AGAINST all the odds, Churt pulled off a stunning victory in their top-of-the-table clash against Stoke D’Abernon in the Surrey Championship Division Four.
With rain and thunder around and the game duly interrupted, Stoke D’Abernon seemed at least safe from defeat after winning the toss and inserting Churt. And the visitors looked likely winners after being left 37 overs to chase a reduced target of 157.
But in a nerve-jangling finish, with the advantage swapping back and forth, D’Abernon fell eight runs short with 11 balls to go.
Stoke opening bowlers Toby Tarrant and Alex Bond sprayed a few wides in the opening overs, but, those aside, they hit the right spot regularly and the combination of a swinging, seaming ball and a slow pitch, made batting extremely difficult.
Skipper Daniel Higgins ran out of patience and Toby Finneran followed him back to the pavilion, leaving Churt 25-2.
Rowley Marshall batted calmly under some verbal pressure and he and Will Hucker progressed the score to 59 in the 18th over before the latter finally lost his battle – bowled by Roddy Kelso.
Ben Mitchell – indisposed earlier on – and Marshall then set about getting Churt to a competitive total. The good balls were kept out, the bad ones punished, and the pair had put on a solid 84 when Mitchell perished, trying to give Bond the charge.
Two more wickets fell quickly and Marshall’s superb innings finally ended when he was caught on the deep square-leg boundary. His crucial 48 contained ten fours and a six.
The home side had reached 183-9 in the 48th over when heavy rain arrived. The players got the covers on pronto, an early tea was taken, and after a drying-up operation, involving a leaf-blower, the umpires agreed to a 4.45pm restart. Robbie Chhabra promptly hit a full-toss straight to a fielder and Stoke D’Abernon began their reply in bright sunshine.
And Ian Hopton and captain James Trower made hay in that sunshine, putting on 45 in nine overs before Chhabra came on and immediately dismissed both openers. The dangerous James Whitmarsh fell lbw to Marshall and Churt were back in the match at 59-3.
Left-hander James O’Gorman and Shawn Dyson seized back the initiative with a stand of 36, only for Marshall to bamboozle both batsmen; 96-5, and the match again in the balance.
The middle-order pair of Alastair Curran and Robbie Parrett seemingly took it away from Churt as they advanced the score to 127. But Mitchell gave Churt hope by yorking Curran and, with 10 runs added, Chhabra and Dave Thomas each took a wicket.
At 137-8, the game was on a knife-edge and Stoke looked like edging it when they needed just eight runs with 13 balls left.
Bond tried to get it over quickly, but lofted Thomas to Dan Treder at long-off. The batsmen having crossed, number 11 Tarrant faced the returning Oli Plaistowe. Only one delivery was needed, Tarrant edging it into the grateful gloves of Will Hucker.
Marshall’s knock was the difference between the sides, but this was a superb team effort by Churt and gives them a little breathing space at the top as they prepare for a difficult run-in.
Churt are home to Woking & Horsell this Saturday.
Division Five leaders Haslemere reduced Merstham to 65-5 before play was called off. Skipper Leigh Thayre was on a roll, taking 4-17 in five overs.