Ben Baker took decisions with military precision to ensure Merstham took a vital victory in their bid to stay in the Surrey Championship Division Five.
As the “Magics” seek a regular captain for next season after Nav Saeed’s resignation, Baker stepped up to the task in place of Andy Rivers, who had led them previously but was unavailable.
Merstham, who started the day third bottom, won comfortably at Farncombe, who are rooted to the bottom of the division. With two teams to be relegated, Merstham now sit fourth from bottom, two points above Guildford and 27 above second bottom Battersea, whom they host on September 2. Their remaining other games are against Merrow and Kempton, the two teams above them.
Merstham beat Farncombe by 10 wickets, having bowled out their hosts for 75 in 31.5 overs.
Assad Naeem (1-6 from 6) and Noman Javed both took a wicket when Farncombe had just one run on the board. There was little let up in the pressure despite Sam Durrant doing his best to give the hosts a decent platform, scoring 37 before becoming the eighth wicket to fall, with the score on 68. Javed finished on 3-16 from the maximum 10 overs. Imran Khan (3-20 from 6) and Razi Khan (3-10 from 3.5) ripped through the rest, while Asim Jafferi also bowled tightly for 0-19 from 6. There were just five extras.
Joe Shinners (45) and Laurie Nicholson (28) proved steady heads as Merstham achieved their target without loss in 16 overs.
The second team also won their relegation battle, at home to Alleyn and now sit 44 points above their opponents, who are second bottom and in the relegation zone.
A run out and two wickets by Safyan Aslam reduced Alleyn to 20-3 before they revived to put on 37 for the fourth wicket. Imran Aslam took 4-18 from his 10 overs including two of the three batsman to score more than 10. Opener James Bridgeman (25) was caught by Ben Snelling and No 5 Chris Foster (18) was bowled, while top scorer Sean Van Der Merwe was not out and top scorer with 46. Jack Letts (2-20) and Asfar Khan took the other wickets at Alleyn were dismissed for 135 in 44 overs.
In reply, Merstham lost an early wicket Merstham put on some good partnerships to gain a six wicket victory. Shakir Khan (31) and Manish Patel (28) put on 42 for the second wicket before the latter was caught. Khan then put on 53 with Jason Drewett before the latter was bowled for a useful 31. When Khan was also bowled by the same bowler a few overs later, that brought Nav Saeed to the wicket with Ben Snelling who were the two not out batsmen with 12 and 18 respectively as Merstham got over the line after 43.4 overs.
The third team had no such luck at Cheam, where they lost a wicket before a run was scored on the way to 72 all out in 26.4 overs. Arham Ali top scored with 34. Merstham were unable to take a wicket as Cheam knocked off the runs in 11.2 overs.
The fourth XI began their attack well against Sanderstead, scoring 61 for no wicket with Kashif Noon opening and scoring 33 alongside promising junior Matt Lehain (8). John Young notched up 15 before his exit at 85-4 prompted a dramatic collapse as Merstham found themselves 89-9 on the way to a total of 100 all out in 36 overs.
Michael Pitcher - available for one weekend only - scored 2 not out on his birthday before taking one of just two wickets by the hosts as Sanderstead won by eight wickets.
The other wicket taker was Sunday second team captain Bill Ash (1-14 from 5) in his first league match for 41 years. As suggested by the fact Sanderstead took 33 overs to win, Merstham’s nine bowlers returned tight figures for stand-in skipper Young. Pitcher returned 1-15 from three overs, and youngsters Brenna Calafato (0-12 from 4) and Sam Turner (0-4 from 4) had excellent days as did Muhammed Janjua (0-1 from 1).