Longstone League title goes to Elton

They say that truth is stranger than fiction and never was there a clearer case than this as Elton secured the Longstone League championship for a historic fourth consecutive year.

But it was a close run thing. Ashford’s batch of fine young cricketers is improving rapidly and their team emerged from the pack to give Elton a serious run for their money this year.

As the two sides squared up for their league encounter at Ashford’s beautiful ground in mid-June, they could each boast a perfect playing record, having won each of their matches to date. Not surprisingly it was billed as the title deciding match.

That there was no more than the width of a cigarette paper between the two teams was clearly demonstrated when, amid much biting of nails, the match was tied at 127 runs each.

With two games each remaining it looked all set to go to the wire. There was even talk of a play-off to decide the eventual winners in the event of them ending up on equal points.

But on Wednesday of last week, a most unlikely sequence of events concluded with Elton claiming the league title by the end of the day.

The drama began that morning with the receipt of an email from the league. Although the points for the tied match at Ashford had provisionally been split equally by the teams, it was brought to the attention of the two clubs that a rule amendment had been agreed at the 2006 League AGM which in fact meant that Elton should take all the points as they had lost fewer wickets in that game.

Typically, Elton skipper Paul Carson preferred to settle matters on the field rather than rely on what he regarded as a technicality. His team faced an important game at Longstone that evening while Ashford also faced a tricky away game at Matlock.

It was at this point that matters took their amazing course. Elton, seemingly down and out at one point, came back from the dead at Longstone to win by a single run while Ashford, who had looked the more likely winners for much of the evening, went down by the very same margin at Matlock.

Chasing Elton’s modest total of 90 runs, Longstone reached 54 for 1 and appeared to be coasting to victory before Carson himself joined the attack and picked up five very quick wickets to put the game back into the balance.

As Carson delivered the penultimate ball of the match to the Longstone number 11, the home side were just a single run short and three different results were possible. The ball passed the bat, Jack Stone whipped off the bails and went up for a stumping. Slowly but surely Umpire Bower’s finger went skywards to signal an Elton victory by the slimmest of margins.

Little did the Elton players know it but at almost the same moment something equally dramatic was taking place 12 miles down the road where Matlock were doing them a very big favour.

The end result was that, by the end of an action packed night, Elton could not be caught and were declared the 2011 Longstone League champions.