clyde Fortuin to thank for making 311-9. The South African all-rounder, whose return has already been secured for next year, hit 14 fours and five sixes in his 132, an innings which took him to 1,100 runs for the season, averaging 91 – the best in the league – while Robin Pritchard’s 59 add substance to the total.
Two wins had taken Dulwich out of the relegation zone and the seven bonus points they collected saw them finish 11 clear of danger in the end, James Schofield making 103no as they ended 86 runs short at 225 -6.
Fortuin’s runs were well backed up by Brad Scriven (834) and brother Jack (772) at the top of the order and George Ealham (736), major factors in ensuring an immediate return to the Premier.
It has taken Guildford a year longer but their own promotion was secured by an eight-wicket trouncing of Valley End. A fierce shower – taking two overs off each side – interrupted the visitors’ innings, which was undermined by a fine spell from James McMillan (4-37), whose victims included Ed Young. His 34 took him to 1,043 for the season. Tom Nevin’s 42no raised the Valley End total to 180 all out, which might have challenged a side which had missed Australian batsman Gus Lovell (759) for the last three matches.
But taking his opportunity at the top of the order was Adam Thomas, who played with remarkable maturity for a 16-year-old in making 96no. His second-wicket partnership of 154 with Freddie Geffen, whose 54 underlined his invaluable contributions, decided the match.
Those two results meant disappointment for Spencer, who found their four-wicket victory over Banstead could not prevent them missing out by one point. There was gloom for Stoke d’Abernon and Beddington as they slipped out of Division One in a desperately tight relegation struggle.
Up and downs of 2022 – Premier Division champions: Wimbledon. Relegated: Malden Wdrs & Sutton. Division 1 – promoted: Cranleigh & Guildford. Relegated: Stoke d’Abernon & Beddington. Division 2 – promoted: Camberley & Walton. Relegated: Leatherhead & Epsom. Division 3 – promoted: Cheam & Worcester Pk. Relegated: Kingstonian & Woking and Horsell. Division 4: Horsley and Send & Addiscombe. Relegated: Haslemere & Churt. Division 5 – promoted: SinjunGrammarians & London Gymkhana. Relegated: Battersea Ironsides & Long Ditton (replaced by Effingham & Horley from Surrey County League).
Every season brings it farewells and Saturday marked the final outing on the Surrey Championship umpiring panel for Ian Turner, when he officiated in the Division One between Chipstead and Beddington. He first donned the white coat (when they were still wearing them) a quarter of a century ago – having done sterling service as a player and then umpire for Addiscombe since 1961 – and made a remarkable fightback against leukaemia which would have beaten less indomitable spirits. League cricket, and the recreational game as a whole, could not survive without the likes of Ian Turner.