Close but no cigar. A heavily depleted Ashtead side came second best to Esher in Round 17 of the 2019 Surrey Championship Premier Division, as the hosts won by 2 wickets in the last over of a tense game.
Another toss, another Ashtead decision – to bat this time. Yet the going looked tough in the early overs, with both bowlers looking to keep the runs down and the pressure up. It would be Hayden Storey who cracked first, chipping to square leg for 8. 19-1 off 10 overs was a fair return.
The first bowling change also claimed an early victim, as Michael Sanderson was removed by a peach of a yorker for 12. David White, the erstwhile Ashtead skipper, and young gun Ben Geddes (fresh from his triumph in the county U17 finals) began the rebuilding process, and while runs were still difficult, they began to flow a touch more readily. The turn to spin would prove the undoing, as Geddes slapped to long on for 25. 88-3 at the halfway drinks.
White and Harri Aravinthan were now at the crease, and together they began to motor along nicely. The spinners bowled in tandem for 17 straight overs, and as they neared their limits, the Stags began to attack. Despite the return of Fynn Hudson-Prentice, the Derbyshire player, who finished with 1-28 off his 10, the plundering continued. The Stags would finish on 231-3 off their 50 over allocation. White ended on an unbeaten 84 from 108 balls, Aravinthan on 83 from 88 balls, and a combined 149 run unbeaten stand.
The target was always going to pose a challenge, and an early wicket for Harri focused the mind. However, with a youthful bowling attack, runs were flowing well, and the pressure was not easy to reapply. A short break for rain seemed to favour the hosts as well, as they continued to build their partnership. A breakthrough was needed.
And, as is so often the case, drinks were the key to unlock the batting order. The first success would be for the young spinner Marcus Caprano-Wint, who encouraged a big hit that found the waiting hands of the veteran Stag John Vaughan-Davies.
Then, as if Harri’s day couldn’t’ get any better, the wickets suddenly came to him. First out was the skipper, scuttled by a submarine for 32. The following over brought three wickets – first, the troublesome Hudson-Prentice for 33, then a pair of middle order batsmen in consecutive balls. He completed the purple patch with a sixth wicket in his final over. Figures of 6-25 and 83 not out. Man of the match for sure, even on the losing side.
By this time, Esher were 7 down, and soon lost their eighth to Jake Martin a couple of overs later. The trouble for the visitors was that the no. 5 batsman had been watching the carnage from the safety of the non-striker’s end, and the new no. 10 was also competent with the bat. Ashtead rolled the dice and attacked with the reserves they had left but couldn’t claim the breakthrough.
It was left to the part-time spin of Conor Young and the youthful attack of Ragu Aravinthan to defend 31 off the final 4 overs. It was always going to be a major challenge, and it proved so. Two boundaries off the first two balls of the final over sealed the deal, the no. 5 making an unbeaten 53 in a stand of 65.
This result, and other around them, sees Ashtead remain in sixth place in the league table, with a further prospect of climbing, but a drop to eighth still possible. Next week sees Ashtead host relegated side Guildford in the final encounter of the 2019 season. Ashtead were five wicket winners in the long fixture earlier in the year.
Let’s see if Ashtead can round out the season in style. Join us then.