Walton inch through to quarter-finals
By Oliver Clarke
A night of high drama and silliness
A damp, dark Ashley Park welcomed the respective bottom sides from Division 1 and the Premier League, and the recent Saturday woes of both were reflected in one of the oddest last 16 T20 encounters there will have been. A heavily used pitch and a short boundary on one side set the scene for a low scoring thriller in which both sides had immense difficulty in adapting to conditions.
Walton elected to bat and lost the in-form Annandale early, cutting a ball which skidded onto middle stump. Chohan and Madoc-Jones nevertheless took advantage of some gaps in the field left by late arriving players and Walton moved to 48/1 after the powerplay, with Madoc-Jones particularly fluent. After he departed, however, the innings less lost all its momentum than became stuck in a quagmire as batsmen were unable to deal with the pace off and variations - and occasionally turn - offered by the Valley End attack. Wickets went down like ten pins, not helped by two batsman-induced run outs, as timing eluded Walton's batsmen. The innings closed on what seemed a dismally under par 106.
Valley End began their innings with three batsmen out on the field, one a runner, and the same three remained in a different arrangement after Minshull extracted an early wicket, what was to be the first of five catches to Jamie Mann in the outfield. Nonetheless the visitors began brightly in the gloom, and looked well set to cruise home until the introduction of Chohan's exocets and Bainbridge's left arm spin after five overs. Chohan bowled two batsmen and Bainbridge, able to find lavish slow turn, was almost impossible to get away as the run rate crashed to a halt and Valley End quickly found themselves 47 for 5. Walton's support bowlers - Monk, Nichols and Annandale - continued the rot even as Valley End's lower order found a few telling blows, and Bainbridge returned to claim two more skied scalps. With an over to go the visitors were nine down and required ten to win.
This became six from three balls, and then four from one, whereupon the last man slapped one handsomely down long-on's throat, only to see the fielder run straight underneath it. Dragging it back from the boundary, the throw was returned but Valley End were back for three and the match was tied. Nobody knew what was supposed to happen next but having consulted the Surrey Championship website, it became clear a bowl out was necessary.
Nichols, Monk and Bainbridge all hit the stumps for Walton, with only Durandt doing so for Valley End, and so by 9.45pm we eventually had a winner, even as both sides had done their utmost to lose. Walton will visit either Sunbury or Cranleigh in the quarter-final. Thanks to Valley End for an entertaining, if somewhat bizarre, game of cricket.