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Southwark victory, with two balls left

14 September 2012

Stephen Fay enjoys a close-fought derby


Spot the ball: the Southwark captain, Richard Sewell, at the wicket

Spot the ball: the Southwark captain, Richard Sewell, at the wicket

IN AN exhilarating climax to a delightful game, Southwark beat London by three wickets to win the 62nd Church Times Cricket Cup Final, on a hot September day in north London.

London were clear favourites to win the final, having already beaten Southwark easily in an early-season game. Also, Southwark had reached the final more on luck than merit. Their only victory before the incessant rains of June and July was off the last ball against St Albans. Southwark were first out of the hat in the best-runner-up draw to make up numbers in the quarter-final. They won through to the semi-final, which was also rained off. Thus they reached the final in a calculation based on run rate.

Southwark's luck held: in the evening light at the Walker Ground in Southgate, they won the Cup with just two balls to spare.

It was their first victory since 1975, when they had been captained by Tom Moffatt, father of Joe, who this year captained the London side.

London had been in a commanding position. They reached 220 in the first 40 overs; but they then lost their last five wickets for only 20 more runs. Worse still, poor running between the wickets probably cost them another 20 runs or so. Some spectators at the game thought them over-confident; the team themselves talked of a loss of confidence after an early run-out. Whatever the explanation, they refused to take risky second and third runs.

Southwark had already provided a nice surprise by selecting the first woman priest to play in a final. Not just a woman, but an American woman. An assistant curate in the Sutton Team Ministry, Leah Philbrick arrived in England ten years ago. As a church youth worker, she discovered she liked the rhythm and pace of cricket, and played in a mixed team at Ridley Hall. She was considered accomplished enough to open Southwark's bowling and, of course, she bowled a maiden over.

THERE were very few more of those against London. Jez Barnes, the outstanding batsman of the last decade of Cricket Cup finals, had scored a century against Southwark in their first meeting this summer. At Southgate last week, ten of his first 12 scoring strokes were boundaries, strongly driven, pulled and cut.

At lunch, then, London were on 187 for 3. Barnes and Andy Watkins had together put on 113, and London looked set to annihilate Southwark with a score of more than 300. 

Watkins was neatly caught behind the wicket by Angus Aagaard after adding only two runs after lunch; but the turning point was the dismissal of Barnes, who under-hit an on drive, allowing Rob Stanier to take a fine falling catch off the bowling of Susi James. (Not a second woman priest, but a young church worker from Bangalore.) In his 126, Barnes hit 23 boundaries.

After Watkins was out, only one London batsman reached double figures. As lower-order batsmen went in, they were reminded: "We need 250," but they came back to the pavilion shortly afterwards, having got nowhere near it. Annihilation was off the agenda: the last three wickets fell with the score on 232.

SOUTHWARK had their own high-scoring batsman: Heston Groenewald, a South African who had made his mark in his first game for the diocese, hitting eight sixes in a score of 141 in the tight game against St Albans; and 114 in an earlier match lost to London. In the quarter-final against Exeter, he had been on course for a third hundred, but had to retire badly hurt on 67, when he edged a ball into his eye.

Perhaps it was that injury and its after-effects that upset Groenewald's confidence. When he opened the batting, his timing had clearly gone awry, and he regularly played and missed, though his 61 was Southwark's top score.

London set attacking fields, and the bowlers were quick enough to keep Southwark's batsmen scratching around. After 20 overs, Southwark's had scored 66 to London's 82; after 30 overs, it was 122 to 173; and after 40 overs, 163 to 220.

But Southwark retained one significant advantage. London had been bowled out after 46.2 of their 50 overs. After 40, Southwark still needed 70 to win, but they had ten overs in which to score them, and wickets in hand. To compensate for their relatively poor scoring rate, they ran virtually every time they hit the ball. London's fielding was not good enough to stop the score rising steadily.

Steve Coulson had his eye in by now, and was beginning to find the boundary, once clearing it for a crucial six. With seven wickets down, Jim Jelley, who had earlier taken four London wickets, stubbornly resisted his increasingly anxious opponents.

Nine runs were needed from the last over, and, after three balls, when the scores were already level, Southwark grasped, somewhat to their astonishment, that they were about the win the Cup for the first time in 37 years.

A four off the next ball by Coulson confirmed the victory, and the champagne came out of the dressing-room. London had to be content with the Man of the Match Award, which went, to no one's surprise, to Jez Barnes.


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