HENLEY emerged victorious in what was a tight, gritty and at times feisty affair at SLOUGH’S Upton Court Road ground on Saturday.
The visitors posted a modest score which they then successfully defended, taking all 10 wickets with 15 runs to spare in the Home Counties Premier League clash.
This was Slough’s first home game this season following long term water-logging of their ground.
On Thursday of last week, following a league inspection, the first team pitch was passed fit for action. The outfield was a tad lush and the wicket something of a lottery in terms of pace, bounce and carry, understandably given the amount of preparation it has been possible to give it so far this year.
Winning the toss, Henley skipper Bjorn Mordt elected to bat. Henley were soon in trouble as Dave Barnes and Ben McDermott were out for ducks, both to Khan caught at slip. Barnes edged a ball that got big on him, McDermott was out to an unplayable delivery that reared up off a length and took the shoulder of the bat.
Michael Roberts and the incoming Euan Brock dug in and had to graft for every run as Khan and fellow opening bowler Nawaz kept things tight and the batsmen negotiated what was rapidly turning out to be a minefield of a strip.
Roberts, subsequently bowled for 38 by spinner Akbar after lunch, worked hard for his runs as the score crept along.
By the 18th over there were just 30 runs on the board as Brock was out in the cruelest of ways, run out backing up as Khan diverted a Roberts drive on to the stumps. Brock’s demise brought Dave Allaway to the crease. Allaway, who has been struggling for runs and form so far this year, put all that behind him and he and Roberts pushed the total to 68-3 at lunch off 32 overs.
Roberts departed after lunch without adding to his score which, despite the circumstances, had included some classy shots.
Allaway and now Mordt continued to grind out the runs, but just as Allaway began to free his arms and deploy his trademark cut shot to good effect off the spinners, disaster struck in the form of a torn hamstring. Rendered virtually immobile, there was nothing he could subsequently do to get back just a matter of inches to prevent himself being stumped.
Allaway would play no part in the field, coach Todd Ferguson and, subsequently, Ryan Bezuidenhout deputising for him.
Thereafter, Mordt held things together, mainly scoring ones and twos, as a variety of middle and lower order partners came and went. His was the ninth wicket to go, leaving Tom Nugent and Gurveer Singh to scamper a few vital runs. A total of 144 off 64 overs was not exactly the score of the day, but low scores can be notoriously difficult to chase down and the wicket would be the same for both sides, if a little flatter in the afternoon.
Slough openers Hussein and Khan decided that getting there as quickly as possible was the way forward and rattled up 40 runs off just 10 overs before Shah was trapped lbw by Afridi. The score 41-1 soon became 54-4 as Khan soon followed, caught at first slip by Mordt off Afridi, Yusuf was caught and bowled by Nugent and Hussein was snapped up by Roberts at second slip off Nugent.
Charging in from the pavilion end, Nugent bowled quickly and had Slough skipper Sher caught behind with the short ball to leave the hosts on 69-5.
Zaman, showing restraint, and Ilyas briefly capitalised on Singh bowling a bit short to notch up a few boundaries.
Singh trapped Ilyas lbw and Zaman set off on an optimistic run that cost Rana his wicket thanks to a sharp assist by Carter at backward point, keeper McDermott whipping off the bails with Rana well short.
Afridi replaced Nugent at the pavilion end and though he saw off Zaman, caught at square leg by Carter, leaked few runs and no balls that threatened to shift the momentum to Slough as opening bowler Nawaz, also making capital out of Singh, showed he is no mug with the bat. But eight wickets had gone for less than 100 runs and Slough now faced a mountain to climb.
Mordt wasted no time in switching Afridi back to the other end and bringing Nugent back at the pavilion end and it paid almost immediate dividends as Nugent steamed in at fellow Berkshire player Sharath who could only parry the ball up and over the slips. Displaying athleticism, Mordt turned, ran, dived and held on for the most improbable catch of the day, leaving Slough with one wicket and 26 runs needed for victory.
Afridi had the last word and Akbar heard the death rattle of the bails hitting the ground as Sough were all out for 129. Henley picked up a valuable 23 points, having lost two due to a slow over rate, and ended Slough’s unbeaten record.
M Roberts, b Akbar 38
D Barnes, c Sher, b Khan 0
B McDermott, c Sher, b Khan 0
E Brock, run out 11
D Allaway, c Rana, b Akbar 33
B Mordt, c & b Akbar 33
S Davison, run out 3
M Carter, c Rana, b Khan 2
T Afridi, b Akbar 4
T Nugent, not out 3
G Singh, not out 4
TOTAL (9 wkts) 144
• Best bowling: A Akbar 4-32, S Khan 3-38.
W Hussain, c Roberts, b Nugent 19
N Shah, lbw, b Afridi 23
S Khan, c Mordt, b Afridi 4
S Yousaf, c & b Nugent 0
Z Sher, c McDermott, b Nugent 6
R Zaman, c Carter, b Afridi 17
O Ilyas, lbw, b Singh 9
S Rana, run out 0
R Sharath, c Mordt, b Nugent 9
R Nawaz, b Afridi 22
A Akbar, not out 2
• Best bowling: T Nugent 4-19, T Afridi 4-49.