Match Reports

Henley dominate Horspath to stretch their lead at the top – 26 August

Henley drove home their dominance of the Home Counties Premier Cricket League after a thumping victory over Horspath, who were nowhere near their best and in contrast to the Champions-elect, now face relegation going into the last weekend of the season. A strong display with the bat, characterised by an imposing 80 from Matt Rowe, preceded a ruthless bowling display, in which Tahir Afridi became Henley Cricket Club’s leading wicket taker in the HCPCL. It has now been 13 weeks since Henley last lost in the league and with Slough as their final opponents of the season, will undoubtedly be keen to add one last victory to their tally before lifting the trophy this Saturday.

Having won the toss, Henley elected to bat on what appeared to be a bit of a green-seamer. However as was soon to become clear, looks can be deceiving when it comes to cricket wickets. Openers Roberts and Oldershaw began positively, taking advantage of some wayward new-ball bowling. Oldershaw, replacing Hussain who is enjoying his honeymoon after an outstanding first season at Henley, provided much of the impetus early on, driving imperiously when the opportunity arose while defending determinedly when Hospath’s bowlers, Slatcher and Cardy, got the ball in the right area. It took a good piece of bowling from the latter to remove him for 28, swinging a full ball back through the gate to bring Rowe to the crease. However the wicket did little to abate the Henley batsmen, who continued in a positive vein. Roberts now took on the role of aggressor, but just as he looked set to compile a fourth hundred of the league season, he managed to chop a wide ball from Eason onto his stumps. Rowe and new-man Morris then took the score to 187-3, rotating the strike masterfully and not allowing any bowlers to settle into a rhythm. Rowe passed the 50-mark in little under a run-a-ball, and started to squeeze the throttle as Horspath’s spinners ineffectively tried to slow the rate of scoring. Unfortunately however, in an attempt to cut a ball from Belcher, was only able to nick it behind, denying him of a deserved ton.

Morris, now joined by Woods, was in cruise control and playing a typically silky innings until he was caught at midwicket trying to ease Slatcher into orbit. Although not as prolific as in 2016, Morris has time and again shown his quality during this campaign, providing a deadly mix of experience and power in Henley’s top-order. Barnes then came and went, with Henley on 234-5, a position which up until this point in the season, has invariably lead to a few batting collapses. However, after Woods departed for a characteristically leisurely and languid 43, Davison and Brock showed why they remain key players in arguably the league’s strongest batting line-up. Both showed their powerful hitting, and put on a clinic for those wanting to know how to run between the wickets. This combination of skill and brute force ensured Henley posted an intimidating 335-6 off their 50 overs, the most runs ever scored at Horspath in the league.

In reply, Horspath did little to really show why they should remain in Division 1. Needing a win to give themselves the best chance of staying up, the home side were 31-0 after 10 overs, and six overs later, found themselves on 57-3. No visible attempt was being made to get after the bowling or to get a fast start, something almost always required when chasing a score in excess of 300. Although this reflected a distinctly strange brand of cricket, Henley’s Afridi, Nugent and Singh were all outstanding early on, especially Afridi who took four of the first five wickets in his 10-over spell. Two bowled, an LBW and a caught behind epitomised the way in which Afridi has got wickets in a variety of ways over the course of his career at Henley. Having now taken 191 wickets in the HCPCL, he goes past former captain Bjorn Mordt and in relation to the 2017 season, is now just one behind team-mate Nugent (36) in the leading wicket-taker standings. With skipper Roberts the leading run scorer in the league for 2017 thus far, having amassed 766 runs, Henley could well add individual honours to their burgeoning 2017 trophy haul.

Replacing Afridi at the pavilion end, it didn’t take long for Woods to come to the party, having skipper Eason caught at point by Morris and bowling Slatcher first ball. The only meaningful innings came from Skelton, batting at 7 and normally a 2nd XI player. Playing a range of strokes and being particularly effective down the ground, he managed to show Horspath’s top order what could have been done if more intent was shown from the beginning. Brock’s introduction to the bowling attack entailed a rather thankless task of tossing the ball up in order to tempt the batters to go for the big shot. Although statistically expensive, he executed the role asked of him well and picked up two wickets before Woods trapped Skelton LBW for a deserved 60, bringing the innings to a close.

The result leaves Horspath needing a win and results to go their way elsewhere to remain in the top flight. This appears unlikely however, and the Oxfordshire side will likely join Burnham in Division 2 next season. Conversely, Henley remain Champions-elect, unreachable except in the case of an unprecedented penalty deduction. However, Captain Roberts remains very much focused on next week’s performance against Slough, knowing how important it is to finish well. “Momentum is a funny thing and we are fully focused on our performance next week to ensure we take as much positive energy as possible into the off-season and pre-season in January. Moreover, being such a competitive environment, there are always spots up for grabs and performances on Saturday may well lead to selections in May 2018. However rest assured, once the final ball has been bowled on Saturday, we will be celebrating what has been a memorable season.

