Thursday, 20 June 2019

Rowe shines with bat and ball in opening day win

Rowe shines with bat and ball in opening day win

LAST Saturday marked the start of the Home Counties Premier League season, one which promises to be as competitive a year as the league has seen.

With much squad-bolstering over the winter across all sides, and HENLEY looking to be the first side to win three championships in as many years, somewhat unsurprisingly the defending champions’ round one victory over local rivals ASTON ROWANT proved to be as close and as exciting a game played between the two teams in recent years.

Despite setting a competitive total of 264-6 off their 50-overs, Henley were pushed right to the last over as Rowant skipper Josh Smith’s 127 off 121 balls underpinned an impressive run chase which in the end, fell only 18 runs short.

Having conceded 42 extras with the ball, Rowant will rue their lack of discipline in this department whilst Henley will look to improve on what was for their standards, a particularly average fielding display on the opening day of the season.

A bright yet chilly morning greeted the players and after a week’s worth of indifferent weather, Rowant captain Smith had no qualms in putting Henley into bat. However, the introduction of the pink Dukes ball in the 50-over games undoubtedly favours the batsmen and so any potential movement and swing there may have otherwise been was limited. Couple this with some inconsistent new-ball bowling, and Henley were able to get away from Rowant in the opening quarter of the game.

Both Michael Roberts and Matthew Rowe, who notched up another 150-run stand, combined patience with powerful strokeplay. The former looking to be aggressive against the seamers, whilst Rowe pounced on anything loose off the spinners.

Despite losing skipper Roberts, caught behind off the spin of Elliot Mathews, Middlesex’s Jack Davies and Rowe pressed onto 180 with the run rate fractionally under five per over.

However, in the space of 13-runs, Henley fell to 193-4: Rowe caught at point off the spin of George Reid, Richard Morris unluckily run out at the non-striker’s end and new recruit Tom Scriven trapped lbw to Reid.

With Euan Woods falling shortly after, bowled by Mathews, it took a patient and mature knock by Jack Davies to steer Henley to something which would be competitive. He was ably assisted by the evergreen Euan Brock, whose pre-season form translated into league contributions straight away, as he compiled an unflustered run-a-ball 24 to lift Henley up to 264-6 off their allotted overs. Although undoubtedly a competitive total, and with the wicket being tricky to simply come in and score on, Henley would have wanted a few more considering their start, and knew their skills would need to be on point to get their season off to a winning start.

Rowant’s chase began indifferently, with Henley’s senior paceman Tom Nugent bowling with speed and accuracy from the outset in combination with trustworthy Henley seamer Simon Wheeler.

Having accounted for Thomas Condon, caught behind by Davies, and bowling Andrew Tolson for 13, Henley’s opening burst looked to put the home side on the ropes, this despite missing the bowling skills of Andrew Rishton and Tom Scriven due to injury.

However, the introduction of Rowant captain Smith changed the complexion of the fixture, as he almost single-handedly guided Rowant from 35-2 up towards Henley’s total.

Henley’s spin-quartet of Woods, Raja, Rowe and Brock all bowled well for the most part, although could have perhaps been used in less formulaic fashion to ensure batters didn’t settle quite as easily as they did.

As such, Watling, Roussouw and Morrick all provided their captain with just enough support to keep momentum going in the home side’s favour, with Smith playing particularly well square of the wicket against the spinners.

The game may well have been wrapped up sooner if Henley could have held their catches, dropping Smith on three different occasions, however the Rowant man rode his luck and brought up an impressive century, albeit with the rate continuing to rise towards 10-an-over.

As batters came and went at the other end trying to find the rope, Smith eventually departed in the final over to Rowe, leaving the innings to crawl to a tame end and Henley victors by 18 runs.

Run-chasing is a tricky endeavour at the best of times, however from the side-lines you sensed this one required a gamble slightly earlier on than the last few overs if Rowant were going to come out on top.

When asked where improvements could be made for next week, skipper Roberts said: “We will look to sharpen most areas a little, but certainly the ground-fielding. I’ll also speak to the lads and see how we can ensure we’re a little less predictable with the ball, and what combinations might help us in this.”

Henley host Tring Park tomorow (Saturday) at the Brakspear Ground with an 11.30am start.

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