While England and India were doing battle at the Kia Oval, it was the 18th and final week of this year’s AJ Fordham Surrey Championship. Richard Spiller reviews the finale.
Wimbledon v Banstead
Battling Banstead refused to give up hope of survival until the very last as they just failed to hang on to a place in the Premier Division.
Starting 15 points behind Ashtead, not only was victory at Wimbledon imperative but they would need things to go their way over at Sunbury.
Even the first stage looked unlikely while Jonathon Webb (51) and Ollie Swann – making 49 in his last game at Church Road, having been captain for the past five years – put on 93 for the first wicket. But a young attack fought back with the tenacity they have shown increasingly over the past few weeks, Ayush Patel (5-31) and Arsalan Abbas (3-31) polishing off their hosts for 191 in the 50th over.
Patel’s quick 20 launched the reply, which faltered in familiar fashion at 46-3, before once again Neil Baker mustered the resistance. The wicketkeeper’s typically determined 64 – James Culff (33) sharing in a sixth wicket alliance of 66 – pushed Banstead towards victory and although Baker departed 13 runs from victory, Abbas (16no) and captain Tyler Meyer (3no) finished the job by three wickets with four balls in hand.
That put Banstead ahead of Ashtead, knowing that if the clubs finished level on points then they would stay up on a greater number of winning draws, but their efforts just weren’t enough.
It also proved an anti-climactic finish too for the popular Swann, who is emigrating to Australia, having been dubbed “one of the more sane and reasonable skippers of recent years” by a leading league umpire.
Sunbury v Ashtead
No team which has gone two months without a win feels safe when they are in a relegation scrap, Ashtead progressively feeling the heat as the day wore on.
Sunbury, seeking to claim runners-up spot, were bowled out for 221, which might have been rather fewer had skipper Kevin Smith not cracked 39 in the final stages, the dismissal of the hosts earning Ashtead three bonus points.
But the pressure grew on the visitors when Banstead had already netted 20 points from their win at Wimbledon, needed meant Ashtead another three. That meant either winning the match or passing 200. At 150-6, that was looking difficult but Conor Young’s 62 from 62 from 70 balls – finding a resolute partner in Tom Homes (22) – saw a vital 51 added to achieve safety
Although Ashtead eventually lost the match at 207-8, going down by 14 runs, they had done enough to stay up while Sunbury’s second place underlined a solid summer.
Reigate Priory v East Molesey
Champions East Molesey finished in much the same way they spent most of the summer, a 12th victory earning them a healthy cushion of 50 points at the end of the season. Few teams have monopolised the summit so completely in recent times, proving particularly proficient at the 50-over matches, in which they claimed eight out of nine victories.
Skipper Dominic Reed was absent but the engine ticked along nicely under Nick Stevens for a win by 55 runs over Priory, who slumped into sixth place in a season where they rarely found their best form.
Marcus Campopiano’s 70 from 91 balls launched the Moles towards 220-9 and saw him steal second place in the league scorers list with 670 at 73, handy contributions from Stevens (30) and Andy Westphal (32) underlining the depth of the batting. Left-arm spinner Luke Beaven’s 5-24 underlined how much he was missed in an injury disrupted summer.
Once Reigate had slumped to 5-3 it was always pretty unlikely the hosts would get near their target, the game all but over at 74-8 before skipper Richie Oliver – batting at number 10 rather than his usual opening slot – prolonging matters with 56 before the end came at 156. Harry Porter’s 6-41 saw him go from taking his first wicket at Premier level to securing a maiden five-wicket haul.
Normandy v Esher
Esher’s 58-run victory earned them fourth place, a very sound achievement for the New Road club.
They were in trouble at 28-3 after electing to bat, wicketkeeper Alex Martin’s 58 leading the recovery to 194 all out, although 10 overs went unused. George Barlow claimed 3-45.
It proved quite enough, Khurram Irshad (3-40) doing the early damage and although Freddy Austin (31) shone, leg-spinner Freddie Harrison’s 3-18 at the end bowled out Normandy for 136 and happy they were not involved in the nerve-shredding action elsewhere.
Weybridge v Cranleigh
Already down, Cranleigh would have enjoyed going out with a victory only for their batting frailties to be underlined.
At 69-2 they appeared set for a competitive total, thanks to Tom Lawes (45) and Bruno Broughton (32), but they proved the only batsmen to reach double-figures, Joe Barrs (5-29) and Brent Kay (4-24) sweeping up for 124 all out.
Weybridge were hoping victory would earn runners-up spot – proving to be disappointed later – with opener Nathan Tilley’s unbeaten 55 lifting him to 611 runs for the season, earning a top six spot. Ryan Sclanders made 28no while the pair closed out an eight-wicket success.
Best of the rest
Malden Wanderers will return to the elite next summer after an absence of nine years as champions of Division One.
They made sure of top spot with a crushing 122-run victory over basement boys Camberley. Not surprisingly it was their prolific South African opener Zac Elkin in the limelight, his 123 leading the way to 272-5 and taking the league’s highest scorer to a remarkable 1,037 runs at 103.7 for the campaign. It was all the more creditable he managed it in 15 innings. Camberley were bowled out for 150 by Joe Lavender (5-28) and James Rimmer (4-32).
Sutton, among the frontrunners all season, knew beating Spencer – starting nine points behind them – would be enough to secure the second spot and recorded a 56-run success. A partnership of 148 for the third wicket between Josh Blake (89) and Fabian Cowdrey (109) ensured Sutton made 249-4 from 50 overs, George Roberts’s unbeaten 92 the main feature of his side’s 193 all out. Left-arm spinners Dane Currency, Cowdrey and Aneesh Jhalla all claimed three wickets.
Valley End’s 139-run trouncing of Guildford enabled them to leapfrog the visitors into fourth place.
The task facing Leatherhead was unenviable – they had to beat Chipstead, Coulsdon & Walcountians while keeping them down to a maximum of two points if they were to avoid joining Camberley in the drop zone.
It could hardly have gone worse for the Fetcham Grove side, who were bowled out for a miserable 22 by Michael Bradley (4-13) and Leigh Padfield, who returned the remarkable figures of 5.5-2-8-6. At least Chipstead did not delay their opponents’ misery, knocking off the runs in three overs to win by 10 wickets.
Winners and losers
Premier champions: East Molesey; Relegated: Banstead and Cranleigh.
Division 1 – promoted: Malden Wdrs and Sutton. Relegated: Leatherhead and Camberley.
Division 2 – promoted: Dulwich and Wimbledonians. Relegated: Chessington and Worcester Pk.
Division 3 – promoted: Rutlishians and Hamptonians. Relegated: Churt and Addiscombe.
Division 4 – promoted: Hampton Wick Royal and Chertsey. Relegated: Trinity MidWhitgiftians and Staines & Laleham
Division 5 – promoted: Hampton Hill and Horsley & Send. Relegated: Alleyn and Byfleet.