Thursday, 17 June 2021

Batsmen struggle as crown slips away

THE championship decider for the Home Counties Premier League proved an anti-climax for HENLEY as they

THE championship decider for the Home Counties Premier League proved an anti-climax for HENLEY as they lost out to rivals HIGH WYCOMBE in a low-scoring encounter.

This was not how the team had intended to mark the last game as skipper for Bjorn Mordt, a tremendous servant for the club, after 10 hugely successful seasons, including four championships.

The dull and chilly conditions following earlier rain had done nothing to improve the condition of the wicket.

The decision at the delayed toss was therefore not an easy one, but Henley chose to bat first and it was not long before they were up against it.

Jonathan Burden, Wycombe’s tall and fair opening seamer, bowled Michael Roberts for a duck with the fifth ball.

Roberts had scored more than 800 runs this season, making him the home team’s player of the season.

Burden’s second over exacerbated Henley’s difficulties as Allaway, again deputising at three for the absent Rowe, left a ball which he expected to miss off but it clipped his pad and Wycombe’s joy was doubled as the umpire’s finger was raised.

Barnes and Ashraf were now in damage limitation mode and played diligently to ward off the threat of the bowlers, the slow pitch, and some excellent Wycombe fielding.

An hour after the start, Henley had scored just 30 runs and now sought to attack the military medium-seamer Duncan, yet the 19th over proved a double wicket maiden as Barnes played early on one to present a straightforward catch to short midwicket and then Mordt’s attempted glance found the keeper’s gloves.

By the halfway stage, Henley were 39-4 and their chance was slipping away. Davison did bludgeon three fours but was out lbw, trying to sweep Kyle Simmonds, Wycombe’s South African left arm bowler and the league’s leading wicket taker.

Ashraf, after a valiant two hours at the crease, had no option but to go on the offensive and top-edged to mid-on with Henley still only on 61 with a quarter of the innings remaining.

Young leg-spinner Uzair Amjaid soon cleared up the remaining resistance, bowling Brock, Carter and Afridi as they went for shots and ending matters by catching Nugent off his own bowling to leave Henley all out in the 48th over for just 80 runs. The only option for the defending champions was to press Wycombe’s top-order batters, but Hose and Baker safely negotiated the normally devastating fast bowlers Afridi and Nugent.

It was when Mordt turned to his spinners that things started to happen. Baker was bowled by Ashraf, firing in a ball that turned and stayed low, and in the next over Hose misjudged a delivery from Singh and gifted a catch to Brock at cover.

In his next over Singh had the left-handed Sawyer lbw and Wycombe were suddenly 30-3 with Henley daring to hope as the pressure mounted.

Nathan Hawkes, the visitors’ captain, had enjoyed an excellent season with the bat but was looking hesitant and came close on a couple of occasions to conceding his wicket.

The tension was eased by Wycombe’s number five, Cranfield-Thompson, who decided to have a go and dispatched two big sixes to deep mid-wicket plus a couple of fours including a reverse sweep before falling lbw to Ashraf as he went for another big hit.

Although the visitors were four down, they were now only 23 runs from victory and Hawkes himself now had the confidence to hit two sixes and two fours to see Wycombe home to another championship, their seventh since the HCPCL started in 2000.

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