By Charles Randall
Ealing have adjusted to life after Chris Peploe by wrapping up the Middlesex County Cricket League title, with perhaps The Conference Cup to follow this weekend on Sunday 3 September.
Ealing play Sunbury at Chingford for the honour of becoming the inaugural winners of The Conference Cup for the Bertie Joel Trophy. This is a mouth-watering clash between two in-form sides.
While Ealing have reached five finals of this London area competition, Sunbury have achieved that only once. And that was the last year of the Evening Standard Trophy in 2008 when they were beaten by... Ealing.
In 2016 Ealing lost a considerable player after a decade of success when their former Middlesex left-arm spinner Peploe left after 15 years with 537 wickets to his name, the most for any single club in league history. That briefly signalled the end of a decade of almost non-stop success, but Ealing's batting still bristles with class and aggression, always a danger with Tom Morton and Ollie Wilkin around.
Sunbury, likely runners-up behind Normandy in the Surrey Championship, reached the final of the ECB National Club Competition only three years ago. A defeat to Sandiacre Town that launched the Surrey career of Amar Virdi at the age of 16. Thanks to the off-spin prodigy's figures of 9-1-18-2, Sunbury nearly retrieved a hopeless cause at Bristol, and Virdi went on to represent England Under-19.
Ealing were effectively gifted The Conference Cup quarter-final win when Wanstead & Snaresbrook fielded a shadow side due to a fixture pile-up - their two teams both losing on the same day- but the Essex club did reach the Royal Insurance National Club Championship final with a decisive win at East Grinstead the last weekend.
Morton hit a quick-fire 83 as opener against Cambridge Granta in The Conference Cup semi-final at Clare College, and Ahmad Elech's 72 off 70 balls lifted the 45-over score to 236-6, enough to win by 11 runs. Granta lost opener Ben Claydon to the first ball of the their reply, castled by Chris Glasper (4-49), and they slumped to 47-4, with Jack Shepherd picking up two wickets. Tristan Blackledge (63) and Owen Simonsen (60) staged a great recovery, but Alex Fell (3-29) bowled Blackledge, and Granta fell short.
Sunbury were given at scare by Hornchurch in the second round, winning by only six runs, but strong performances against Waltham, and West Indies United, the Bertie Joel Cup holders, saw them through. They lost a key player this year when batsman Adam London, formerly Middlesex, left to coach at Richmond, but runs have been plentiful to back up a classy spin attack. Martin Andersson twice scored centuries in The Conference Cup.
Peploe, after spending 2016 at Datchet, joined Valley End as coach in the Surrey Championship this year, but could not stave off relegation along with Guildford. This week his 11 wickets helped Berkshire win the Unicorn Trophy final with a six-wicket win over Lincolnshire at Banbury.
All the results & scores in The Conference Cup for the Bertie Joel Trophy are here