The action intensified in week eight of the AJ Sports Surrey Championship, with a familiar name opening a gap at the top of the Premier Division. Richard Spiller reviews the action.

Reigate Priory v East Molesey
A stalemate in the battle of the top two saw East Molesey extend their lead to 15 points.
Australian batsman Alex Ross’s 80 was the highlight for Priory after they took first use, a fifth wicket partnership worth 82 with Angus Dahl (32) lifting the hosts from 74-4 and Andy Delmont’s 42no seeing them through the maximum 66 overs to 266-9. That was despite the best efforts of seamer Andy Westphal, whose 5-71 from 22 overs raised his wicket tally to 29 at 10 apiece in seven outings. Nick Stevens, the Moles captain, launched the reply by making 69 and was joined by Mac Wright in a second wicket stand worth 87. But despite the Tasmanian staying to the end in making an unbeaten 91, East Molesey faded away to 239-6 in their 54 overs back, leg-spinner Michael Munday’s 4-90 the main factor. Moles took 13 points to Reigate’s eight and results elsewhere further strengthened their position.

Wimbledon v Weybridge
Sarel Erwee put another dent into Wimbledon’s title ambitions as he revived Weybridge’s own
chances. Attention at Church Road in late June is generally fixed on the All England Club just over the road – the steady flow of vans and trucks a firm testimonial – and Wimbledon certainly seemed distracted as they were bowled out for 166 in the 50 th over, George Compton claiming 5-54 from 16 overs. Holding him up longest was Leicestershire’s Nick Welch 49 at the top of the order plus 45 from Aristides Karvelas halfway down.

Erwee, hoping to use his return to Weybridge as reconnaissance for South Africa’s Test series against England later in the summer, led the response. He added 80 with Odge Davey (28) but then saw three wickets go down for 10 runs as the hosts fought back. And when Erwee departed for 79 at 126-4, one of three victims for Karvelas, the game was still in the balance. But skipper Matt Laidman’s 19no nudged Weybridge over the line, taking them into third spot, two ahead of
Wimbledon but 26 off the top.

Esher v Sutton
Showing no mercy to the bottom two has become a speciality for Esher. Whereas they could only beat Malden Wanderers by 30 runs, the hosts were far more clinical when Sutton visited, seeing them off by eight wickets.

The basement side’s troubles are not for want of good starts. Rehan Ratnasapabathy and Chris
Morris had enjoyed a partnership of 106 a week earlier in the defeat against East Molesey and this time hit 77 and 92 respectively to launch the innings in a platform worth 124.

But just as the previous week, their efforts were wasted by the rest as Sutton were bowled out for 223 in 58.3 overs, having been sent in, Ben Collins taking 4-53 in 14.3 overs. Esher’s stroll to victory was launched by opener Alex Martin (49), an unbroken third wicket alliance worth 222 between skipper Will Edwards (92no) and Nicholas Smit (66no) reeling in 24 points. It was Sutton’s sixth loss in eight weeks and they are already 36 points off safety, Esher lying sixth.

Normandy v Malden Wanderers
A Zac Elkin century was not enough to save Malden Wanderers from an agonising defeat by one run in a thriller at Normandy, who moved into the top half of the table on the back of it.
It was nip and tuck throughout, the home side posting 230-8dec from 63 overs after choosing to bat. That came courtesy of Olly Batchelor – on the back of hitting a double and then single century – making 45 before former captain Neal Prowse (65) and Arya Khedekar (43) inflated the total. Joe Lavender claimed 4-61 in 20.

Elkin, who scored 1,037 league runs in last year’s promotion campaign, increased his chances of
emulating that by making 108 but his best support came from Raleh Jafri’s 32 down the order.

When they were split at 199-5 it was the first of three wickets for four runs, off-spinner Chris Jones striking the vital blow by bowling Elkin at 225-9 and finishing the match by removing Munir Osman to finish with 4-49.

Sunbury v Ashtead
A patient unbeaten 77 from Surrey’s Nico Reifer saved struggling Sunbury from defeat.
Without a win since May 21, they were powerless to prevent Ashtead running up 319-8 in their
maximum 66 overs, which was built around South African Matthew Breeztke’s 125. Next best was wicketkeeper Paul Harrison’s 44, left-arm spinner Vishal Manro’s 16 overs earning him 3-78.

Reifer’s innings, which took in 131 deliveries and came on the back of his Vitality Blast debut lastweek, looked likely to be in vain when Sunbury’s reply slipped to 124-7 but he found a worthy partner in Matt Harpur, whose 43no enabled the hosts to bat out their 55 overs at 207-7. That earned them seven points to Ashtead’s 13.

Best of the rest
Successful teams always find someone to do the job and Cranleigh are no different as they aim to regain a place in the Premier Division at first attempt. Chasing 203 to win at Old Wimbledonians, the leaders were in danger at 31-3, their prolific top-order having failed for once.

But South African Clyde Fortuin (84no) found the ideal partner in Lewis Bedford – whose primary interest these days is running a wildlife charity – at 85-4 and the pair knocked off the runs, Bedford finishing 67no. That seventh win in eight games means they top the table by 22 points.

Guildford lead the chasing pack, returning to winning ways as they hammered Stoke d’Abernon by nine wickets. Stoke’s 237 all out had taken them into the 66th over, Junaid Allie’s 48 the highest score.

There were three wickets each for Olly Birts and Gus Lovell, the latter following his century for
Surrey seconds against Middlesex at Radlett last week by hammering 122no. He was joined by
Freddie Geffen, the left-hander’s accomplished 103no playing a full part in their unbeaten second wicket stand worth 232 which completed victory in the 40th over, with rain threatening.

Spencer are another 23 points behind, getting the better of a draw against Valley End as they proved unable to claim the final wicket.