Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Skipper top scores as side take honours

WITH Michael Roberts leading from the front and posting a captain’s innings, HENLEY chalked up

WITH Michael Roberts leading from the front and posting a captain’s innings, HENLEY chalked up victory at BURNHAM in an unsavoury Home Counties Premier League encounter on Saturday.

Winning the toss, Burnham invited their guests to bat on a sunny morning, marred by only a nagging chill breeze. The wisdom of that call appeared well justified after 10 overs with Henley three wickets down and just 24 runs on the board.

Burnham’s opening bowlers Haroon and Singh, maintaining good line and length posed questions with almost every ball and at one point the home side deployed five slips and two gullies.

Matt Rowe was caught behind wafting at a ball that was too close to cut and David Barnes, having serially played and missed, finally succumbed to a clever change of tactics as Burnham skipper Gandam directed Singh to come round the wicket and deliver a ball which bounced more than anticipated, and which the batsman could only parry to Nadeem in the gully.

When Richard Morris tamely spooned a Malik delivery to Gandam at mid-off for a simple catch, alarm bells were ringing. But in Roberts, Burnham came up against the immovable object. Taking charge and tucking his first delivery off his legs for a run three, Roberts was off and running and never allowed the ball to dominate. He was well supported along the way by Zia Ashraf, Stewart Davison and Euan Woods, the latter once again showing maturity beyond his years with both bat and ball.

A slow outfield and quality spin bowling made for a pretty attritional battle and runs did not come easy. But once again Henley batted with initiative and inventiveness and Roberts marshalled his troops well and rotated the strike to keep the scoreboard ticking along.

Ashraf succumbed to Khan lbw, but left-hander Woods showed plenty of guile and placement for 26. Davison’s bludgeoning came to a premature end when he top edged an attempted pull shot to point. Nonetheless, the runs were on the board and by the time Roberts finally miscued one ramp shot too many to Haroon at fine leg, Henley were 184 runs to the good, 92 coming from the captain — off 116 balls including seven fours. Bjorn Mordt, Tom Nugent and Tahir Afridi, coupled with 24 extra saw Henley post 203 runs.

It was not long into the Burnham innings before the fireworks began. Siddique, nursing an injured hand, was out caught wafting ineffectually off Afridi’s second ball but it was the departure of Fazal which lit the touch paper. Having carved Nugent for a couple of boundaries in Nugent’s first over, in the third over, Fazal completely missed a Nugent bouncer which cannoned into his helmet. Four balls later, he could only sky the ball to Morris at cover point. Unhappy at the manner of his dismissal, he completed his run to the other end by kicking over all three stumps and then having to be forcibly restrained and removed from the field. Umpires Reed and Royle wasted little time awarding five penalty runs against Burnham so increasing their target to 208.

The game resumed and Mordt took a catch low down at slip to remove Kumar and make it 14-3. However, with quality all-rounder Khan at the wicket, now joined by the in-form Nadeem, the job was far from done but the Henley bowlers proved equal to the task. Nugent and Afridi kept it tight and Mordt’s four overs went for 16. However, it was the spinners who did the job and would close out the game.

Whilst Khan and Nadeem stayed there, the score mounted steadily. It took a two-handed catch by skipper Roberts running to his right and leaping through the air at mid-off to remove Nadeem and so break a 71 run partnership. Gandam now joined Khan, but Henley’s Singh was like a rock under a skyer which he called for at mid-off for Woods’s first wicket.

Woods bowled all 10 of his allotted overs and broke the back of the Burnham innings. Haroon went to hoick him out of the ground and was clean bowled and when Woods bowled Khan, that was pretty much it. Javed was next to go, run out, another controversial event, followed by Singh, caught at shortish mid-on by Morris, Woods’s fourth victim.

Wicket-keeper Ali, hobbling with a torn hamstring and batting with a runner, was no more than a passenger and Ashraf brought proceedings to a close with Malek caught at wide long off by Nugent as Henley won by 61 runs.

Speaking after the game, a delighted Roberts said: “It was a really good win, and I’m extremely proud of the boys and how they stuck the task. It’s always a competitive and feisty affair, but we were able to focus on nailing our game plans better and simply out-cricketed them in all departments.

“We posted what was a very competitive score but knew of the dangerous players they have at their disposal. Nugent and Afridi set the tone beautifully and set the platform for our spinners, all of whom were outstanding especially Euan Woods. It was great to contribute this week, but even better to get the job done as a team.”

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