By Charles Randall
3 September 2013
Ealing CC, thanks to the familiar figure of Chris Peploe, have reached the final of the ECB National Club Championship, a major consolation for their failure to overtake Hampstead in the race for the Middlesex County Premier League title.
As the only southern club left in the ECB competition, Ealing outplayed the East Anglian League leaders Swardeston to win their semi-final by seven wickets at Corfton Road on Sunday. The visitors from Norwich were bowled out for 192, receiving no change from the lanky left-arm spinner Peploe, who returned figures of 8-2-11-3.
That total proved nothing like enough when opener Chris Wakefield hit 88 not out from 82 balls, and Peploe popped up again to destroy any chance Swardeston might have had, smashing 53 not out off only 43 balls. The end came with 15.4 overs to spare.
After three losing finals in this competition, Ealing marched through for another attempt at the trophy, this time against the Nottingham-based West Indian Cavaliers, a side bolstered by a nucleus of former county cricketers. Cavaliers enjoyed a six-wicket home win against South Northumberland, with the former Nottinghamshire batsman Usman Afzaal guiding them through with two wickets and a steady 53 not out. The final is scheduled for Riverside, now known as the Emirates Durham ICG, on 15 September.
Ealing certainly regained their momentum after a shock early season exit from the Conference Cup and a disappointing runners-up position in the Middlesex League. They had to settle for second place after an untimely defeat by Finchley, a struggling side inspired by Jake Milton's 98 not out, but national glory beckoned after an excellent quarter-final victory over Bath, the 2013 West of England League champions. Chris Glasper destroyed Bath's upper order, the seamer taking 4-44, and Bath's 45-over total of 222-8 was respectable in the circumstances, but Ealing forced a five-wicket win with two overs to spare, thanks to Ahmed Elech (53) and former Middlesex professional Peploe (58 not out).
Waltham, the new Conference Cup winners, were knocked out by Swardeston in the National quarter-finals, losing a desperately exciting game by one wicket. Waltham's 183 looked inadequate while Peter Lambert blasted 72 off 36 balls to give Swardeston a flying start in reply, but Mehboob Elahi and Khaward Ali Kazmi, with three wickets each, pulled the advantage back, and the last pair had to put on 17 to squeeze home. In the semi-final Glasper managed to get rid of Lambert for 31 off 29 balls before he could do too much damage.
In the London area final Ealing were given a fight by Spencer and needed Glasper's skills with bat and ball to make it through. They owed their 162-9 to tail-enders Glasper (29 off 32 balls) and Ahsan Faraz (31 off 29). Spencer's former England fast bowler Alex Tudor broke down injured in his fourth over, which made a difference, but Ealing took control with the ball through Glasper (4-31) to earn a 31-run win.
Back in May it seemed inconceivable that Ealing would not feature large in the Conference Cup, but they were eliminated in Essex when Hadleigh & Thundersley's wicketkeeper Tom Phillippe produced the innings of a life-time. Phillippe hit 100 not out off 135 balls for the Essex Premier League second-tier side on a bowlers' day. Facing 182-9 Ealing crumbled to 126 all out and a 56-run defeat, David Williams taking 5-17. Hadleigh were beaten in the next round by Waltham and fared no better than mid-table in the league.