Saturday, 14 December 2019

Record breaking champions end unbeaten season in style

Record breaking champions end unbeaten season in style

RECORDS tumbled at HENLEY’S Brakspear Ground last Saturday as the home side thrashed DATCHET by eight wickets in their final match of the season.

Champions Henley became the first side to go the whole of the Home Counties Premier League Division 1 campaign unbeaten and recorded more wins (14) and amassed more available points than any other club in a season since the competition started 19 years ago.

This is on top of winning the league a record eight times and doing so three years in a row, which no other club has achieved — not to mention being unbeaten in 30 games since May 2018.

Winning the toss and batting first afforded Datchet an opportunity to go out and challenge their hosts to a proper contest. Even if they were missing Berkshire stalwarts James Morris and Chris Peploe, the reality proved to be rather different.

There was more than a demob-happy, end of season feel about the visitors and it reflected itself in their batting which, two honourable exceptions apart, was lackadaisical and short on commitment, no more so than in their captain, Naylor who serially swung and missed until connecting with a Euan Woods delivery and holing out languidly to deepish mid-wicket, almost on his way before the catch was taken.

By then, fellow opener Barrett had had his off-stump removed by Tom Nugent. After which wickets fell with steady regularity, Woods taking a stinger of a caught and bowled to send Jenner on his way, soon followed by Thomas to make it 46-5.

Sher, one of the two honourable exceptions, got his head down, played sensibly and put away, to profitable effect, the balls that were there to be hit. Both he and the other honourable exception, former Henley seamer Tom Lambert, were assisted in their endeavours by some wayward bowling by Andrew Rishton who, when not bowling wides, was serving up some good deliveries for dispatching to and over the boundary.

Rishton saw off Birts, caught at cover by Henley skipper Mike Roberts, followed swiftly by Smithson, thanks to one of Tom Nugent’s remarkable trademark slip catches whereby, despite his height, he manages to catch a ball millimetres off the ground.

Nugent also finally ended Sher’s resistance, but Lambert, raucously urged on by his teammates, battled on until he ran out of partners and could do no more. Behind Sher, “Extras” was the second highest scorer, contributing no less than 34 runs to Datchet’s modest 149.

The Henley response was contrastingly clinical and efficient, and it was done and dusted in the 21st over for the loss of just Matt Rowe, caught at slip with the score on 60, and later Rishton caught at point, by which time the score was just shy of 100.

Jack Davies, soon to depart for Essendon Cricket Club to hone his skills in the Victoria Premier League in Australia, continued his rich vein of form with an unbeaten 53 off just 28 balls including six fours and three sixes.

The same went for Richard Morris with 23 from 11 balls, one six and three fours including the final four of the innings that sealed the win from Birt’s profligate third over that went for 17, although the figures of all the Datchet bowlers suggested that they were keen to get it over with sooner rather than later.

And so the curtain comes down on a magnificent season the equalling or bettering of which will be a real challenge in 2020.

Skipper Michael Roberts was understandably extremely happy with the season’s successes, and after the match he said: “It’s certainly a lovely feeling to break the records we have this season, and it’ll give us something to aim for next year.

“However, the most satisfying part is to see such a special group of lads, who’ve been grafting since the cold Sunday mornings at Shiplake College in January, enjoy the fruits of their labour.”

Speaking about next year’s campaign Robert added: “We’ve got some downtime now but in November we’ll sit down and look at where the club wants to go and how the first team can best facilitate this.

“We’ve got some fantastic youth coming through and so the future looks very bright indeed.”

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