Ashtead won out eventual victors in a rain-affected nail-biter at Gander Green Lane in Round 4 of the Surrey Championship.
Jamie Powell won the toss and elected to field on a cloudy day that looked to rain at any moment. And indeed, after just 4 overs, the rain began to fall. Sutton, however, were already in trouble, as a straightforward catch by Tom Deighton off John Vaughan-Davies ended the innings of Will Muse for just 2, leaving Sutton on 13-1. However, after just 8.1 overs, the rain became too bad to play through, and the umpires brought off the teams to sit in the clubhouse and wait. This continued for nearly 2 hours, until the weather was sufficiently good enough to re-start.
The partnership of opening bat David Sampson and Krishna Dwarka started off well after the break. David Burton was ineffective, as was Chris Douglas, and when Andrew Michael was slow off the mark, Sutton were on 110-1 off 23 and cruising.
The arrival of the first of the 'spin twins', Josh Pickering, saw the end of Dwarka, LBW for 51. The partnership of exactly 100 proved to be the best of the day. This also spurred into life, but it was another 7 overs before he took his only wicket of the day, as Sampson was caught by David Burton at mid-on for 64.
The two new batsmen, Gary Outram and Michael Williams, continued to attack the Ashtead bowlers. Pickering picked up the wicket of Williams when Chris Collins whipped off the bails for an easy stumping, and while the return of Burton failed to spark any more wickets, the arrival of Tom Deighton, the second of the 'spin twins', livened up the end of the game – although not as Ashtead would have wanted it. Even though a small flurry of wickets came at the end of the innings – Outram finally fell to Deighton for 60, David Mitchell caught by Andy Michael for 16 and Russell Coombe caught by Jamie Powell for 12, the score continued to creep up, and some good attacking batting at the end of the innings brought Sutton up to a good total of 271 for 7 off the 50 overs.
The rain had seen the Ashtead innings reduced to just 23 overs, and so the target was equally reduced, leaving Ashtead 166 to win off 23. The Stags got off to an especially bad start when Andy Michael was caught early on for just 8 runs.
By over 10, the troubles of the early order had got worse when Jamie Powell was bowled for 20 runs, leaving Ashtead low on 45-2, requiring nearly 10 an over to win. Four overs later, and the news got worse for the Stags when Viv Paver, the new number 3, was caught for 27, and after 14 overs, at 74-3, Ashtead needed 92 off 9, at 10.3 an over, and were deep in trouble.
But Ashtead were not out of the game yet, and John Vaughan-Davies and Chris Douglas opened fire on the bowlers, with Douglas hitting 3 6's in quick succession to reduce the required runs to just 34 off the last 4.
The middle order then proceeded to self-destruct – first Vaughan-Davies, then Douglas, then Mike Sanderson, to leave the score at 142-6 after 20. 3 overs left, and 24 required, with the big hitter gone – the game would be very close. And so it proved, with David Burton and Colin Pitt provided a vital 20 partnership to leave 4 off the last 2. A late run-out of Pitt made it 3 off 1 – but produced a beautiful drive for 4 to win the game with the very last delivery. A three-wicket win foregoes the bonus point, but a vital 9 points are secured.
Next week sees the first of the 120-over declaration matches, as strong side Guildford make their way to Woodfield Lane. Will Ashtead continue their rich vein of form and make it three wins in a row? Find out next week.