The Esher Eagles had another campaign to be proud of this year, following the footsteps of last year a little too closely. Win a tough group, then a quarter final before losing to the eventual winners in the semi’s. This year 3 of the 4 teams that qualified for finals day were the same as last year, (before Sutton pulled out). But Esher were the only team with just one U19 player, so looking ahead to next year we can feel confident.
The first match was against old rivals Wimbledon and it was a massive boost to start with a win. Not least because we fielded with only 10 men after an injury to Freddie Harrison in the 3rd over. Good performances with the bat came from Morgan (35), Koep (35), Wilman (20), and Slaney (19) which led Esher to a very competitive 164. We were always slightly in front and good fielding from the team, and death bowling from Barrett
secured a five-run win. Next came Chessington, which was a record-breaking 203 run win. Batting first and scoring 249, Morgan with a blistering (94) and an 18 ball (52) from Winder, meant we always fancied our chances. With ball in hand Broomfield was the pick of the bowlers, (4-1) as we promptly dismantled their line-up. East Molesey came next, with both Ollie John and Billy Zander 50 leading us to a strong 151 which was too much for them after an opening spell of 3 for 19 from Miles. Old Ruts presented a last ball thriller in which we bowled poorly to concede 129 (40 extras) on a wicket that was tough to bat on. McCallum (4 overs for 9) and Koep (4 overs for 14) were easily the pick of the bunch. We were sluggish in our chase until a late and match winning partnership from Manuel (50) and Nicholson (20) almost led us home, before Koep and McCallum finished off the game from the final ball with a scampered single. It seemed inevitable that when we had our best team, the rain should come after the heatwave to wash out the match vs Spencer, and Sunbury never seemed too keen to arrange the fixture and so we ended up topping the group. Through to the quarters we faced Oxted. A brilliant opening spell from Zander (4 overs 2 for 5) and tidy spin from Winder promptly afterwards (4 overs 4 for 16) meant that the spin twins bowled 8-0-6-21. With Jack Fletcher returning from injury just in time to bowl a good spell of seam as well, which meant we needed just 104 to win in reply. We wouldn’t be Esher without a batting collapse and we were indebted to Chandler (20) and Nicholson (24) to see us over the line with just 2 balls to spare.
Onto finals day we went, and despite the rain, the offer of free t-shirts lifted the spirits. Winning the toss and choosing to bat, having struggled while chasing, seemed the right choice as McCallum (12) and Wilman (46) blitzed us to 34 from the first 4 overs. This was then supported by Winder (49) which took us to a competitive 148 from 20 overs, perhaps not enough given the quick start. Cranleigh raced out the blocks quicker than we did and were 58 from the first 4. A second wicket taken in the 9th over with the score on 85 could have perhaps given us a chance, as it was followed by some tidy bowling from Barrett who took 2 in 2 balls and Morgan who provided another meant there were 2 new batsmen at the crease. But there was never quite enough runs on the board as they reached the total in the 19th over. In the end there was no shame losing to a Cranleigh side 9 of whom have played in their 1’s or 2’s in adult cricket that week-end. Cranleigh then went on to win the final by 50 runs against Guildford.
There were 23 boys who took part in the competition, we used 16 bowlers and all 23 got a bat. Despite lacklustre warm-ups the standard of fielding was generally good, in particular Denil Manuel behind the stumps. The original point of the competition was to encourage U19’s and 18’s to keep playing cricket so it was very nice to welcome Henry Calvert and Will Sanders back into Esher colours, and we hope they will join us again next year. The Eagles have also had plenty of players, who have both scored runs or taken wickets in the adult leagues, and so the future looks bright.
Lastly, I would like to say a massive thanks to all who helped, umpire and score, (N Winder, J Winder, H Winder, Broomfield and Wilman). Big thanks also to Roger Koep, Neil Fletcher and Glenn Harrison for help finding players, amid last minute drop outs and injuries. Finally, a massive thanks to Jules Winder for all his help throughout, scoring, umpiring and also doing all the admin reorganising games and putting teams and scores onto the system.