Friday, 18 June 2021

Morris bludgeons century as Henley get off to a flier

HENLEY began their Home Counties Premier League campaign with a straightforward win over newly promoted GREAT

HENLEY began their Home Counties Premier League campaign with a straightforward win over newly promoted GREAT AND LITTLE TEW at the Brakspear Ground on Saturday, posting a pretty unattainable 308 and seeing off the opposition, all out for 186.

On a glorious morning which brought out support in force for both clubs, the Tews won the toss and elected to bowl on a deceptively green top but in fact was an invitingly flat deck to bat on.

Choosing to field in such circumstances might have hinted at an overly defensive approach as Henley would have batted had debutant skipper Michael Roberts won the toss.

Four deliveries into the first over, the Tews could have been forgiven for thinking that there was nothing to this higher standard of Premier League cricket with both Henley openers back in the hutch. Matt Rowe went to pull through midwicket but instead found Tews’ Thomas wide of fine leg and Dave Allaway was adjudged lbw.

This was to be the Tews’ only moment in the sun as Roberts and new recruit Richard Morris put on a stand of 122 for the next wicket to see off the challenge of opening bowlers Woods and Lawrence Brock and lay the foundation for a big total.

Both batsmen had to bring their quality and experience to the fore, not to mention a healthy dose of circumspection and patience, to best the opening bowlers who probed away in good areas and stuck to their task with Thomas a more than useful left arm spinner. As a measure of the contest between bat and ball, it took until the 14th over to bring up 50 runs.

With changes in the bowling the runs began to flow. After a steady start, Morris overhauled his skipper to reach his 50 in the 26th over with Roberts doing the same an over later.

With the bat dominating the ball, the loss of Roberts, missing a Thomas Yorker, was something of a surprise. But, it did little to stem the flow of runs as Zia Ashraf immediately stamped his authority on the game, racing to 18 off 14 balls that included a six and three fours.

The visitors tried plenty of variety in their bowling but failed to exert any real pressure which allowed Ashraf to settle quickly and Morris to go up through the gears as he reached an accomplished century in the 40th over with a four, and following that up with a maximum.

Whilst both batsmen plundered boundaries almost at will, they also rotated the strike intelligently and exploited an increasingly spread field almost at will to pick up singles, pairs and the odd run three.

As the Tews ran out of ideas, so their bowling became increasingly expensive and the returning Woods and Lawrence Brock could not stem the tide, whilst Harris, White and Lloyd Brock were far too expensive.

Only left-arm spinner Thomas, with figures of 1-29 off his 10 overs, attained the standard needed to limit Henley to the sort of score capable of being chased down. Just when it looked as if he might set a new individual batting record on debut, Morris finally dropped one short to Lloyd Brock at long-off to be out for 134 runs off 125 balls that included 15 fours and six sixes.

Ashraf carried his bat to the end, returning figures of 84 off 68 balls (10 fours and a six) and although young debutant Euan Woods was a first ball duck, vice-captain/coach Stewart Davison and former skipper Bjorn Mordt both chipped in to take the score past 300 and set Tew a target in excess of a run a ball.

In reply, the Tews were never in the hunt. After 21 overs they had scored the same number of runs (79), but by then they were five wickets down and increasingly behind the required run rate with Morten, their Australian overseas from Perth CC, back in the pavilion, one of Gurveer Singh’s three victims, caught by Woods at long on.

Both openers had gone cheaply, Woodward caught behind off Tahir Afridi and White smartly run out by Ashraf. Smith was caught in the gully by Tom Nugent off the bowling of Mordt and Nugent’s pace was too much for Slatter.

At 98-8 in the 32nd over, the game should have been wrapped up in no time. Instead, it entered a rather surreal phase with Tews’ Lloyd Brock blasting away with freedom and some style, no doubt born of the fact that he could not change the outcome but also buoyed by some rather over-generous bowling and the odd lapse in the field. Eventually, Brock ran out of partners but not before the the visitors had been allowed to score at least 50 runs too many. Speaking after the match Henley skipper Roberts said: “The boys were very good today. A tricky start but we managed to rebuild and Richard’s hundred was outstanding. We wanted to make a statement with the bat and did just that. Moreover, if one of us in the top five can go through to 100 plus each week like Richard did, we’ll give ourselves good opportunities to win.

“We didn’t execute our skills particularly well with ball, Tahir being the exception. So we have some work to do this week on that. Great and Little Tew are a decent outfit with some useful players including an awkward left arm spinner. I think they’ll do more than just upset a few sides this year.”

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