Saturday, 24 July 2021

Henley close gap at the top with comfortable home win

HENLEY put the frustrations of recent weeks behind them to record an emphatic home victory and

HENLEY put the frustrations of recent weeks behind them to record an emphatic home victory and the season double over visitors BURNHAM in Division 1 of the Home Counties Premier League on Saturday.

The visitors won the toss and chose to bat but soon found themselves in trouble, all out for 120 on the stroke of lunch, which Henley chased down in 23.3 overs for the loss of just two wickets. The result moved Henley up to second place in the table, just three points behind leaders Finchampstead.

Any concerns that the absence of Tom Nugent and Tahir Afridi would detract from the Henley bowling attack were rapidly dispelled. Henley first team debutant Nigel Dunstan took the new ball and was partnered at the Pavilion End by Bjorn Mordt who revelled in the overcast and sultry conditions, ideal for his brand of swing bowling.

Eight overs in, and Burnham were reeling at 23-3, Dunstan picking up all three wickets as Ali skied a ball that keeper Stewart Davison took, Nadeem was snapped at cover by Morris and Aftab Khan, Burnham’s overseas professional, steered his first delivery to Matt Rowe at gully. Dunstan was also involved in the fourth wicket, Mordt’s first, as surviving opener Raja parried the ball to the waiting Dunstan at mid-wicket.

Ahmed came in and played his shots but was soon undone by his rather cavalier approach, Henley skipper Michael Roberts taking a sharp catch at second slip off Mordt, who, three balls later, had Malik caught at first slip in what was a double wicket maiden.

At 54-6 the writing was on the wall and both opening bowlers had done a good job, Mordt (10 overs, three maidens, 3-28) taking full advantage of the conditions and the new ball and Dunstan (seven overs, two maidens, 3-22) consistently bowling the right side of the wicket in the right areas and making the batsmen play.

After that, it was just a matter of time as Burnham tried to consolidate against the left arm spin of Euan Brock and Gurveer Singh. Singh prized out Burnham skipper Gandam, caught at slip by Mordt to make it 79-7 which soon became 86-8 as Singh had Shabir stumped. It fell to Zia Ashraf to pick up the last two wickets.

Burnham’s Singh mounted a rearguard action and did his best to give his side something to bowl at, carting Ashraf for three sixes and a one-bounce four but Ashraf, having already bagged Javed lbw, just kept tossing the ball up and temping Singh and soon enough, Singh located Brock at deep mid-wicket for the last wicket on the stroke of 1pm.

In reply Dave Barnes was an early casualty shouldering arms to a ball that clipped the top of off-stump. He was soon followed by Matt Rowe who pushed to mid-wicket and set off for a single only for Singh to pick up and shy the stumps with unerring accuracy, all the more impressive because, on the angle, he had little more than a stump to aim at.

After that Henley cruised to victory, Roberts, who had announced himself with a couple of cover driven boundaries and a pulled four to mid-wicket, was joined by Richard Morris who was himself soon on the money in like style.

Both batsmen despatched the bad ball with interest and exploited the increasingly wide open spaces for singles and run twos. After 19 overs the score stood at 78 with Morris on 32 and Roberts on 30. It was the introduction of more spin in the form of Javed on the 20th over that hastened the end, Morris hammering the bowler for four fours and a single.

After that, it took just three-and-a-half overs to knock off the remainder, Morris, fortunate to be dropped at slip, closing the game out just after 3pm with a final boundary through the covers and a top score of 66.

All in all this was an excellent performance in all respects by Henley, especially a return to the high fielding standards that had malfunctioned at Tring Park and were noticeably absent at Great and Little Tew. It was also pleasing to note that the game, whilst played competitively, was played in a good spirit.

Speaking after the game a delighted skipper Roberts said: “This was a very pleasing performance today, especially bouncing back after what felt a little like a defeat last week. We nailed our basic skill sets and were disciplined throughout, especially with the ball.

“Nigel was great on debut and was supported brilliantly by the spinners. Then with the bat, we were calm and soaked up any pressure there may have been, with Rich putting the game to bed in the last five or six overs.

“Despite the issues prevalent in the same fixture nine weeks ago, today’s fixture was played in good competitive spirit. We’re in a good place right now but know we still have areas to improve before Reading.”

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