As the league season nears a soggy climax, Richard Spiller reviews the weekend action from Round 16 of 18.
Perhaps it was inevitable in such a dreadful summer that the Premier Division title should be settled with the leading teams watching the rain come down.
Running away from the rest all season, East Molesey had missed opportunities to sew up the title twice – drawing against Cranleigh and being beaten by Sunbury – and hoped to resolve the matter on a short trip to Esher.
But yet another Saturday morning of steady rain meant they were unable to get to the middle at New Road. Their match was called off, giving each side six points, at almost exactly the same time as the clash between Weybridge – the only side mathematically capable of catching them, even if the pursuit realistically ended some time ago – and Ashtead.
That gave East Molesey back-to-back titles with a difference, given last year’s pandemic-affected season meant no Premier competition was staged, Dominic Reed’s side dominating the league like no other has done in at least a generation.
Defending any title is regarded as even harder than winning it for the first time but East Molesey have built on that first success and under Reed clearly relish each battle.
Normandy v Cranleigh
Cranleigh’s 10th defeat proved to be the one which sent them back down to Division One after single season at Premier level, echoing their experience of three years ago.
Inserting Normandy after a delayed start, they removed Freddie Austin without a run on the board and the hosts had to battle hard to make 182-9 from a revised maximum of 50 overs. Olly Batchelor (38) and Max Stevenson (36) down the order made the most headway as Ollie Sheen – who has 31 victims this season – Jack Scriven and Archie Freeth all claimed two wickets each.
Cranleigh’s batting has constantly failed to back up their bowling and they were in trouble again at 33-3, George Ealham’s 23 offering some hope of avoiding defeat before another slide from 71-3 to 78-6. It appeared stalemate would prevail two balls from the end, Cranes needing eight to claim a winning draw, but Ethan Styles (27) was run out going for an unlikely second to give Normandy victory by 43 runs as the visitors were bowled out for 139. Seamers Alex Grimshaw (3-37) and George Barlow (2-34) plus left-arm spinner Viggy Venkateswaran (3-26) did most of the damage.
So while Cranes went down, Normandy – promoted alongside them – took a substantial step towards safety given they are 25 points above Banstead.
Reigate Priory v Banstead
It wasn’t terribly neighbourly but Reigate Priory gave Banstead a shove towards the relegation trapdoor, winning by 10 wickets.
Even victories over Weybridge and Wimbledon may not be sufficient to save them, given they trail Ashtead by 15 points.
Banstead were despatched for 139, former Somerset leg-spinner Michael Munday proving impossible to decipher as he claimed 6-27 from 10 overs and took his wicket tally to 40, the leading bowler in the league.
Dan Newton’s 39 was top score, Liam McKendry and Arjun Gill both making 22.
Hopes that Priory’s batting – notably less reliable this year – would stutter were swiftly dashed by Richie Oliver (64no) and Luke Haughton (70no) making steady if unrushed progress to victory in the 35th over, pushing Reigate into the top four from which they have been strangely absent for much of the season.
Sunbury v Wimbledon
They had to wait until 2.30pm for a start and when Wimbledon slid to 54-6 – Kevin Smith backing up his decision to insert by claiming four of them – it looked as if an early finish was possible as well. Tim Lloyd’s 42 held things together but Wimbledon were indebted to a 10th wicket stand worth 57 between Richie Lamb (22no) and last man Jonathan Speller (35no) for finishing their 46 overs at 154-9. Smith’s 4-30 was augmented by Vishal Manro claiming 3-29.
With 33 overs back, Sam Burgess’s 34 made a swift start to the chase but Sunbury needed Matt Harpur to maintain their momentum, Lamb and Speller striking three times each. With 21 still needed, Chirag Daghose (13no) joined Harpur (52no) to see the visitors to victory by three wickets with two balls to spare, taking them back into second place. Wimbledon lie sixth and are still not mathematically safe.
Best of the rest
Malden Wanderers need just five points from the final two rounds to secure their return to the Premier Division.
They ended Guildford’s remaining promotion hopes, winning a match shortened to 24 overs per side by eight wickets, and will be aiming to do the same to third-placed Spencer this week.
Guildford’s inadequate 114-8 – Surrey Academy youngsters Tom Humphreys (25) and Shoaib Bashir (15no) the highest scorers – was never likely to be enough, prolific South African opener Zac Elkin (39no) and Toby Finzel (29no) completing the job in with 4.2 overs in hand.
Sutton remain 17 points behind, with work still to do, after seeing off Beddington by seven wickets. Simon Lewis’s 46 and Sam Owen’s 25no took the visitors to 149-8 from 30 overs, Sutton overcoming a slow start to triumph with seven balls to spare thanks to Fabian Cowdrey (46no) and Dan Edwards (43no) adding 66.
Spencer remain in the fight, reaching 183-8 from 32 overs at Leatherhead and then dismissing the hosts for 113. Freddie Horler claimed 4-22.
Many promotion and relegation issues remain to be settled in the final two weeks of the season but definitely up are Old Rutlishians (Div 3) and Hampton Wick Royal (Div 4) while confirmed as down are Camberley (Div 1), Addiscombe (Div3), Trinity Midwhigiftians and Staines & Laleham (Div 4) and Byfleet (Div 5).
When the best teams in Surrey and Kent clash, it’s no surprise that there is very little to divide them.
East Molesey and Bexley took that to an almost ridiculous degree, though, in their Conference Cup semi-final on Sunday.
Moles, perhaps a little tired and emotional after prolonged celebrations which had stretched well through the night, recovered from 25-4 to make 152-9 from their 45 overs, lifted by captain Nick Stevens (41) and Harry Porter’s 19no. Marcus Ritson claimed 3-18.
Led by former Kent off-spinner Adam Riley, Bexley were given a sound platform of 47 by openers Aiden Griggs (47) and Calum Basey (19). Off-spinner Jamie Southgate made use of a wearing pitch to claim 4-24 and with 10 overs remaining it was 107-5 when a prolonged rain shower hit the ground.
With the Duckworth-Lewis par score at 110, it would have suited Moles to stay off but play was able to restart, despite the conditions being marginal and the light fading.
And the game had just five balls left, at 148-9, when it was decided that conditions had become dangerous, leaving the teams level both on DL and wickets lost.
With the final not due to be played until Saturday September 18 – at Brentwood – the clubs were left seeking a replay date.