HENLEY held off a spirited challenge by a young OXFORD team, already confined to relegation, to
HENLEY held off a spirited challenge by a young OXFORD team, already confined to relegation, to take their championship challenge into the final weekend of the Home Counties Premier League.
On their last visit to an overcast Roman Way, Henley won the toss and decided to bat on a firm wicket, but were soon reflecting on this as Bazley was bowled first ball by Rooney.
Matt Rowe joined Roberts and they progressed more conventionally through the first dozen overs before Roberts, with the score on 46, missed a pull shot to be dismissed lbw for Rooney’s second wicket.
Rowe was looking assured but witnessed a calamity at the other end as young Harvey Eltham’s first over became a double wicket maiden, leaving Henley struggling on 52-4.
Ashraf greeted the first off-break with an ill-judged hoick, only to be stumped, and Barnes was bowled two balls later.
Eltham continued to ask questions of the batters, extracting turn and bounce, and with the score on 75 at the half-way stage Rowe, on 39, went for one only to find an edge to be caught at slip.
Allaway and Mordt were now responsible for salvaging the innings and they acquitted themselves well, engineering a 92-run partnership including three fours for Allaway and five for Mordt as they took Henley to a position where they could kick on in the last 10 overs.
Allaway was bowled trying to turn one to leg, out for a creditable 37 on his 200th league match for Henley and Mordt, also now hitting out, was lbw for an excellent 58-run skipper’s innings.
Both wickets were Rooney’s, giving the seam bowler an excellent return of 4-35 from his 10 overs. Davison contributed another good cameo of 23 not out from 18 deliveries and Henley closed on 207-8.
Afridi and Nugent both started with a couple of maiden overs and Nugent’s early dismissal of Hall, caught behind from a fine edge, put the hosts on the back foot.
Clough and the stylish left-hander Perera progressed relatively untroubled but Henley’s attack were containing them well, such that they could only manage 11 runs in the first 11 overs.
Starting to go for their shots, they tripled the score in their next couple of overs, including a flurry of fours to defy Henley’s attacking field. The visitors adapted by bringing on Mordt and Singh, spreading the field and re-exerting their grip on the Â run-rate.
By the 23rd over, Oxford were on 66 when Clough’s attempted reverse-sweep popped the ball up to be readily taken by Nugent at second slip.
The hosts were still struggling to push on when Rowe trapped Perera lbw as he went to sweep, out for 36.
With the score on 84-3, Oxford had 19 overs to get 124 runs, at a rate of 6.5 an over. Rowe and Ashraf kept up the pressure and, with the required rate rising to nearly nine an over, this was bound to tell. Ashraf’s ninth consecutive over was a double-wicket maiden, both Barratt and Beer caught at deep mid-wicket by Nugent, remaining calm under the high hits.
In the last 10 overs, Oxford made a good fist of the chase, hitting out and with Freddie Simon especially productive, scoring 55 quick runs from 33 balls including four fours and the match’s only two sixes on this expansive ground.
Despite their best efforts, they still required 43 off the last four overs, which produced another three wickets, one for Singh and two for Nugent.
But Oxford finished a dozen runs short on 195-7, leaving Henley to celebrate and turn their minds to the season’s climax next week.