 

Henley 1st’s Thwart Tring Park – 19 August

After a brilliant performance defending 231 against Tring Park, and results going their way elsewhere, Henley CC 1st XI are Champions-elect of the Home Counties Premier Cricket League with two games to spare. Although the Trophy won’t be awarded to Henley until the last game, as with two games left there is technically room for penalty points to be awarded, Henley have an unassailable lead of 42 points with only 40 left available for their nearest rivals. Saturday’s victory epitomised a side worthy of champion-status, combining great skill sets and a ‘never give up’ attitude, with a ruthlessness which has provided a number of killer-blows during the course of the season.

Having lost the toss and been asked to bat, Henley got off to an indifferent start, losing captain Roberts early to a very loose attempt at a pull-shot which he could only skew straight up in the air. After his dismissal, Tring continued to use the new ball to good effect, limiting Henley’s scoring opportunities and it wasn’t long before Hussain played the second loose shot of the day, flicking Woodland to mid-on for a simple catch to leave the hosts on 33-2. Surrey’s Woods then joined Rowe at the crease, and both players consolidated nicely for a period, playing patiently whilst picking off the bad ball. However they were unable to turn their flourishing partnership into something meaningful, as Rowe was bowled by Payne for 18, bringing Middlesex Academy player Davies to the crease who along with fellow young-gun Woods, looked to rebuild from 58-3. Although only adding 40 together, the partnership illustrated the quality of youth available to Henley, and how both players have developed over the last 12 months. Woods and Davies looked particularly untroubled, with the former perhaps being lulled into a false sense of security with his wicket, essentially missing a straight ball from MacDonell to be bowled for 33.

However, with the experienced Barnes joining Davies at the crease, Henley were very much in safe hands. Unfortunately though, and reflecting Henley’s innings in many respects, just as both were beginning to get motoring, a dangerous partnership came to a premature end. This time, Barnes picked out Dixon at cover off the bowling of MacDonell for 12, and when Davison and Brock fell in quick succession, Henley were reeling on 166-7. Once again, it was down to Tahir Afridi to come to the home side’s rescue. Joining Davies, who by this stage had reached a very mature half-century, he rotated the strike masterfully and brought a composure to the innings which had been missing up to this point. Afridi had also clearly taken some of the pressure off Davies, who was able to score more freely than he had before. Just when a maiden Home Counties century looked to be on the cards, Davies was well caught at long-off by Aussie Ohrynowsky for a classy 76. His innings was the glue to an otherwise carelessly compiled innings by Henley, and it took Nugent’s ever-improving batting skills and Afridi to muscle two massive sixes in the last over to ensure the hosts finished on a respectable 231-8 off their allotted 50 overs.

A little under par with the bat, Henley would have wanted a fast start with the ball. Although Nugent was able to trap Gough in front of all three stumps for 8, Tring managed to get on top of the Henley attack. Both Woodland and MacDonell successfully saw off the new ball, whilst being ruthless against anything loose. At drinks, Tring were on 102-1, firmly in the driving seat and looking relatively untroubled, a stark contrast to how both teams played against each other 9 weeks ago when Henley dominated from the outset. However, immediately after drinks, Woods picked up Woodland who, in attempt to put Woods onto Remenham Hill, ran out of luck and was eventually stumped by Davison for 51. A few overs later, Brock, replacing Singh at the Pavilion End, then accounted for Payne, caught expertly at cover by Woods. Overseas player Ohrynowsky looked busy at the crease from the start, however was pegged back when he lost his partner Woodland, who was bowled by Singh, returning at the Rememnham Hill end after a tidy spell by Matt Rowe. Dixon fell immediately in the next over for a duck, caught by Woods off the bowling of Brock, to leave Tring on 133-5.

By the time Ohrynowski departed for 29, caught by Nugent off Singh, Tring were 169-6 and requiring a little over 6 an over for victory. The introduction of left-hander Rimmington ensured Tring continued to push Henley right to the end. A number of lusty blows towards the allotments and the Little Angel put Tring right back in contention, however when he eventually departed, bowled by the outstanding Nugent, Tring were on 196-7 with no batting left. It was then a matter of time and with Nugent continuing some excellent death bowling, ably supported by Woods at the other end, Tring’s innings came to an abrupt end. Woods accounted for Shah, before Nugent bowled both Dutch and Calder to seal the victory.

