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Tense league season finale

Merton Cricket Club

6 Sept 2023

There's only three weekends left of the 2023 season, and typically the best of the cricketing weather has been saved until last. The League season, rain-plagued for pretty much its entirety, wrapped on Saturday with agony and ecstasy dished out in equal measure.

As is now traditional, the final month of the season begins with the wrapping-up of the Saturday League campaign. With the 3rd and 4th XI´s already promoted, all eyes were on our 2nd XI who started the day third in their division, four points behind Egham. The equation was clear - Egham had to lose to Woking and Horsell, the 2s had to beat Hampton Hill. The bowlers combined as a unit to bowl out Hampton Hill for 171; four wickets for Iftekhar Muntakim and two apiece for Sáhir Johri and Hussnain Raza. Robert Jordan took the other wicket which, as it turns out, also sealed his victory in the race for League bowler of the year - well done Rob! Heartbreakingly, the batting never got going. A slump to 45/5 meant they were always on the back foot, and four very quick wickets at the end of the innings saw them dismissed for 109. Egham, incidentally, had posted a daunting score of 250 in their game...and saw Woking and Horsell chase it all down. Only eight points separated Egham from our 2nds in the end, so congratulations to them who sealed their promotion. It was harsh on the 2s, but they´ve had a great campaign under Matthew Kidd and will go again next season.

The 1st XI took on Ripley at HQ and didn´t for a minute look like a team that had been flirting with relegation in recent weeks. They batted first and posted 244/6, underpinned by a brilliant 99 not out from Graham Bradfield and 54 from Asrith Puttaganti. Scott Wesselo and Sri Govindarajan - playing his last-ever League game for the club - had opened and seen off a tricky new ball spell, but after that the strokeplay began. Melwin Dsouza was irresistible with the new ball and removed three of the Ripley top four, and with Nikul Amin returning to form (three wickets also) the visitors slumped to 76/6. Two partnerships brought the visitors up to 183/7, but two run outs halted those and Ripley were ultimately dismissed for 190. The 1st XI finish comfortably in 7th in their division.

The Saturday 3rds were already promoted when they travelled to a Beddington team who needed to win to avoid relegation, and needed a Croydon defeat and their own win to be crowned division champions - so this was no dead rubber. The odds of Beddington pulling off a miracle stacked against them though, as the 3s posted 180/9. Runs came from the whole batting line-up, but Sujit Bawa was the fulcrum with 53. Two run outs and two wickets for Aniket Sengupta had the hosts back-pedalling, and the dangerous Divij Sharma blew away the tail to finish with 4/21. Beddington´s reply was 95 and, as results went against them, were relegated from Div 4 East. Croydon had been skittled for just 105 in their match against Dorking, then turned the tables to win by 20 runs and seal the title by just four points from our 3rds. Congratulations to James Prebble and his team for another memorable campaign and a second successive promotion!

Only one team had beaten the 4th XI all season, and that was Wallington. So, despite having wrapped up both promotion and the title in previous weeks, this was no dead rubber either. Fortress Morden Rec was the scene for David Floyd´s final match as 4s captain; despite a top-order wobble when batting first, they recovered to post 166/6 thanks to excellent contributions from the entire middle order. As has been their way all year, it was everybody chipping in with wickets that ensured Wallington never seriously entertained the notion of chasing the total. David was the pick with 3/4 and Wallington were bowled out for 117 to complete the 4th XI´s utter domination of Div 6 East. They ended up on a mammoth 275 points, having lost just once all season, and were without a doubt the team of the year. Enjoy being champions!

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