It was the final round of time matches in the AJ Sports Surrey Championship on Saturday and the Premier Division heads into its final five weeks – with all remaining games played over 50 overs per side – with just seven points dividing the top four. Richard Spiller reviews the action.
Reigate Priory v Malden Wanderers
Alex Ross cracked an unbeaten 114 to revive Reigate Priory’s title hopes and make it a four-way battle for the summit.
Having been bowled out for 243, Malden Wanderers were eyeing up victory which they reduced the hosts to 84-6, a win which would have given their ailing hopes of survival in the top tier a huge boost.
But Australian Ross chose the perfect time to make his first century of the season, adding 96 for the seventh wicket with Tom Massey (35) and then another 34 alongside Jacob McLaughlin (21). He went on to make 114no as Priory won by two wickets, despite the best efforts of seamer Joe Lavender (5-81).
Earlier Rafeh Jafri (73), opener Zac Elkin (44) and Aamir Raza (33) had ensured Wanderers made use of the maximum 66 overs, having chosen to bat first, Massey claiming 4-55 and Michael Munday’s 22 overs yielding 3-68.
With the teams above all involved in stalemates, Priory – who have not won the Premier Division since 2014 – pushed to within seven points of the top. But Wanderers find themselves 34 points from safety and with time running out.
Weybridge v East Molesey
Stern resistance by the Weybridge tail saved them from defeat and prevented East Molesey resuming the leadership of the Premier Division.
The hosts were saved by Jack Winslade and Phil Mann batting out time with eight men around the bat to claim a losing draw, Weybridge’s eight points keeping them in the running – seven points adrift of leaders Wimbledon – while the 13 earned by East Molesey ensured they are just two off the leaders.
It was a decidedly mixed day for Jake Kings, dismissed from the first ball of the game and then watching as Tasmanian Mac Wright struck 153 from 183 balls, which led Moles to 282 all out in the 66th over after being sent in. Sam Burge’s’ 35 was the next best, the bowling honours falling to off-spinner Mann (4-88) and seamer Winslade – once of the Surrey staff – who took 3-70 on a rare appearance.
Kings showed his all-round proficiency by shining with the ball instead, Weybridge reaching 53 before he struck by taking a return catch to remove Northamptonshire opener Ben Curran (23). Next ball he removed Nathan Tilley, caught sweeping, and soon after added Sarel Erwee (35) – in the left-hander’s final game before joining up with the South African Test squad – to make it 58-3.
Kings went on to claim 7-49 from 16 overs, adding former Somerset and Glamorgan all-rounder Craig Meschede (59) as the first of three wickets to fall at 183. But Winslade and Mann held firm to finish at 215-8 from their 54 overs back.
Wimbledon v Esher
There was little to choose between the sides but Wimbledon’s nine points were sufficient to keep them top of the pile.
Having been sent in, they were dismissed for 301 after 65 overs, Ben Coddington (57) and Billy Sewell (59) making maiden half-centuries at Premier level before David Scott (58) and Ben Twine (33) added late ballast. On an excellent batting pitch and with a short boundary on one side, that total might have been greater but for the efforts of David Brent (3-58) and Ben Collins (4-51).
Esher fancied their chances of victory while Justin Broad (54) and Krish Patel (34) were providing a launchpad worth 70, which was built upon by skipper Will Edwards (69) and Brent (52).
But with Twine and Scott each taking three wickets, Esher’s charge faltered and they had to settle for a winning draw at 280-8 in the 55 overs back. It earned them 14 points but could not prevent them slipping out of the top half.
Sunbury v Normandy
Normandy’s delight at pulling another game out of the fire was matched by Sunbury’s relief in seeing Malden Wanderers beaten after they collapsed miserably to lose by 26 runs.
In a match where runs were hard earned, Sam Holland (21) and Will Pereira (22) led the scorers for Normandy after they had been sent in, Liam Scott (4-44) and Matt Harpur (3-37) enjoying most success with the ball to finish off the visitors for 156 after 51 overs.
And at 94-3, the smart money was on Sunbury thanks to a stand of 55 for the third wicket between Colby Dyer (30) and Scott (28). But when they were separated, Sunbury collapsed to 130 all out, Prahlad Odedra running through them to collect 5-31 from 9.4 overs, Pereira and Chris Jones chipping with two wickets for a side whose fighting qualities should never be underestimated.
That win, Normandy’s seventh, took them back into the top half of the table. It also meant Sunbury have now suffered seven defeats, leaving them 34 points above the relegation zone and grateful that the bottom two are struggling so badly.
Ashtead v Sutton
Damian Shirazi and Matthew Breetzke may have missed out on centuries but their efforts pushed Ashtead a big step towards cementing their Premier Division future.
At the same they made Sutton’s existence among the elite look even more precarious, suffering an 11th defeat in 13 outings as they were beaten by six wickets.
The visitors had former Kent all-rounder Fabian Cowdrey (66) and Etinder Bopara’s 68 to thank for making 247 all out in the 66th over, new ball pair Ben Sidwell and Sam Hunt claiming three wickets apiece.
But Sutton’s hopes of a breakthrough victory subsided when Shirazi added 42 with Gareth James at the start of the reply and then shared a match-defining second wicket alliance worth 187 with Breetzke. They were within 16 runs of victory when South African Breetzke was stumped off Aneesh Jhalla for 95, having taken his league tally to 833, and Shirazi departed without a run added for 97, bowled by Dane Currency.
It did Sutton little good, though, finding themselves 56 points off safety, Ashtead’s fifth success of the summer seeing them sitting relatively pretty in seventh and a top half finish still within reach.
Best of the rest
Cranleigh regained the lead in Division One as the promotion race tightened.
A maiden league century for Tor Burrowes, a Barbadian who attended Malvern College, raised the hopes of strugglers Beddington, his unbeaten 111 ensured the visitors totalled 247 all out from 63.2 overs, off-spinners Tommy Ealham and Jack Scriven finishing with three wickets each.
But Cranes were sped to a seven-wicket victory inside 30 overs by Clyde Fortuin (79), George Ealham (65no), Brad Scriven (42) and Bruno Broughton (32no) and now top the table by two points.
That was made possible by previous leaders Guildford suffering a disastrous 67-run reverse against Spencer – the only side to have beaten them this year, having done it twice now, and closing to within 14 points – in a match staged at King Edward School in Witley, given Woodbridge Road was being readied for Surrey’s Royal London Cup clash with Leicestershire.
That looked an unlikely result when Spencer were bowled out for 138, owing much to William de Cani (31) and Will Harris (45), spinners Shoaib Bashir (5-36) and Olly Birts (3-54) cleaning up. Yet Guildford were immediately under pressure at 16-3 and found themselves despatched for 71 – principally by Gus Grant (3-28) and Ollie Bocking (4-11) – with tailender James McMillan (20) the top-scorer.
The clashes which may decide who is promoted are Cranleigh v Spencer on August 13 and Guildford v Cranleigh seven days later.