HENLEY Cricket Club secured the Home Counties Premier League Division 1 title with two games still to play.
They overcame Slough by seven wickets in a rain-affected match at the Brakspear ground on Saturday to clinch their fourth league title in their nine years at this level.
Win number 12 of the season gives Henley an unassailable lead of more than 50 points ahead of Banbury who leapfrogged Slough into second place after defeating Harpenden.
Captain Bjorn Mordt says he knew within a few weeks of the start of the season that his side would be competing for the title.
He said: “We have performed very well with the ball and batted better than we did last year. We have been really good and consistent and it was nice to finish with games remaining.
“When we started so strongly and won the first five games I realised that [winning the title] was in our hands. We won the close games that we could have lost and beat some good teams having played some good cricket. We are probably the best team in the league.”
Henley needed to win to be sure of clinching the title - barring being deducted points for breaking league regulations in the remaining fixtures.
Mordt won the toss and chose to field and restricted Slough to 132 all out.
They then needed 100 runs from 23 overs to win via the Duckworth Lewis method.
Henley comfortably reached their target before rain stopped play.
Mordt, 35, says the performance of his players this season has made his job easy. He said: “If you look at the figures for the top league wicket-takers, we have five in the top 20. It is always easy captaining a winning team and I have only lost the toss three times this year so we could get teams to do what we wanted them to do.”
The remaining fixtures will be captained by Stuart Davison whom the club see as Mordt’s replacement in three or four seasons time.
Mordt, who has played for Henley for 10 years, says: “We are starting to look at a handover and I will captain again next year but we are looking at giving Stuart Davison a go with me in the team.
“He is very level-headed and has a strong personality and has quite a good cricket brain and we are looking to bring him in during the next two to three years.”
In the meantime, the Zimbabwe all-rounder wants to consolidate Henley’s dominance of the division and says the club is more than capable of winning the title again next year.
Mordt, who led the side to the title in 2009 and 2010, said: “I was disappointed that when we had the opportunity to win it three times in a row we didn’t play well.
“We didn’t play very well for the last two years but it shows how strong this league is. Banbury look like finishing second and they have made it into the T20 Cup Final at the Kia Oval.
“We will have to take it a year at a time but we have got some good young players coming through.”
He added: “We have won the league four times and High Wycombe has won it five times so we would love to better that.”
Chairman Brian Kenworthy said he was delighted to secure the title with games still to play.
He said: “It is a fantastic achievement by a very talented bunch of cricketers. It is wonderful, a great fillip for the club.”