Club Cricket Conference

Tuesday, 21st November 2017

Maunders century sets up Sunbury cakewalk

By Charles Randall 

5 September 2017

John Maunders, Sunbury's captain, led his side from the front to a crushing victory over Ealing in the final of The Conference Cup for the Bertie Joel Trophy at Chingford CC.

This was the first time Sunbury had won this competition in any of its three guises since 1967, and the winning margin was a surprisingly emphatic 100 runs, very much deserved and some consolation for losing their Surrey Championship crown to Normandy.
 
Seldom could a batsman have exerted so much influence on a game. Maunders, a former Middlesex, Leicestershire and Essex left-hander, hit an exquisite 125 off 120 balls to set up a 45-over score of 292, which proved way too much for Ealing, for all their pedigree. The Middlesex champions were weakened by the absence of Tom Morton, flying-off on honeymoon, but the pugnacious opener would have had to produce an innings more than sensational in reply to that total.

On a slate-grey day the Chingford strip was pitched at the bottom end of the gentle slope, and  the short boundary probably influenced a number of injudicious strokes through the day. Not all shots were rash, as half a dozen balls were lost to six-hits into neighbouring gardens.

Maunders and his opening partner Sam Burgess had to negotiate some testing opening overs from Scott Ensom and Chris Glasper. Momentum picked up quickly, and the in-form Martin Andersson built on this with 56 off 54 balls. Sunbury's plan was for at least one of the top four to bat through, alternating left and right handers in the order, if possible, and to resist the lure of the short boundary, if possible. "We  had to take it out of the equation," Maunders said, playing on this ground for the first time.

The temptation of easy pickings and Kristian Martin's off-breaks accounted for Andersson and Ishwarjot Singh Sohi first ball as he launched a huge slog. He might have imposed himself if the shot had been worth six into the gardens, but the ball went skywards almost vertically to be pouched safely by Leigh Parry.
Maunders began to score all round the wicket with clean reverse sweeps, drives and eventually pick-ups over that short boundary, harvesting five sixes.  Ealing could not contain the runs, though they did finish with a chinese hat-trick when the espensive Arthur Godsal redeemed himself in the final over. The seam-bowler had Amar Virdi caught behind, ran out Kevin Smith with a virtuoso grab and direct hit, and then bowled last man Ajit Singh Sambhi.

Martin, Ealing's youthful captain, took two expensive wickets on the day, but he could look back on the league season with pride. He finished as the top division's top wicket-taker with 38, and his team broke the points record, wrapping up the title with a week to spare.

Ealing seemed to have the firepower to chase the score. but what happened next was part of cricket's rich tapestry. Robbie White fell early, and Mylo Wilkin ran out Tom Plant, a former South Australian bat who was hoping to cap a magnificent season in London, for a duck, before snicking fatally under pressure. Wilkin's call for a run to mid-off looked optimistic, especially as the fielder was Amar Virdi, and a bullet direct hit underlined the point.

Ealing never achieved sufficient tempo. All the Sunbury bowlers kept a good line, and Virdi, the Surrey and England Under-19 off-spinner, wheeled through nine overs for the best return, taking 3-36. Ealing's final pair of Glasper and Ahsan Faraz enjoyed a defiant last-wicket partnership of 44 to delay Sunbury's celebrations. They probably had not batted much in the league this season, so one could hardly blame them.

Though the Middlesex League proved to be an Ealing one-horse race, the relegation tussle produced a climax on the final Saturday when Brondesbury saved themselves by one point ahead of Southgate, and Mark Ramprakash's club Stanmore, were relegated for the first time. Earlier in the season Adam Wilson, Brondesbury's captain, took 10-67 with his seamers in a home win over North Middlesex. He took only two wickets when they lost the return fixture on the final Saturday, but an extra point was enough for survival.

So The Conference Cup returned to link up with the Bertie Joel competition, still going after 51 years. The magnificent trophy was presented to Maunders by Bertie Joel's daughter Mandy. It could not have been in better hands.

Scorecard here, and all the results & scores of the competition here