Academy lose semi-final but push Wimbledon all the way

Surrey Trust League – Wasim Raja Shield Semi-Final
Stoke D’Abernon 124 all out (37.3 overs)
Wimbledon 126 for 5 (38.4 overs)
Wimbledon won by 5 wickets

More semi-final agony for Stoke’s Academy as they suffered a fourth defeat in as many attempts in just five seasons of participation in the Surrey Trust League. However they pushed a well-drilled Wimbledon all the way with a committed bowling and fielding display after posting a sub-par total.

Jack Raimondo won the toss and chose to bat on a worn pitch that was certain to take spin. The previous day Malden Wanderers 2nd XI were dismissed for just 39 so the popular opinion was that this was not going to be a run-fest.

Despite concerns about the pitch, things did start well. Josh Howe found a curious way of hitting to first slip for 6 with just 9 on the board; but Sonny Cott and Raimondo moved the total to 46 by the end of the eleventh over as Gordon struggled for consistency.

This was as good as it got, though, as a decisive bowling change saw young leg-spinner Payne take out the next five batsmen a personal cost of 22 runs from his allotted eight overs.

Raimondo drilled a return catch to him for 20, then Cott, who looked in little trouble, spooned a chance to Hunt for 18 just as he was threatening to accelerate the scoring rate. Cott’s rhythm and concentration were possibly broken by a lengthy stoppage as Brown pulled up chasing down a four and was replaced by substitute Fernie.

Fernie made an immediate impact when he caught James Lander, alerting the panel umpire, who had seemed oblivious to the substitution, to suggest that penalty runs should be awarded as his permission was not sought for his entry to the field of play. This was met with universal disapproval from both sides, who enjoy a tremendous relationship and are hopeful of touring together next summer, and play resumed.

This stoppage didn’t seem to help Will Gudgeon who holed out to Davis at mid-off to give Payne his fourth wicket. Gudgeon made 10 and hit the only six of the match, but Stoke were behind the eight-ball at 69 for 6 when Will Patrick missed a full toss from the same bowler moments later.

Tom Frost and James Whitmarsh ground out a partnership of 23 before the former was bowled by Clarke for 10 trying to push the score along.

Whitmarsh was batting at an unusually low position of No.8 due to traffic problems caused by the Olympic Cycling dress rehearsal; but ironically this worked to Stoke’s advantage as he nursed the total past the 100-mark with help from James Trower, Alex Bond and Will Frost.

Whitmarsh was last out for 23 having hit just one four – there were only nine hit in the entire innings in addition to Gudgeon’s six; and the innings closed on 124 mid-way through the 38th over. For the second day running Stoke had failed to bat their overs.

Payne’s career day was backed up by Clarke, (2-15), Gordon, (2-30), and De Silva who opened the innings with an unchanged spell of 1 for 21 from his allotted eight overs.

There could be no margin for error after an excellent tea, and Will Frost gave Stoke the perfect start when he snared Gordon leg-before in the first over. Frost and Lander bowled great areas, and backed up by an athletic fielding unit, runs were at a premium. Lander bowled Clifford behind his legs for 11, and at the time of the first bowling change in the fourteenth over, the scoreboard had crawled to 28 for 2.

Frost bowled his entire allocation through for the concession of just twelve runs. Josh Howe and Alex Bond continued their good work and the second boundary of the innings wasn’t hit until the 23rd over.

Despite strangling the scoring, wickets were still at a premium as home skipper Eaves and Oates dealt mainly in singles. Oates faced 66 balls for his 22 runs, a dogged effort ending with the score on 76 in the 30th over when he hit a ball from the returning Lander to Gudgeon in the covers who dived forward and held on one-handed.

Lander returned excellent figures for the second day running, this time 8-2-15-2; and Howe bowled much better than his figures of 8-1-26-0 suggested, always asking questions of the batsmen and finding prodigious turn.

With the asking rate starting to creep up Hunt, and then Brown were bowled for 9 and 6 by Bond, (1-30), and Raimondo, (1-21), respectively; but Stoke were unable to find a way through Eaves who paced the chase perfectly, never letting the asking rate go above a run a ball.

He finally found some help from Clarke who scored eleven off eight balls, including the winning hit with eight balls to spare as Stoke’s gun bowlers were correctly bowled out trying to force the win. This necessitated the introduction of Tom Frost into the attack; Patrick taking over behind the timbers for the closing minutes.

Eaves was left stranded one short of a half-century. In the context of the match it was a superb innings, but a reflection of the stranglehold the Stoke bowlers had on him and all the batsmen was the fact that he hit just two fours and faced 114 balls for his runs.

So a win at Church Road still eludes Stoke, but a stop-start Trust League campaign can still be looked back on as a successful one as everyone, including those not able to play this match, made a contribution to the cause over the campaign.

Our thanks to Drew Patrick for managing the side, dealing with the almost weekly late availability crises throughout the summer, and most of all for umpiring in all weathers. Thanks also to Thunderhead for their generous kit sponsorship.

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