Thursday, 24 June 2021

Henley are knocked off top spot as title race hots up

HENLEY succumbed to a surprise defeat — their first at home this season — to a

HENLEY succumbed to a surprise defeat — their first at home this season — to a BURNHAM side better able to adapt to the conditions at the Brakspear Ground on Saturday.

Although falling behind High Wycombe in the title chase, all is not lost since they play the new leaders at home in the final match of the season, a week on Saturday.

Henley won the toss on a scorching day but decided to field because of a lingering early dampness in the pitch, and initially this appeared to pay off.

Nugent reproduced his recent fine form, dismissing Siddique and Sajid Ali in the first 10 overs, lbw and bowled respectively.

Mordt brought himself on and, in his second and third overs, accounted for the visitors’ key batsmen, Aftab Khan and Karen Kumar. Both were caught by Afridi at mid-on, the first being a particularly good effort as he struggled to get underneath the high shot.

Singh, now operating in tandem with his skipper, had Burnham’s captain Gandam well caught at second slip by Nugent from a fine knick and Burnham were 58-5 in the 18th over. Nadeem soon followed, bowled playing on to Mordt and all the visitors had left was their tailend and the imposing figure of their remaining opener Mohammed Fazal.

Fazal batted resolutely and few would realise the importance of his innings of 67 including eight fours and a six, before being caught at long-off by Barnes to complete Mordt’s impressive spell of 4-19.

Ashraf picked up two late wickets, Malik caught on the mid-wicket boundary for Afridi’s third catch and Haroon in the slips by Mordt, and the turn evidenced by Henley’s spinners was not lost on Burnham, who finished on a modest 135 all out in the 43rd over.

Henley replied with their worst batting performance of the season. This time they could not rely on Roberts and, by the end of the power-play, they were four down for 39 runs.

Barnes was first out, lbw to Aftab Khan, his right-arm offspin being deployed from the beginning. Roberts was bowled leg stump by Haroon in the next over, the only victim to fall to seam.

Allaway, making a good fist of substituting for the injured Rowe at three, watched on as Khan’s fifth over provided another brace of quick wickets. Ashraf was bowled, missing a big hit to leg which did not seem best advised with the score on 39, and next ball Brock was surprised by one that turned and kept low to hit him lbw.

Mordt and Allaway made the best use of their combined experience to take the score on to 72, when the skipper was adjudged lbw in Gandam’s first over.

With half their wickets and 30 overs left, the remaining target of 64 appeared perfectly achievable, but Burnham increased the pressure, rapidly rotating their four right and left-arm spinners, each bowling on a good length and making the most of the advantage provided by the pitch.

Bazley fell early, edging to slip from the wily left-arm of Azhar Ali, but Davison and Allaway settled down for a dozen overs to take the score to 112 before Javed started his second spell with a wicket maiden, a shorter length ball inducing Allaway to half-hit his shot to mid-on to be caught by Haroon, out for 39 including five fours and a six to the pavilion.

In the next over Davison dabbed at another good delivery from Ali, again caught at slip, and with the score stuck on 114 it was becoming unlikely that Henley’s bowlers could pull this one out of the fire and they could not, as they were all out for 116 with 11 overs unused.

Henley need to bounce straight back at Oxford and steel themselves, weather permitting, for the final reckoning against High Wycombe.

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