The dream of a September visit to Lord's is very much alive after a commanding victory in Sunday's Surrey Group Final of the National Village Cup.
Although now in different leagues, Blackheath and East Horsley were regular opponents and friends in times gone by. Indeed the bell in the Blackheath pavilion, used to signal the start of play and the end of lunch and tea intervals, was a gift from the members of East Horsley CC in our centenary year 1978. So it was great to be able to welcome them to the 'heath for a rare visit in the National Village Cup.
Blackheath Royalty -
The Head Groundsman and the VOR (Village's Oldest Resident) measure up for some social distancing in preparation for the big match.
Winning the toss and batting on a ground where over 2,000 runs had been scored during the past week, East Horsley needed to "go big", and although Andrew Bull (38) made a steady start the pressure was always on from the fiery pace of Rob Weston and the frugal accuracy of Tom Richardson (3-29), backed up as always by the equally miserly Pete Melhuish (3-25) and Ollie Arengo-Jones (3-30). With the usual tigerish fielding to match, once Nick Cooper (23) had succumbed to a great running catch from 15-year old rising star Ed Eves the innings ran into trouble. Despite a late flurry of 55 runs for the last 2 wickets it eventually subsided to 170 all out from 38 overs.
At tea that total looked at least 50 too few, and so it proved.
Will Melhuish (pictured top, and above) has been in prime form ever since the restart in July, and never looked in any trouble as he picked up singles and twos from the good balls and punished the bad ones, finishing 68 not out.
After opening partner Rob Parrott had been run out early, Will was was joined by his brother Pete (48) and between them they put on 94 for the second wicket, taking the match firmly away from the visitors.
When you've only scored 170, and the reply moves to 116-1 in only the 20th over, the fall of the second wicket gives you your one last fleeting glimpse of a chance to get back into the game... But that probably isn't the moment you want to see Alan Cope stride to the crease, especially when he immediately dispatches two sublime cover drives in a row, and follows that with an effortless clip into the pavilion for 6 (see below). Such are the perils of meeting this powerful Blackheath batting side.
The match ended in the 28th over, with an 8 wicket victory for the home side.
Much post-match analysis followed, from those who've seen a thing or two in their time (!) The consensus seems to be that, although Blackheath have had some very good players in this competition in the past, the all-round depth of this year's side is quite possibly the best yet.
There's plenty of cause for optimism as we march on out of Surrey and into the national staqes of the competition, but one thing the "old heads" will tell you is that the standard gets much higher from here on. Our boys are good, but they will be severely tested at every step, especially when playing on unfamiliar grounds away from home.
Lord's is 4 wins away, and next week (Sunday 16th August) we travel to Eaton Socon in Cambridgeshire for the "round of 32". It's a 1pm start and we need as many supporters as possible. If you plan to travel independently that's great, but if you'd like to reserve your seat on the team charabanc then please contact the Chairman Nick Harrison (firstname.lastname@example.org).