Hampton Hill 3rd XI entertained Mitcham on Saturday, knowing that a convincing win could see them leapfrog the league leaders and move to the top of the Fullers 3rd XI East Division.
Steve Fidler won the toss (for the first time in the league this season) and asked Mitcham to bat, in perfect conditions, on a pitch which offered little help to the bowlers. The fielding side feared a long afternoon lay ahead of them but Stuart Hedley had other ideas. Opening the bowling from the pavilion end, he had opener Muhammed caught by wicketkeeper Nally Fernando from just the third ball of the innings. Two balls later he struck again, bowling Wood to leave Mitcham 2-2. Ryan McCartney, despite struggling to find his usual consistency, picked up the wicket of Suganthan, due to some quick thinking by Fernando, throwing the stumps down with the batsman still out of his ground after playing and missing. The wicketkeeper was having a superb afternoon and took a tremendous diving, one-handed catch to dismiss Mitcham skipper, Martin Gouma, giving Hedley a third wicket.
Young batsman William Gault steadied things for Mitcham with a well compiled 27 and in partnership with Wassam, took the score from 18-4 to 57. James Harding replaced McCartney and promptly took two wickets in his first over. Another catch for Fernando accounted for Wassam and Patel played on first ball to set up a hat-trick chance. The next ball again found the inside edge, passing agonisingly close to leg stump. Harding had to wait until his next over for his third wicket, clean bowling Hassan. Mitcham had slumped to 57-7.
Fabian Allen came in and struck a six and two 4’s but Hedley was still swinging the ball and claimed a fourth when he bowled Gault to make it 63-8. His fifth came soon after, hitting the stumps again to dismiss F. Hosseini. This left Allen and S. Hosseini to add 23 for the last wicket. Scott Mitchell replaced Hedley and finished the innings off with only his second ball having Allen caught at cover by Will Smith – his fine running effort capping an excellent fielding display and setting a victory target of 101. Hedley finished with 5-25 from 11 overs.
The reply wobbled a little at the start, losing Will Owens LBW for 4 and Jimmy Joyce for 9, the latter chipping a catch to mid-off after hitting a couple of boundaries. Scott Mitchell also hit two boundaries, the second with impressive force, before edging to the keeper. At 32-3 the chase was by no means a formality and Hampton Hill knew they could only afford to lose another three wickets if they were to overtake the league leaders.
Owen Griffiths joined Fernando for a vital partnership of 36, the youngster belying his lack of experience with a top-scoring 24. When Fernando was out for a hard fought 23 the total had moved to 90 and it was left to Will Smith (17 not out) and Gareth Powell (8 not out) to see Hill over the line.
Crucially, Mitcham were restricted to just two bowling bonus points and their 17-point superiority at the start of the day had become a slender 1-point lead for Hampton Hill. Just five league games remain, starting with Wallington’s visit to Carlisle Park this weekend.