By Charles Randall
19 September 2013
Ealing CC are holding an investigation into the 18 penalty runs that reduced the closing overs of the 2013 ECB National Club Championship final to near farce and left their players "totally gutted" by a controversial defeat at Chester-le-Street.
Nottingham-based West Indian Cavaliers were handed an unexpectedly easy finish after the umpires awarded them 18 runs for an allegedly slow Ealing over-rate at a soggy Emirates Durham ICG on Sunday. The result was the London club's fourth defeat in four national finals.
Ealing felt that the small-print regulations on over-rates, rain interference and the cut-off time had not been interpreted correctly by the umpires, and certainly the 18-run penalty came as a shock to their captain David Holt as an exciting game reached its climax.
John Poore, the Ealing president, said the club would be taking the matter to the ECB. "We're not happy with the way the game ended," he said. "We feel there was more than one umpiring error concerning the regulations. We thought the 18-run penalty was very harsh; it came out of the blue. The players are totally gutted and they feel very hard done by."
At one stage it was not clear whether the match had ended, and the Cavaliers had started celebrating a maiden national title by any Nottinghamshire club before their captain Usman Afzaal and Patrick Gada had to return to the crease for the formality of making six runs off three overs for a six-wicket victory.
Ealing's total of 209-6 off a reduced allocation of 29 overs looked formidable enough, and after Duckworth-Lewis adjustment for further rain Cavaliers, the new Nottinghamshire Premier League champions, had to aim for an even tougher target of 202 off 26 overs, but their powerful batting nudged the run-rate ahead on Duckworth-Lewis when the former Pakistan player Ata-ur-Rehman hit three sixes at a crucial stage.
The last revised target, shrunk by the disputed 18 penalty runs, tipped the balance completely. Ealing would claim that insufficient account had been taken of time spent ball-drying, searching for boundary hits in empty stands and the extra seconds taken up by the exceptionally long walk for batsmen to the pavilion.
Ealing probably had enough runs to have won. Opener Chris Wakefield hit 41 off 44, but they had to recover from 140-6, thanks to Leigh Parry's 49 off 23 balls and his partner Rob Haxby's 19 off 15 balls. Parry, man of the match, produced the match's best bowling figures of 5-0-25-2 in hostile conditions, but the Cavaliers run-chase accelerated, with Rehman thumping 25 off 14 balls before the former Nottinghamshire left-hander Azzaal guided his team home with 37 off 38 balls.
Ealing want the ECB to ensure this type of disputed situation does not happen again and will ask for the final to be replayed, though such a request must be highly optimistic. Viewed from afar, the match must have embarrassed the ECB because a very good contest became a sea of confusion and anger, and some observers might query the wisdom of holding a prestigious club final at such a northerly venue. The Durham county club pitched the wickets at the far edge of the square from the main pavilion through the need to protect the turf before Durham's crucial LV Championship match against Nottinghamshire, due to start the following day.
Much credit must go to the Cavaliers for a sturdy run chase on the day after they had snatched the Nottinghamshire Premier League title from Cuckney. They won their final match at Clifton when Afzaal hit 100 not out in a run-chase at Clifton while Cuckney, the table leaders, lost at home to Rolls Royce by 60 runs.