Laurie Nicholson only set a club record of 162 for an individual score at Merstham last season – and on Saturday he broke it when scoring 173.
The major difference is that last year his score was achieved in the third team after he was reintroduced to cricket via former Reigate Grammar School pupils – and this year he achieved the feat for the first team.
Having learned to play the game at school and as a junior at Reigate Priory since the age of 12, Nicholson then didn’t play at university but was invited along by friends to play at Merstham – and hasn’t looked back.
His career at Merstham began with a 140 in May 2016, before scoring 162 not out to beat the old club record by 1. Inevitably promoted within the club, he finished the season in the first team.
This year, he already had an unbeaten 108 to his name against bottom placed Battersea in the Surrey Championship Division Five, Merstham’s first season at the level in their 153 year history.
And on Saturday his 173 came as Merstham defeated Kempton, who began the day a place higher but were overtaken by the Quality Street club who are now on a roll and who moved up to sixth.
The hosts scored 293-5 in 50 overs, while Kempton managed 219-9 in the limited overs match. “I opened the batting and got off to a good start, with about 30 from the first 10 overs and got to 50 quickly,” he said. “I slowed down a bit after that and didn’t get 100 until 35 overs.” It was, one witness said, a virtually chanceless century bar one opportunity to catch him on the boundary. Unlike his last big score, he was eventually out – on the verge of lasting the whole innings. “I got out in the 49th over trying to block one – I was just so tired,” said.
Batting has been Merstham’s downfall at time this season, but hopefully Nicholson has shown them the way, whoever the permanent captain turns out to be next season. “Our bowling is one of the strongest attacks in the league,” reflected Nicholson. “We’ve let ourselves down chasing 160 or 170.”
Noman Javed also scored a half century, finishing on 51, during the innings and the pitch proved a batsman's paradise, with Kempton's opener Alex Dillon also notching a ton, finishing on 105 not out. Ellis Miah also scored 63. Assad Naeem took 3-21 from his 8 overs and fellow opening bowler Noman Javed 1-10 from 10 overs, while Sunny Bowry took 2-30 from six later in the innings.
The second team were the only side of Merstham's four adult teams not to win on the day. Put in to bat at hosts Ewell, they struck 101 in 30.1 overs, No 7 batsman Richard Feist top scoring with 27. In reply, they took five wickets and Ewell's innings lasted almost as long, 26.4 overs. Imran Aslam took 2-25 and Struan Clark 2-13 and Merstham claimed a run out, making a fight of the game, but Ewell, who still have a good chance of promotion, notched 105-5 to take the victory.
The third team were all out for 196 in 44.4 overs at the Ring against Mitcham, who scored only 104 in 22 overs in reply.
The fourth team won twice - once on Thursday when Beddington's 5th team conceded their league encounter, and once on Long Ditton's Recreation Ground, in a friendly against Kingstonian's 5th team.
Gopa Nair, winning the toss, made what turned out to be the astute decision to bat, in a bid to ensure that all Merstham's eventual 10 players would most likely have the chance to bat, in the 40-over match.
Neil Maplesden got the team off to a flying start and it was noted the side were 40 off seven overs, not 40-7 as has once or twice been the case! Opener Maplesden compiled a lovely 42, making plenty of use of even the longest boundaries. He looked well set for a half century when he was eventually caught.
Ian Lamont also took advantage of a green but true wicket with 25. No 4 Nair notched 48, including repeatedly playing a shot to merely guide some of the main pace bowler's deliveries through the slip area for four, with the open face of the bat.
Eventually, near the end of the innings, he was run out when fatigue set in and, as the back up batsman, he couldn't reach the other end in time, which allowed all the youngsters to bat. Merstham ran up an imposing score of 199 in the 37 overs they completed.
With the intended wicketkeeper indisposed, Steve Duncan, a regular football goalkeeper, donned the gloves and was called upon to through himself into the task, either side of the wicket, on mutliple occasions.
Merstham's cause was helped by two early wickets, Tony Rickards removing one opener and having the other caught behind by Duncan. The No 3 bat also looked promising before being caught and bowled by Rickards. Merstham dared not ease off the gas too much as Kingstonian's left hander threatened to make inroads into the target and the visitors were glad to see him off.
Youngster Afsar Khan took 3-20 and fellow junior Anthony Maplesden 1-13 from 3 overs, while Matt Lehain took 1-20. But Rickards was the bowling star of the day with 5-23 as the hosts were dismissed for 105 after 29 overs.
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