Thursday, 24 June 2021

High Wycombe hold on to share of the spoils

HENLEY had to content themselves with the better end of a draw against HIGH WYCOMBE at

HENLEY had to content themselves with the better end of a draw against HIGH WYCOMBE at the Brakspear Ground last Saturday in a game which, given the weather, was fortunate to reach a conclusion.

Under uncertain skies, Henley lost the toss and were invited to bat. Dave Barnes was an early casualty, caught at point, bringing captain Michael Roberts to the wicket rather earlier than he might have hoped to join Matt Rowe who started as he went on, carving Wycombe’s Burden through the covers in the first over in decisive style.

Roberts settled in with a couple of boundaries over and through the slips and an attempted pull shot that went down to fine leg. But after that, Burden, Parsons and then Sawyer offered few challenges and a regular supply of overpitched or otherwise punishable balls which both batsmen dispatched, mainly through the covers and down the ground.

After an hour, a stiff rain shower intervened, bringing play to an abrupt halt as groundsman Charlie Jacobsen, some of the Henley players and a small army of willing helpers rushed about to get the covers on and sheeting on other key areas. Thanks to this sterling work, play was able to resume shortly after 2pm, though the available overs had been reduced to 91 (49/42).

Rain would return at times throughout the rest of the game but never in sufficient quantities to persuade the umpires that enough was enough.

Rowe brought up his team’s 100 and his 50 in the 24th over and Roberts followed an over later smiting left-arm spinner Haddon over long-off for six. The advent of spin through Haddon and Amjaid, both teenagers who have come through Wycombe’s youth programme, did have the effect of applying the breaks and accounted for both batsmen as they sought to force the pace. Dropped the ball before, Roberts was caught behind in the 31st over, so ending a 124 run partnership and Rowe was also caught behind a couple of overs later to make it 139-3.

In times past, the departure of the top three Henley batsmen might have signalled something of a collapse or a below par score but not anymore, as Richard Morris signalled his intent with a six that cleared the roadway on Remenham Hill before putting both spinners to the sword in spectacular style, notably in the 46th over when Amjaid went for 28 in the form of four fours and two sixes.

Caught and bowled by Burden an over later, Morris’s destructive 84 came off 43 balls and included eight fours and four sixes, though he could count himself fortunate to have been dropped twice in the 42nd over. Ironically, both drops led respectively to a four and a six. Along the way Morris was supported by Zia Ashraf and Euan Woods as Henley set the visitors 259 for victory.

Such a total in just 42 overs was always going to be an uphill task for Wycombe, the more so with Benning and Baker missing. Certainly as uphill as the task of taking all 10 wickets in 42 overs on a batsman-friendly track.

Once skipper Hawkes and the experienced Sawyer departed, the visitors shut up shop and focussed on avoiding defeat which they successfully managed.

This was not before Davson scored an accomplished, unflashy and unbeaten 103 off 128 balls (17 fours and a six). Henley were once again excellent in the field and Roberts rang the changes with his bowlers. Had Davson or Cranfield-Thompson been removed with some overs to go, a rather youthful and lengthy tail would have been exposed and things might have panned out differently. But it was not to be and Henley had to settle for 12 points to Wycombe’s seven.

Nonetheless skipper Roberts drew plenty of positives from the day. Speaking after the game the batsman said: “We batted really well, Rower especially setting up the game beautifully for Richard to take apart the spin in the latter overs of the innings — Rich is one of the best players I’ve seen in this period of the game and it makes for great viewing. He was brilliantly supported by Zippy and Woodsy as well.

“Then with the ball, it was always going to be a challenge getting 10 wickets against a good batting side, on a flat wicket in 42 overs. However our skills almost got us through and we always felt in the game, which bodes well going forward.

“Every bowler contributed well and if it were not for a very competent performance by Davson, we may well have gone through the lower order.”

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