It was a long way from being the normal August batting paradise at The Bourne, but that did not really explain why 20 wickets fell for barely 200 runs, with Witley coming away with ten points. Although the bowlers performed decidedly better than the batsmen, the match was effectively decided by a last-wicket stand of 35 by two Witley tailenders.
Witley backed themselves by batting first on a greenish pitch, only to lose their openers cheaply to young Matt Duncan. Greg Lyall and Elliot Forbes steadied things with a partnership of 52, including 13 runs off Dave Clarke’s ‘loosener’. Lyall was then bowled by Mark Budd and soon after Forbes was well caught in the slips by James Frost off Clarke.
At 80-4 off 22 overs, Witley were reasonably placed, but seven overs later they were 89-9 as Clarke (4-55) and Budd (4-17) tore through the later batting. However, Bourne’s inability to finish off an innings cost them again as the last pair of skipper Kurt Lyall and Chris Munday added those 35 vital runs in 11 overs.
The Bourne’s confidence at tea quickly evaporated on the restart as the openers fell to the all-Lyall opening attack without a run scored. Wickets continued to tumble and only a sixth-wicket partnership between James Frost and Neil Poulter held up the visitors.
Frost was finally out for 41, having hit ten fours, despite the repeated re-strapping of a damaged wrist. He was ninth man out at 86 and, unlike Witley, there were no tailend heroics. Bourne were all out for 91. Kurt Lyall took 3 for 12 in 8.1 overs, while Ollie Hickman punched a hole through the middle order with 3 for 8 in four.
Hindhead were inserted on a slow wicket at Marchants Hill and struggled for runs against Grayshott II. Some loose shots did not help their cause and they were in all sorts of trouble at 26-4, with Alex Marden (4-12 in 7 overs) doing the damage. Opener Joe Harrison (12 from 88 balls) and Ben Thorne (20) put up some fight, but it took a late 14 from number 10 Venu Joseph to get Hindhead up to 85 all out from 44 overs. Kieran Wells (3-16) and Mark Morris (3-19) both bowled tidily in support of the pacy young Marden.
Hindhead knew they needed something special to pull the game out of the fire and that something special was provided by the fiery Alex Bertola who demolished Grayshott with an outstanding, unchanged spell of accurate fast bowling.
The wild-haired Bertola clean-bowled six batsman on his way to recording exceptional figures of 7 for 10 from 11.2 overs. With Venu Joseph (3-11) picking up wickets at the other end, including the vital scalp of Steve Riley for 16, Grayshott were shot out for 51 in 22.2 overs. Opener Morris was the only other batsman to reach double figures for Grayshott who were simply blown away by the brilliant Bertola.
Champions-elect Chiddingfold were denied victory by a defiant Headley II. At 112-5, after some good bowling by Zach Banstead (4-50) and with opener Dean Spencer out for 56, Headley were hopeful of holding the leaders to something gettable. But they reckoned without Richard Day who came in at number 7 and took the bowling apart with a hurricane 112 not out, including 12 fours and seven sixes. Rob Smith gave staunch support in an unbroken partnership of 145 as the home side surged to 257-5 in 46 overs.
The target way beyond them, Headley concentrated on survival against the accuracy of Russ Talman and Paul Hundley (3-14). The scorecard, in fact, makes remarkable reading. Number 3 Peter Messina held centre stage with 60 not out. The openers contributed 16 runs and the other four batsmen nothing at all except solid defence. Headley battled their way to 84-5 in 44 overs.
Relegation-threatened Harting obtained five valuable points against Frensham II and closed the gap on Badshot Lea who lost at Lurgashall.
Put in on a soft wicket, Harting batted out 48 overs for a decent total of 168-6. Opener Rob Norris led the way with 76 and captain Stuart Barnard contributed 34 not out against some tight bowling, particularly from Dave Stone (2-30 in 14 overs).
Frensham always struggled to force the pace against Steve Baldwin and the two Wadeys, Jake and Andy. But skipper Richard Chuter (28), Prashant Solanki (21) and Andy Gardner (18) did enough to ensure the draw, the visitors finishing on 98-7.
Lurgashall’s one-sided victory was dominated by Darren Hodd. The all-rounder made top score of 84 in a competitive total of 189 in 44 overs. Matt Bent bowled well for his 5 for 59 in 12 overs.
Hodd then dismissed both Badshot Lea openers, paving the way for Aaron Evans (3-19) and Dan Dillon-Thiselton (3-2) to run through the rest of the batting. Lea were shot out for 43 in 24 overs.