HENLEY’S winning start to their Home Counties Premier League Division 1 season came to an abrupt
HENLEY’S winning start to their Home Counties Premier League Division 1 season came to an abrupt end last Saturday when they were well beaten by FINCHAMPSTEAD.
On the day Finchampstead were the better side and deserved their win which, in large part, was down to the bowling performance of Coetzee, their South African overseas player, who returned figures of 17 overs, four maidens, 5-25.
Muggy cloudy mornings at the Brakspear Ground are ordinarily the signal to bowl first if given the opportunity, and Henley skipper Michael Roberts, having won the toss, wasted no time in putting the visitors into bat.
The wicket was more of a batting strip, and although both Tom Nugent and Tahir Afridi were on the money from the off, wickets were less forthcoming until the eighth over when Jones was caught behind, followed a few overs later by Dewes cleverly set up by Afridi and unable to keep out a lovely in-swinger.
Dan Lincoln, who had replaced Jones, set the tone for the rest of the innings in which he and all subsequent batsmen made worthwhile contributions without anyone passing 40.
After a quiet start, Lincoln took a shine to Bjorn Mordt’s bowling to smite some sixes into the Pavilion End, one of which smashed a solar panel on the pavilion roof. He was soon snuffed out, Roberts taking a smart catch on the run at mid-on.
Finchampstead skipper Marles now joined Rogers and the rate of scoring dropped as Zia Ashraf and Gurveer Singh exerted control, backed up by a level of fielding which would pass muster in the first class game.
That sharpness and application in the field continued all afternoon as the score crept along. Afridi took an overhead catch at long-off to remove Rogers and Mordt atoned for a difficult chance in the slips to take a looping ball and remove Marles.
Marles’s departure brought Kang to the crease to join Rishton and both ex-Reading players grafted hard with 200 finally coming up in the 58th over before Rishton departed in almost the same way as his skipper had.
It was the arrival of ex-Henley man Carter which changed the complexion of the innings as 53 runs were added in the last six overs, thanks in large part to some mighty blows to all parts of the ground. Carter was ably supported by Kang, and fortunate to survive being dropped by Singh at long on.
Singh was the pick of the spinners with figures of 3-55 off 17 overs but all the spinners contributed and it would be difficult to place a figure on runs saved by dint of the fielding, but it was considerable.
A target of 254 runs in 54 overs was well within the compass of the Henley batting line-up but it was not to be by some distance.
Once again the openers made a steady start before a bit of extra bounce from Coetzee caught Matt Rowe out and he could only parry the ball to slip. But 40-1 off 13 overs rapidly became 44-4 as Carter had Dave Barnes caught at gully and made the unfortunate Richard Morris play on a few balls later.
Worse was to follow in the next over as Coetzee trapped Ashraf lbw first ball and after that Henley were never really in the hunt. Carter would later be stopped from bowling for running on the pitch, but by then the damage was done.
Euan Woods was victim number three for Coetzee, falling to a peach of a delivery which shaped away at the last minute, taking the off-stump bail. On the cusp of tea, Stewart Davison fell to a ball from leg-spinner Stevenson, which hardly bounced and showed signs of a deteriorating pitch, making it 56-6.
Skipper Roberts demonstrated plenty of character and durability, picking off the bad balls and shepherding the bowling. Mordt played some shots and felt hard done by when given out lbw, a fate that befell Roberts several overs later to a ball from Uttley that kept low.
After that, it was just a matter of time as Nugent left one to give Coetzee his five’fer and Afridi was snapped up at slip to leave Henley 142 runs shy of victory and just three points to show for their labours.
It would be churlish to suggest that the result would have been different had Coetzee not been involved, but his effect on the game and the galvanising effect he has had on his team are undeniable.
It is also fair to say that when Henley batted, the strip offered more help to the bowlers than it had done in the morning.
Henley skipper Roberts is now looking forward to the challenges that lay ahead. After the game he said: “First of all, credit to Finchampstead. They posted a competitive score and put on the best fielding and bowling display we’ve seen so far this season.
“Their overseas was a standout player and will, I’m sure, continue to cause opposing teams problems. At the same time we were simply not good enough with the bat today; we lost wickets in clusters and failed to put on a meaningful partnership except for perhaps Barney and Rower up top.
“We were a little underprepared for the challenges we faced from the overseas and we will be sure to rectify this for nine weeks’ time.
“Nonetheless we have been very good so far this season and we won’t dwell on today. We’re hugely excited for next week’s game at Banbury, which offers us a fantastic opportunity to bounce back quickly.”