The 2020 I'Anson League campaign finally got underway last weekend and the three Blackheath men's XIs were straight into the action.
The 1st XI, Division 1 champions in 2019, started their defence of the title with a narrow win away at Grayshott. Winning the toss and batting first, Alex Bertola's men set a challenging total of 264 for 4 in their 45 overs, with Will Melhuish getting into late early mid-season form as he marched imperiously to 134 before being run out, supported by his brother Pete (30) and Ronny Harrison (45 not out).
What should have been a comfortable victory turned into a very exciting finish as Grayshott struck back and fell just 3 runs short at 261 for 9 from their 45 overs. With wickets spread around 7 different Blackheath bowlers it was a true team performance, but one that will need to sharpen up in the coming weeks if they are to retain the title.
Meanwhile at Blackheath the 2nd XI took the opportunity of a "no promotion-no relegation" season to field a very young but very talented side against a strong Chiddingfold 1st XI that was in Division 1 only two years ago, and although we came second on the day there were some very promising individual performances.
Batting first, Chiddingfold made good use of a typically true Terry Brockman-prepared wicket to amass 254-8 in their 45 overs, with 71 from skipper Matthew Wright and 84 not out from Tom Gleave, newly returned to Chid after playing at a higher level with Rowledge in the Southern Premier League. Stand out bowling performances came from 15-year old Ed Eves (2-34), veteran Graham Webb with 9 overs for 20 runs, and Chris "Rabbit hunter" Lewis who snaffled 3-34 at the death.
Our inexperienced batting line-up was never likely to challenge that total, but even so some magnificent cover drives from 13-year old James Fortescue (31) and a very mature 68 from 17-year old Ben Stefanik were enough to see us to a respectable reply, bowled out for 185.
Finally, to Grafham and our 3rd XI, where there should have been much celebration for the very first home game played from the newly-refurbished pavilion... except that Covid-19 meant the new facilities had to remain closed, just as at every other cricket ground in the country.
Grayswood 3rd XI won the toss and batted, setting a stiff target with 211-8 from their 40 overs. For Blackheath, young star Will Nash and veteran Neil Cozens shared the honours with 3 wickets apiece.
As with the 2nd XI, a relatively young and inexperienced Blackheath batting line-up struggled to match the total they were set, but we finished on a creditable 174-9 thanks to a very impressive 44 from 12-year old Rob Greenway and a typically nuggety 22 not out from skipper Colin Parrott.