HENLEY suffered only their second defeat of the season last Saturday, going down at HARPENDEN by 70 runs.
The defeat may have been by a much larger margin but for a spirited fight back following the disastrous loss of three wickets in three balls courtesy of a hat-trick by Harpenden skipper Nick Lamb.
On a bright morning accompanied by a stiff northerly breeze, Lamb won the toss and decided to bat first at Harpenden Common.
Despite the early loss of Cooper, lbw Tahir Afridi, Fraser and Pankhurst went on the attack and rattled up 102 in 16 overs.
It took a fortunate thigh high full toss from Tom Nugent to deceive and bowl Frazer (64 off 48 balls), but it was through the introduction of spin in the form of Cameron Jacobsen and Gurveer Singh that Henley were able to regain control and impose a degree of pressure.
Jacobsen’s fine bowling was soon rewarded with the wicket of Pankhurst and when he removed the dangerous Will Jones, caught on the boundary at deep mid-wicket by Singh, and Lamb then ran himself out, Harpenden were wobbling on 165-5 off 35 overs.
However, Harpenden’s Dan Blacktopp, having come in at number four, was still at the crease and quietly accumulating. Latham was caught by Graham Furber at short mid-on off Singh, Afridi reinvented himself as slow left-armer to good effect and, with the field well spread, runs were not easy to come by.
Blacktopp and White ran hard and rotated the strike, at times living dangerously until White was caught by Nugent at short mid-on off Hamza Riazuddin. Blacktopp brought up a well crafted 50 with a six over mid-wicket and began to open his shoulders a bit only to be adjudged run out following Singh’s swift pick up and return to Ferguson.
Brabner and Doyle saw things through to the 50 overs and Harpenden ended on 241 which reflected a bowling job well done, especially given the home side’s tearaway start and the flat wicket.
In contrast, the Henley innings never got going in terms of mounting a credible challenge. Dave Barnes was an early loss, dragging on a ball from Will Jones, Jason Barber teed off but was soon bowled by Frazer and Stewart Davison looked well set, only to suffer the same fate, middle stump, at the hands of Jones.
The score of 47-3 became 56-4 when Bjorn Mordt was caught behind and, all of a sudden, 242 looked a long way away.
Nugent combined well with Riazuddin, the former posting a well worked, if at times fortuitous 24 before being the subject of a diving catch at cover by Lamb to make it 98-5.
The game was then lost in the 29th over. Lamb’s first ball of the over was struck by Riazuddin to deep square leg and caught by Cooper, Ferber adjudged lbw with the second and the third to Afridi was caught behind.
At 98-8, the game looked lost but Jacobsen and Ferguson dug in to put on 54 for the next wicket, the former going for his shots and the latter playing with strength and circumspection.
Paradoxically, Henley were never behind the required run rate but now lacked the numbers to see the job through, a problem that became accentuated when Ferguson became the ninth wicket pulling a ball around the corner and picking out Peck who took the catch with an athletic leap.
The incoming Singh and Jacobsen needed to score 90 off 83 balls. As ever, Singh was positive from the off with a brace of fours to his name before holing out to Jones at long off.
G Cooper, lbw, b T Afridi 3
B Frazer, b T Nugent 64
J Pankhurst, st T Ferguson,
b C Jacobsen 48
D Blacktopp, run out 63
W Jones, c G Singh, b C Jacobsen 6
N Lamb, run out 4
J Latham, c G Furber, b G Singh 10
S White, c T Nugent, b H Riazuddin 12
R Brabner, not out 10
J Doyle, not out 4
TOTAL (8 wkts) 241
Best bowling: C Jacobsen 2-29.
D Barnes, b W Jones 7
S Davison, b W Jones 25
J Barber, b B Frazer 12
H Riazuddin, c G Cooper,
b N Lamb 17
B Mordt, c D Blacktopp,
b R Brabner 5
T Nugent, c N Lamb, b B Frazer 24
T Ferguson, c J Peck, b J Doyle 19
G Furber, lbw, b N Lamb 0
T Afridi, c D Blacktopp, b N Lamb 0
C Jacobsen, not out 32
G Singh, c W Jones, b J Peck 11
Best bowling: N Lamb 3-38, W Jones 2-22, B Frazer 2-25.