By Charles Randall
14 October 2019
East Molesey are arranging the mother and father of end-season bashes on December 6 to celebrate their first Surrey Championship title since 1980 and other notable achievements this summer.
Their third team won their league, and the Under-17, Under-15 and girls section enjoyed very successful seasons. But perhaps most significantly East Molesey started a fifth team, bucking the national trend, and even fielded seven sides one Saturday.
Brendan Lynch, the chairman, reckoned that 2019 was probably the "greatest season" in the club's 148-year history and announced he was stepping down after four years. Dominic Reed confirmed he would be staying on as captain, having resigned as director of cricket.
In winning the Championship the 'Moles' finished with 16 wins and two losses, but even with that incredibly strong record they only managed to burn off the pursuit of Reigate Priory in the last couple of weeks.
East Molesey, located near Hampton Court Palace and in Sunbury's shadow for so long, owed their triumphant season to a pack of four excellent bowlers. Reed, the former Cambridgeshire and Unicorns seamer led the way with 36 league wickets, followed by the CCC opening bowler Andrew Westphal, with 34, Jonathan Fawcett, the Cheshire left-arm spinner, with 31, and Jake Kings, 25.
Reigate, seeking their first title since 2014, were inspired by their two classy spinners Michael Munday (49 wickets with his leg-spin) and left-armer Luke Beaven (44), both former county professionals, but East Molesey were simply too consistent through the summer and their gripping four-run win over Reigate in August proved crucial.
In that game East Molesey slumped to 48-8 and seemingly out for the count before Matt Tigg, with 44 at No 10, took the score to 124, barely defendable. Beaven took 7-56, and Reigate seemed to be on course for victory, but they lost their last five wickets for 20, with Tigg taking three of them. The two sides swapped places at the top of the table.
East Molesey stuttered at the final hurdle before winning a tense, low-scoring match at Wimbledon. As against Reigate, the Moles struggled with the bat until a quick-fire innings of 37 by the admirable Tigg, including three sixes, took the score to 115. Fawcett took 5-20 in reply as Wimbledon went from 40-1 to 92 all out, but it so happened Reigate flopped at 2018 champions Weybridge.
Guildford, annual hosts of Surrey county championship cricket, were relegated with Sutton.
Middlesex County League champions for the first time, North Middlesex could look back on an exciting race, pipping joint runners-up Ealing and Hampstead after bubbling under for a few seasons. Stanmore bounced straight back to the second tier along with Harrow St Mary's.
North Middlesex won eight of their nine limited overs games and finished 17 points ahead of Ealing, whose shock home two-wicket defeat by Shepherds Bush at Corfton Road left them too much to do with three games left. On the same day North Middlesex were destroying the visiting 2018 champions Richmond.
Batting proved to be the key for the 2019 winners, with Luke Hollman topping the league run-scoring with 816 at 54.4, and in third place was James Cracknell with 726 at 51.8. Both hit three centuries. Joel Hughes finished as leading bowler with 37 wickets.
Roffey took the Sussex crown for the second successive season, their fifth title in six seasons, while their town rivals and former national cup-winners Horsham were relegated. Roffey finished an astonishing 103 points ahead of runners-up Brighton & Hove.
Again, it was bowling that benefited Roffey, seamer Luke Barnard finishing with 35 wickets, backed by two top-rate all-rounders in Rohit Jagota and Ben Manenti, an Australian import from Sydney. Roffey matched the Preston Nomads record of five titles.
Middleton supplied the league's top two batsmen. Mahesh Rawat, an Indian wicketkeeper, amassed 1,041 runs at 148.7 (two hundreds and eight fifties) and Sean Heather, at the age of 37, scored 841 at 56.0. Heather, while at Eastbourne, tried and failed to build a professional career at Sussex, but his success at club level has been remarkable.