IN the end, Henley overcame Slough in a rather tense rain-affected game.
IN the end, Henley overcame Slough in a rather tense rain-affected game which, but for the efforts of the groundstaff and the umpires, could easily have been lost to the weather.
Win number 12 puts Henley more than 50 points clear of both Slough and Banbury at the top of the Home Counties Premier League.
Barring the theoretical possibility of being docked points for regulation breaches in the next two games, Henley have won the league and are champions elect.
A damp, dank and overcast morning greeted the teams and spectators as drizzle delayed the 11am start and when play got under way at 12.23, the overs apiece had been reduced to 43.
It was certainly a toss to win and having done so, Henley skipper Bjorn Mordt had no hesitation in bowling.
Ten minutes later the drizzle returned and the ensuing break reduced the overs to 35 each.
Slough had plainly decided to tee off and swing the bat at everything that moved. But by living by the sword, their openers duly perished by it, both Hussein and Shah caught behind off Tahir Afridi.
Undeterred, Khan and Yusuf kept up the momentum, only for Yusuf to be brilliantly caught by Davison at long off whilst a fizzing delivery from Cameron Boyce that had real turn and bounce ended up in the hands of Mordt at slip off Slough skipper Sher’s bat to make it 51-4.
With Boyce and Mordt now exerting control with the ball, the job got harder for Slough.
Baig was lbw to Boyce and Zaman was far too casual for his own good, failing to ground his bat and being run out by Boyce to make it 85-6.
This brought Jamshad to the crease, normally an opener but nursing a sore finger so batting lower down.
Whilst he and the excellent Khan were at the wicket, Slough were in the hunt as the pair quietly began to accumulate. Mordt rang the changes, even bringing on Dave Barnes for an over. But in the end, Jamshad brought about his own demise going for a risky run and paying the price as Todd Ferguson had the presence of mind to roll the ball back to Boyce who did the rest.
Khan was next to go thanks to an outstanding catch by Michael Roberts inches off the deck at deep mid-wicket, bowled Gurveer Singh, and after that it was as good as over as Boyce bowled Butt and Singh and Roberts combined for an almost identical dismissal of Nawaz. Overall, an outstanding performance in the field by Henley.
The rain returned at the interval with considerable force and for a while it looked as though the game might be lost to the weather if it did not resume by 4.52pm.
But by dint of some excellent work from the Henley faithful, pressed into groundstaff duties, the square and outfield were made playable and play was underway by 4.35pm.
Reduced to an innings of 23 overs, Henley now needed 100 exactly for victory. With Roberts adjudged caught behind off the first ball of the innings, things did not get off to an ideal start but this was the cue for Hamza Riazuddin to come in and play one of his most fluent innings of the summer.
Slough did not help their cause by a litany of misfields and overthrows. Barnes contributed a meaty 20 before being caught at cover but Riazuddin and an incoming Fahim Qureshi, playing his last game for Henley, motored on whilst Slough deployed eight bowlers with varying degrees of success.
Riazuddin deposited a free hit onto the main road and later followed it up with another massive six that ended up somewhere in the undergrowth on Remenham Hill.
Meanwhile, Qureshi went about his business with some fine boundaries before Riazuddin holed out at long-off with just two runs needed.
Qureshi scampered the first before the incoming Mordt appropriately sealed his side’s victory with a deft dab through the slips.
So there it is, the league in effect won with two games to go.
In the only other game played, Banbury defeated Harpenden to go second whilst the bottom six, none of whom played, will have it all to do in the last two games of the season.
Tomorrow Henley take on fourth-placed Harpenden, whose challenge for the title fizzled out in the second half of the season.
Harpenden had the better of the return game at the Brakspear Ground in June thanks to a mighty knock by Will Jones (113) and Henley survived the day to draw.
Henley want to end the season with a record points haul for Division 1 and make up for the underpar game earlier in the season.
The points record of 344 is currently held by High Wycombe in 2012.
Henley will be without Fahim Qureshi and Michael Roberts, who is on Hampshire duty, while Cam Boyce plays his last game for 2013 before returning to Queensland.
Report by Robert MacLeish, pictures by Angela Davison