THE tightest title race in the history of the I’Anson Cricket League has been mired in controversy.

Blackheath were crowned Division One champions on Saturday after beating Headley on home soil – but only after visiting skipper Matt Hall sparked outrage by blocking out the last six deliveries when one more run for his side would have handed the title to defending champions Grayswood.

As it was, Blackheath ended the season locked together on points and average with Grayswood, but took the title by virtue of winning one more game throughout the course of the season.

Had Headley scored one more run off the final ten deliveries, they would have earned one extra bonus point and Blackheath would have lost one, which would have handed the title to Grayswood.

Hall’s actions, which were described by Headley chairman Ashley Cook as “an error of judgment”, not only cost him the captaincy after an emergency meeting of the Headley Cricket Club committee on Monday night, but also caused huge embarrsassment to league president Keith Ellis, who had to hand over the trophy to distraught Blackheath skipper Alex Bertola that night.

He said: “I’m a Headley man, and as the president of the league I was embarrassed and ashamed because a miscarriage of justice was perpetrated.

“All I can say is that Blackheath when they came off were absolutely gutted. There was no celebration, they were not happy. The whole thing left a sour taste in everybody’s mouths – both the spectators and the Blackheath team and, indeed, many of the Headley team as well.

“It needs to be stressed that Blackheath immediately retired to consider with their chairman what should be done because they felt it had happened in an incorrect manner and they came back a few minutes later having unanimously agreed that they would offer to share the trophy with Grayswood, which was a pretty magnanimous gesture.

“Grayswood were extremely gracious. It was a bittersweet evening because they had picked up two pots. It showed the I’Anson at its best, both sets of players for Blackheath and Grayswood where their behavior was so gentlemanly.

“The whole thing spoilt the most exciting finish in the I’Anson league probably forever because it just could not have been closer. They are two super teams and the unfortunate thing is that this incident will overshadow the fact that they are two fabulous cricket teams who have had fantastic seasons.”

The I’Anson committee is excpected to meet after Grayswood chairman Malcolm Gloak said the club had lodged a complaint.

He said: “We’ve asked the league to investigate further on the basis that as described to us what happened was in serious contravention of the spirit of cricket. The league has acknowledged our request to investigate and we are waiting to hear from them.

“It was hugely deflating at the time it happened and since because it taints everything. Regardless of what the outcome is, it just saddened everybody.

“It’s quite difficult for every rule under whatever institution to think of all the rules necessary to cover every single circumstance, hence the catch-all spirit of cricket. I know that other leagues in this country in similar circumstances have seen fit to take action, regardless of whether or not a rule was broken. But it seems like wrongly influencing the result of a match should be a law. I wouldn’t criticise the league for not having a rule, but if it’s wrong it’s wrong.”

Mr Cook confirmed that Hall had been stripped of the Headley captaincy, saying: “The club was very disappointed with the actions that our captain chose to take on the day. It was just a poor error of judgment and as a result he is no longer captain of our club.

“The club had to take action to ensure such things don’t happen in the future because we don’t want our name tarnished around the I’Anson League.

“It was felt to be in the best interests of all parties for him to step down.”