7th September at Oakham CC: (Essex won the toss) Cheshire 253-4, 45 ovs (Alan Hitchmough 64, Nick Sharp 65); Essex 229-8, 45 ovs (Malcolm Wright 104, Chris Lees 3-28). Cheshire won by 29 runs.
The Third National Final saw Cheshire retain their title by a 24 run margin after a fighting comeback by Essex.
Cheshire inserted saw captain Andy Hurworth lbw to the lively Kevan Anderson on the first ball of the match (actually, this was not a good omen for Essex). Nick Sharp, always dangerous, was joined by the technically correct Alan Hitchmough and these two, in effect, made the base which saw Cheshire through. Both departed in the mid sixties and Essex will rue the day they were both dropped, which cost them dearly. However, 130-1 is better than 0-1 and Cheshire were on their way. Just what the doctor ordered was delivered by Ian Brown (23) and Ted Williams( 48), backed up from late cameos from Chris Lees (8*) and Richard Powell (28*) for Cheshire to total 253 – 5. However, for once, the running between the wickets at the death, was ‘elderly’ to say the least, eliciting ribald comments from one of the earlier quicker batsmen!
Essex however, fared no better early on when Chris Lees jigged one over a supine bat held by (sometime) run machine John Stuck and then having made an initial fight back, lost their talisman, Bish-Bosh Newman - only today there were none of the Boshes - to a stunning run out by Andy Hurworth. Malcolm Wright was joined by Malcolm Surridge and after a circumspect start as they consolidated, both suddenly let loose, circa the 15th over. Fours and sixes abounded and the Cheshire fielders started (I think) to feel slightly apprehensive.
With Essex beginning to hold the whip hand, fate took its toll when, in a bizarre incident, Bob Newman, running for Surridge, was adjudged run out (at the batsman’s end) when Surridge was on strike having just played his shot. Work that one out!! Only the ultra professional scorers and John Stuck knew it was a run out, all the rest of us couldn’t fathom it out, thinking it was a stumping. So two own goals in one day for poor Newman. Sport is cruel!
So the unlucky Surridge was out for 41 and despite a superb maiden County century for Wright, he lost the crucial strike frequently later on when two partners could not run his two’s, which could have caused Cheshire some panic. At all stages Essex were slightly out of reach, 100 needed off 78 balls, 68 off 48, 52 off 36, but whereas Cheshire’s middle order came up trumps on the day, in the reverse it was their bowlers who held the whip hand.
Good catches in the deep saw a welter of wickets, including that of Wright for a valiant 104, but it was not to be, fate decreeing that if you score a goal in the first minute, you often lose, and so it proved as Cheshire held firm and took the title. (They have had the major advantage over all their rivals as they have a very, very strong middle order and no weaknesses anywhere).
The younger spectators were amazed at the standard of the bowling and batting and some of the fielding was superb, Wright and Hurworth in the forefront. As the competition gets bigger – 30 Counties for 2012 – the Spitfire Committee and Sponsors are hoping that the TV coverage this year will be doubled or even trebled from 2012, especially after the 6 Ashes Test in Australia being covered by Australian Foxtel TV. With over 600 players involved in the Championship 1st, 2nd and 70’s competition, it is envisaged that by 2013 we will have 34 Counties involved, with competitors for 1st X1, 2nd X1 and 3rd and 4th X1 Championships plus an upgraded O70 Championship, totalling 700 – 900 players.
The AGM is at Lutterworth Cricket Club, Leicestershire on Wed 2nd November at 12 noon.
Finally, very many thanks to Oakham Cricket Club, my old stomping ground, and Bob and Lyn Inchley in particular for organizing everything, as well as Caroline and Bob Stark for the food and Malcolm Rawlings for the superb ground and wicket – a great track to end the season on.
Martin Pearse Chairman
2011 Champions - Cheshire
2011 Runners-up - Essex
Back Row, left to right: Mark Surridge, Ken Porter, Kevan Anderson, David Evans, Kevan Pratt, John Stuck. Front Row, left to right: Simon Rippingale (12th man), Robert Newman, Dave Carter (captain), Terry Sims (wkt.), Malcolm Wright, Keith Mitchell.