ALTHOUGH there are still two Home Counties Premier League matches remaining, Finchampstead have already started to plan for next season when they will be looking to regain the title, writes Dave Wright.

They have obtained the services of Lincolnshire county batsman Conrad Louth, who has moved in the area, and one or two more new players are expected to follow.

The 28-year-old Louth, who made 42 appearances for Lincs, was the all-time leading run scorer in the Lincolnshire Premier League, totalling nearly 7,000 runs in 217 matches.

Last year he played for Stoke Green in the Thames Valley League, accumulating 555 runs in 16 innings, but this season switched to Portsmouth & Southsea and celebrated his Hampshire League debut by scoring 187 against United Services.

Finchampstead’s hopes of retaining the HCPL crown were finally ended last weekend when they were involved in a tie at Banbury, being dismissed for 200 in reply to the hosts’ 200-7. At the same time, Henley were sealing the championship with a 26-run win over Tring Park.

Finch travelled to Banbury with a changed side that included two of the club’s talented teenagers, Tommie Pregden and James Woodford.

Having put their hosts into bat, Dan Marles’ men got off a good start with Matt Carter having Craig Haupt caught at slip before a run had been scored.

Marles also took a wicket in his first over with opposing skipper Lloyd Sabin holing out to Carter at midwicket, making it 27-2.

Ollie Clarke and Charlie Hill lifted the total to 70 before the former fell to spinner Woodford for 25.

Hill and Richard West produced a productive partnership of 81 in 19 overs, West being eventually trapped lbw by JJ Dewes for a solid 53.

Hill reached his half-century before falling to Jandre Coetzee, while two more wickets fell to Finch restricted Banbury to 200-7 in their 50 overs.

The visitors made steady progress early on, but lost wickets in the process, with Andrew House (32), Marles (28), Billy Rogers (17) among the victims.

Finch needed 36 to win from the last 11 overs and 25 from the last nine, but now had only two wickets remaining.

Simon Bell was still at the crease and he and Woodford took the total to 198 before the latter was bowled by West .

Last man Max Uttley joined Bell and they brought the scores level. However, there was drama when, with the last ball of the penultimate over, Bell was run out for 46 when sent back attempting a tight run, leaving Finches all out for 200.

So the match was tied, each side earning 12 points.

Finch slip to third place in the standings, five points behind Oxford, ahead of this Saturday’s trip to a Slough side who have lifted themselves clear of the relegation zone.

In the Thames Valley League, Finchampstead 3rds defeated bottom club Newbury by 115 runs in Division 3a and are third in the table with two games remaining.

With Matt Eldridge making an excellent 105 not out and Tom Wroot 84, they were able to declare on 232-1 in 48 overs.

Then Ben Cole took 6-27 and Sam Taylor 3-38 as the visitors were bowled out for 117.

Finchampstead 4ths stay second in Division 6b after a three-wicket win at Aldershot 3rds, who were dismissed for 98 with Steve West taking 5-20. They host Hurst 2nds on Saturday.

In Division 8a, Finchampstead 5ths lost by nine wickets away to title-chasing Kew 4ths after being rolled over for just 39, which included 11 extras.

  • FINCHAMPSTEAD lost to Slough by six wickets in the Berkshire final of the NatWest T20 Under-19 competition.

Thanks to some outstanding bowling and fielding, Slough restricted their opponents to 112-7 and went on to reach their target for the loss of four wickets with four overs to spare.

Rahim Akhtar remained unbeaten on 50 before having to retire under the competition rules with his side on 81-1 in 11 overs.

He struck three sixes and three fours during an impressive batting performance. He and James Harris (32) put on 78 for the second wicket.

Slough then hit a bit of a wobble as Finchampstead tried to stem the flow of runs, losing two wickets to Ben Clark in the 14th over and another one in the 16th, but they never looked in serious trouble and coasted home.

For Finchampstead, Mac Keast made 34, Matt Eldridge 30 and Jamie Brown 20.

In the semi finals which were played earlier in the day, Slough defeated a Wargrave side including Berkshire and Surrey 2nd XI player Euan Woods.

He scored 16 as his side were dismissed for 118 with Hector Chambers top scoring on 41, with Sulaiman Akhtar taking 3-25 and Samiullah Sajid 3-29.

Woods failed to take a wicket, but conceded only 14 runs in four overs as Slough won by six wickets, Pavinder Bhachu making 34, George Harris 29no and James Harris 22.

In their semi-final, Finches posted a formidable 181-7 (Brown 52no, Sam Jenkins 36) before limiting Wokingham to 129-9.