HENLEY opened up a 19 point lead once again at the top of Division 1 of the Home Counties Premier
HENLEY opened up a 19 point lead once again at the top of Division 1 of the Home Counties Premier League following an 84-run victory at Slough on Saturday.
Heavy cloud and a strong and persistent breeze coupled with the odd shower made it a miserable day for cricket. Overnight rain had left water on the covers that had to be removed and the game finally got under way at midday with the the overs reduced to 57/46.
Slough skipper Bobby Sher won the toss and put Henley into bat on what turned out to be a slow stodgy wicket with a slow outfield.
From the off Sher deployed spinner Butt who bowled 24 overs with the seamer Nawaz operating from the other end.
Progress was slow and it took until the seventh over for Fahim Qureshi to register the first boundary.
Gradually Dave Barnes got the measure of Butt, hammering him for a couple of sixes while Qureshi’s deft and powerful placement of the ball found the gaps in the field.
Zaman replaced Nawaz for three overs before Yusuf brought together an all-spin attack.
At lunch Henley were 58-1 off 17 overs, Qureshi lbw to Zaman.
Continued spin and several showers hampered the Henley innings and reduced yet further the available overs to 53.
Barnes played on off his thigh pad but Hamza Riazuddin and Dave Allaway ground out the runs until Allaway went to pull and was caught at midwicket.
Tahir Afridi was brought up the order to force the pace and 22 runs off 17 balls had the desired effect, Afridi signing off with a six before chipping tamely down the ground and getting caught.
By then Riazuddin had suffered a similar fate and Bjorn Mordt’s contribution ended as he charged down the wicket and was bowled.
With 10 overs remaining Henley had only mustered 130 runs and the final total of 202 owed much to a fearless approach by Stewart Davison whose unbeaten 32 off 26 balls put Slough on the back foot and emboldened his teammates, Cameron Boyce’s sliced six over point being an example.
In reply Slough openers Jamshad and Hussein shrugged off a slow start to exploit a degree of waywardness on Tom Nugent’s part and it was not long before Mordt opted for the spin of Boyce from the Pavilion End for the remainder of the game.
Hussein was his first victim courtesy of a stumping by Todd Ferguson.
Between them, Boyce and Afridi ripped the heart out of the Slough batting order. Simpson was Boyce’s second victim, lbw. Afridi replaced Nugent to remove Yusuf, caught by Mordt at slip and then clean bowled Khan and Sher.
At 80-5 Slough began to look ragged and when Jamshad failed to cope with an Afridi bouncer which he could only parry to Allaway at shortish square leg, the home side began to unravel, survival for a draw now being their only option.
That option looked increasingly unlikely when Shah subjected himself to a run out, Allaway, who had parried the ball before recycling it to Boyce, leaving the batsman stranded. Zaman drove Boyce to Riazuddin at mid-off to make it 96-8.
By now firmly on the defensive, Butt and Rana began to look comfortable as the overs dwindled and it took a reflex catch inches off the ground by Davison at square leg off Boyce to remove Butt and make it 106-9. Nugent returned but Rana’s solid defensive technique did not let him down.
The weak link was Nawaz and whilst it might have been an idea to bring Afridi back from the other end to prize him out, Mordt persisted with Boyce into the penultimate over.
Four dot balls were followed by an appeal for caught behind as a disbelieving Nawaz was given out. At the other end Rana stormed off, divesting himself of most of his equipment along the way in a voluble fit of pique that did little credit to himself, or indeed to a game which was otherwise played in good spirit.