Sunday, 20 June 2021

Batting collapse proves costly as hosts tighten grip on title

HENLEY suffered their heaviest defeat of the season as they were comprehensively outplayed by a FINCHAMPSTEAD

HENLEY suffered their heaviest defeat of the season as they were comprehensively outplayed by a FINCHAMPSTEAD side who took a big step towards winning this season’s Home Counties Premier League Division 1 title on Saturday.

Winning the toss, Henley decided to bat, a fair decision given that the wicket was a flat batting track. However, it was not long before Jandre Coetzee had adjusted his sights, following a few wides, to dismiss Jack Davies lbw with a ball that kept low.

In no time at all, Henley were two down as Matt Rowe slapped a Carter delivery to cover to make it 14-2. Coetzee continued to be a bit wayward and was frustrated by several rejected appeals.

There was nothing wrong with his sat nav when Henley skipper Michael Roberts fractionally misjudged a leave with the ball swinging just enough to graze the off stump and remove the bail. At 31-3, the hosts were elated and Henley were reeling.

Finchampstead skipper Matt Jones took Coetzee off and replaced him in the 13th over with 17-year-old Hodges who charged in enthusiastically. Richard Morris chased a widish delivery and was caught behind, whilst Stewart Davison replicated Rowe’s soft dismissal by clipping his third delivery faced to Coetzee at point.

At 46-5, any hopes of setting Finch a large total to chase had largely evaporated and became even more ephemeral when Euan Woods got himself out exactly the same way as Davison, spooning 17-year-old Uttley’s innocuous spin to Dewes at point.

Some semblance of order was restored with Bjorn Mordt joining Zia Ashraf at the crease. Ashraf had quietly got himself in and by drinks, Mordt had brought all his experience to bear and done likewise, only for Ashraf to top edge an attempted sweep to square leg where Jonathan Dewes’s catch gave his brother his sole wicket for the day.

After that it was really a matter of time and it was to Mordt’s great credit that he kept the innings going as long as he did. After Tahir Afridi had sent an Adam Dewes delivery crashing into the pavilion end sight screen for six and had despatched him for another boundary, Jones brought back Coetzee from the pavilion end and Afridi was caught behind.

Tom Nugent gamely added a few before being well caught low down at mid-wicket and it fell to Mordt and Gurveer Singh to see out the innings. Having kept the scoreboard ticking with some attractive stroke play from both batsmen and seen off Carter and almost Coetzee, six overs remained to make hay. But it was not to be as Singh was run out much to Mordt’s frustration as Henley were all out for 129.

In reply and with the sun now shining, Finchampstead sent in Rishton and Rogers. Rishton, the former Reading player and a shrewd close season signing by the hosts, looked every inch the opener and set off in fine uninhibited style, hammering a somewhat wayward Nugent all over the shop.

By the time Rogers was caught behind for just one run from 18 deliveries, Rishton was already on 30 and continued to the end in the same vein despatching all the Henley bowlers all over the park, although he can count himself fortunate not to have been run out and later caught at midwicket.

Adam Dewes showed early intent only to be stumped and Jones was run out thanks to a bullet like return by Morris. But this only brought Lincoln to the fore. Lincoln, who hits a long ball a long way, motored to 36 off 18 balls, leaving it to Rishton to score the winning run on the stroke of 4pm at the start of the 23rd over to end the day undefeated on 76.

Henley will look back on a day where an abject batting performance characterised by a litany of soft dismissals most probably allowed the title to slip away. Though Coetzee was not the destroyer he has been in recent games, he has plainly inspired and galvanised a youthful and talented Finchampstead side to great heights. Henley, on the other hand, with the bat at least, looked a shadow of their usual selves.

After the game Henley skipper Roberts was philosophical but realistic. He said: “Obviously a really disappointing result today, considering our preparation and attitude going into the game were top drawer.

“The manner in which we batted completely belied our skills and temperament for such fixtures and that really hurts at the moment. However the game also shows we still have plenty of areas to work on as a group, and that will keep us engaged and motivated for the next three games and then on to preparation for 2017.

“Credit must go to Finch, who have been impressive this season as a unit and have been led exceptionally by Coetzee’s performances. Winning is a habit and they’re personifying that at the moment.

“Nonetheless we’ll push them hard right up to September 3 and will be ready to pounce on any mistakes.”

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