Merstham maintained their winning form with an excellent bowling display against Merrow, taking their recent record to four wins from their last five games.
Winning the toss and electing to bat, Merstham got off to a poor start with captain Laurie Nicholson (9) being dismissed following a bottom edge onto his stumps. His opening partner Jason Kyte (26) looked assured and positive before missing out to a full delivery and being bowled.
Merstham then made steady progress, but failed to capitalise on starts with Gus Locke (19), Noman Javed (13), and keeper Ed Dawson (3) not establishing any significant partnerships.
The big-hitting Robin Hardman (52) played some characteristically high risk shots early on, but managed to bat with restraint and controlled aggression to keep Merstham on track. He was well supported by the solid Humayoon Nasir (12 not out). It was an impressive knock from Hardman on what was his first league outing this season, but ultimately Merstham would be disappointed with their final total of 156 from 42.3 overs.
Due to arrangements to watch the football at 3pm this abrupt finish to the Merstham innings actually worked well, allowing for a window of 35 minutes in which the on form bowling attack could look to make some early in-roads. Both Asim Jaffry (2-49) and Noman Javed (3-25) delivered, and left Merrow at 25-3 when both teams departed the field for the extended tea break.
After the break Javed carried on the momentum by claiming an early wicket to leave Merrow 29-4. However with Merrow putting on some good partnerships the win seemed to be slipping from Merstham’s grasps.
The introduction of the dependable Nasir (3-25) and the returning Muhammed Waqas (2-21) changed this and bought further wickets to put Merstham back on top as the runs crept up but the wickets kept falling. The visitors were 96-6 and 110-7. The wicket of Merrow opener George Trueman, who looked assured on 55, was the breakthrough that Merstham had been seeking especially, and following this to a stunning one handed catch from Nicholson Waqas and Nasir were able to wrap up the tail to bowl Merrow out for 136 from 40 overs.
Merstham’s recent run of form has ignited some hope of pushing for the top two spots, and next week’s game against third placed Old Pauline will give a good indication of whether they are up to the task.
“I thought we may have been 20 or 30 runs short after our innings, but that short session before the football really played in to our hands,” said skipper Nicholson. “Our bowling attack again proved they are one of the best in the league, and if our batting can gain some consistency we have a great chance of challenging the top teams.”
England playing football at 3pm complicated selection and start times for all four Saturday teams.
The second team put hosts and bottom placed Cobham Avorians into bat and, in the end, managed to chase down the hosts' total of 248-6 declared.
While Damiyan Shakeel had one opened caught behind by Richard Feist with the score on two, batseman one and three put on a 167 partnership before Abdul Rehman had one caught by Rob Harris, with the other following 29 runs later to exactly the same combination.
After fielding in the heat, the total would have seemed a tall order if the outfield hadn't been so compliant. Jason Drewett opened the reply with 61, Arham Ali bagged 32 and Shakell helped himself to 82 not out including 10 fours and four sixes off 55 balls as the visitors won in the 41st over.
The nine men of the third team were asked to bat at the Ring, mustering 149-8 off 36.1 overs. Chipstead, also with nine, knocked off the target in the 20th over.
With one stuck on a train which was halted by a passenger determined to do himself harm and a couple of others delayed en route or being taken unawares of the early start, the fours decided to bat despite winning the toss at Old Wimbledonians.
Early wickets were lost before Will Barnes (20) and Josh Young (14) top scored, with the visitors unable to resist the nagging loopiness Tim Richards (5-33).
The hosts were two down before the extended tea break, with one retiring, Gopa Nair having an early success with a leg before decision. Michael Pitcher took another wicket near the end, courtesy of a catch by Tony Rickards.