A devastating spell of 5 for 24 in just 5.3 overs from youngster Archie Jones enabled Blackheath to snatch a stunning victory in the National Village Cup yesterday evening at heavily-fancied Valley End.
Our Div.1 Surrey Championship opponents (who beat us in last year's regional final) had looked to be cruising to victory, chasing 222 on an excellent wicket - they needed only 5 an over from the last dozen overs, with 6 wickets in hand and plenty of batting to come. But skipper Will Melhuish then tossed the ball to 18-year-old Jones, who had never before bowled in a 1st XI fixture, and an astonishing few overs followed.
Initially coming on from the scoreboard end, Jones struck twice in his first over, with late inswingers clean bowling first Nick Wellman and then Adam Gould. However Valley End batted very deep and Gould's dismissal merely brought their 1st XI skipper Tom Nevin to the crease. Together with set batsman Shaun Young, Nevin steadied the ship and Blackheath hopes began to fade. Valley End needed just 12 more runs from the last 3 overs, still with 4 wickets in hand.
With Archie Freeth returning to the attack, Jones then switched ends in what proved to be an inspired move. In the 38th over, Nevin attempted an injudicious hoist over midwicket and became Jones's third victim, again clean bowled. The next ball, as Nevin held his head in his hands, Joe Hill (yet another decent bat, who is Valley End's top run scorer this season) was castled by another superb Jones inswinger. And new batsman James Barnard survived the rest of the over only to have his bails sent flying by a beauty from Freeth with the first ball of the 39th.
Even then the game was on a knife edge at the start of the final over, with Valley End needing just 8 more to win with 9 wickets down, as Young was still there on 89 and had the strike. But now the pressure was all on the batsmen, whilst Jones was on fire. After singles from the first 2 balls, Young tried a lofted drive down the ground ... and as the crowd held its breath 15-year-old Rob Greenway held his nerve for superbly judged catch at long on, and Blackheath joy was unconfined.
Earlier, the Blackheath innings was dominated by a brutal 86 from Tom Vickers from just 64 balls. Useful contributions from Melhuish (24) and Greenway (33) provided a solid foundation before Vickers took charge, assisted by a breezy 34 from Alex Bertola. Indeed it was a pretty good weekend for "Bertie", who also saw the 1st XI home against Puttenham on Saturday with a crucial 29 in a ninth wicket stand with Danny Harrison, to make it 3 wins out of 3 in I'Anson Div.1.
But the weekend belonged to Archie Jones.