Monday, 14 June 2021

Henley make light work of rivals before rainsets in

ON a day when rain was forecast to sweep in during the afternoon, the only viable

ON a day when rain was forecast to sweep in during the afternoon, the only viable plan to complete and win a game was to win the toss, put the opposition into bat, get them out for as few runs as possible and knock off the requited total in short order.

Against READING last Saturday HENLEY duly ticked all those boxes and left with all 20 points. The only other game not cancelled or abandoned in the Home Counties Premier League was that at Burnham where Banbury emerged winners by some distance. Henley and Banbury now head Division 1 with maximum points after three rounds of matches.

With a stiff breeze and chill rain at Reading’s Sonning Lane the match eventually got under way half an hour late at midday. Henley skipper Michael Roberts won his first toss of the season and put Reading into bat.

As the players and officials took the field the game was held up for a further 15 minutes as the pitch had not been marked, no stumps erected and no inner ring markers deployed.

When play did eventually start on on a strip which was slow, low and lacking in pace and carry, the hosts immediately began to capitulate. Only veteran opener Tom Fray, bowled by Tahir Afridi for the ninth wicket, having scored 27, showed any application or resistance but the rot had set in in the seventh over when Tom Nugent dismissed Jheeta caught sharply at slip by Bjorn Mordt. Middlesex man Andersson was next to go, lbw Afridi, and the same fate befell Aussie James who was caught in at least two if not more minds how to defend a Nugent delivery which cannoned into his pads.

Wickets fell in steady procession with all the bowlers getting in on the act. Mordt came on to bowl in the 19th over and was rewarded with a wicket maiden, Slatcher the victim, lbw. Gurveer Singh was the spinner of the day, extracting plenty of turn with three wickets coming off his eight overs for just 16 runs.

Amjad was stumped for a second ball duck, Gemmill caught at wide mid-off by David Barnes, also for a duck and Beaven snaffled at slip by Nugent. Once again, Euan Woods also got in on the act to remove R Singh, another Nugent slip victim, and last man Nasim lbw.

It was all over in just 36.2 overs. Roberts kept his field up throughout and the fielding did not disappoint as the hosts were all out for 69.

Umpires Ennis and Shilling opted to carry straight on with the game and with the interval set for 3.30pm, Henley had just 54 minutes to amass the required runs. Fall short and the expected rain would put paid to the game. The visitors were left wondering whether the lost 15 minutes at the start would come back to haunt them.

In the event they did it with just four minutes to spare, closing out the game in the 11th over with rain already falling. Openers Barnes and Matt Rowe showed plenty of purpose and impetus from the off before Barnes was adjudged lbw. A similarly purposeful start from skipper Roberts came to a premature close when he was well caught at midwicket.

Richard Morris joined Rowe for both of them to demonstrate that it was possible to bat positively and accumulate quickly in the prevailing conditions. Both players deployed a range of proper cricket shots to all parts and ran hard to wring every run possible from every delivery.

Boundaries were not that easy given the state and size of the ground, so run threes were the order of the day where possible.

Rowe perished with just nine runs to go and Roberts promoted Stewart Davison up the order to keep up the barrage. In the event, that was not necessary as Morris (32 not out off 21 balls, one six, three fours) closed the game out with a four, two then a final flourish of four through the covers as the rain pelted down ever harder to give his side a seven wicket win.

There will be sterner challenges ahead for Henley, but on a day when High Wycombe and Tring had to make do with just six points, a full quota of points were worth their weight in gold.

Speaking after the game skipper Roberts said: “We faced a different challenge this week to say the least, however showed great application and execution across all disciplines.

“Nugent and Afridi set the tone once again with the ball, producing spells which, to be fair, would have had the better teams on good tracks in trouble. We managed to then keep the momentum going with Mordty and our spinners, who were supported brilliantly by some very good catches in the field.

“Obviously there was some time pressure and the weather was closing in when we went out to bat. However we were always confident of getting the job done and Rich and Matt led the way superbly.

“It’s just the kind of situation where previously I think we may have stumbled over the line whereas on Saturday we showed real intent with the bat.

“We can’t wait for the challenge of Slough next week and look forward to putting some work in at training this week.”

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