A very strong display in the last quarter of the game from Henley proved the decisive factor – which was facilitated by some excellent bowling and fielding, along with some astute and tactically-proficient captaincy. Whilst celebrating in the changing rooms, news began to filter through about Finchampstead’s draw at Banbury, leaving Henley in an unassailable position and leading to some mild celebration from the Henley players. However, there are still two games left and plenty to play for, as mentioned by Roberts in an interview after the game, ‘At the start of the season we set out to redefine the standard of club cricket. That was our vision for the season, so we won’t be able to gauge that until 18 games have been completed. As a result, we will stay focused right up to the 2nd September. It was a great victory today and it’s a pleasing position to be in being champions (elect), however we want to raise the bar again over the next few weeks and carry as much momentum as we can into the 2018 pre-season and season itself.’

 

Henley overcome Oxford in low-scoring encounter – 12 August

Henley put on a display full of character to overcome Oxford and extend their lead at the top of the HCPCL Division 1 Table to 39 points with three games to go. Despite only managing 114-8 in their allotted 50 overs, Henley never looked in doubt and thanks to some highly skilled bowling, notably by Nugent (4 wickets) and Afridi (3 wickets), were able to skittle Oxford for 76. The victory leaves Henley in a commanding position in the league, although there are still plenty of banana skins to avoid before they can think about being crowned Champions.

Having won the toss on a wicket renowned for its seam movement, turn and low scoring affairs, Henley skipper Michael Roberts elected to bat in order to make the most of what should have been the best time to bat. However, his decision seemed questionable at the very least when both Oxford’s openers, Fallah and Junior Musk, were managing to extract large amounts of seam movement and beat the bat with alarming regularity. It didn’t take long for them to strike, as Rowe nicked a good ball from Fallah through to the keeper, before Musk accounted for Hussain and Morris in quick time, the latter being bowled by an especially unplayable delivery which pitched on middle and clipped the off-stump. This left Henley 11-3 after 8 overs, a position in which this team rarely finds itself. Despite the poor start, Roberts and Woods applied themselves diligently, playing low risk cricket and preventing any possibility of a complete innings collapse. Both were moving along well before Roberts departed on the stroke of drinks, bowled by a ball which wasn’t quite there to pull, leaving Henley on 56-4 at the halfway stage.

The low run rate reflected a combination of good bowling and a particularly unfriendly wicket, which made scoring very hard to come by. After a few overs’ consolidation after drinks, Woods was the next man to go, bowled whilst attempting to slog sleep the effective off-spin of Eltham. Davies was then run out soon after and once Ashraf and Davison departed, the former caught behind and the latter bowled after playing on, it was left to Henley’s opening bowlers to ensure they batted out the overs and posted something respectable. It was becoming clear that anything over three-figures was going to be very competitive. Thus with no need to do anything drastic, both Afridi and Nugent guided Henley expertly passed 100 and after batting out the last 14 overs together, walked off the field after 50 overs with Oxford requiring 115 runs for victory.

And for the first 20 overs of the Oxford reply, the Nugent and Afridi show continued, only this time with their favoured skill-sets on display. With both bowlers pumped up and a fielding side ready for any opportunity, the middle became a truly hostile environment. The portly Tong-Jones was the first to go, LBW to Nugent, before Afridi trapped Perkin LBW, after which Nugent nicked off Oxford’s dangerous overseas Ayub for just three. When Afridi then trapped Charlesworth LBW a couple of overs later, Oxford were reeling on 33-4 after 13 overs, with their match-winners back in the hutch. Eltham showed some resilience in the Oxford middle-order, however continuously lost partners at the other end. Nugent soon nicked skipper Barrett to his counterpart Roberts at second slip without troubling the scorers, before having Mendis brilliantly caught at cover by Morris. Afridi then nicked off Simon to leave Oxford on 51-7 after 20 overs – if the military tactic of scorched-earth policy was to ever be used in a cricket setting, this was the time to do so. Both Henley opening bowlers were outstanding, and in many respects were the leaders with both bat and ball on the day. It didn’t take long then for Singh to dismiss Eltham, trapped LBW, and Hussain to clean up the tail, despite a few hefty blows by Fallah to bring Oxford up to their all-out total of 78.

A performance full of character and confidence, which bodes well for Henley’s next fixture at home to Tring Park. A win there will leave the league-leaders requiring just two points in the remaining two games to secure the title, although captain Roberts was quick to shut down any ideas of complacency, “A great win today has clearly put us in a good position, but we will just continue to do what has worked for us week-in, week-out so far this season, and that’s taking care of our training in the week to give us the right to go and express ourselves on the weekend. Over the next three games, we’re looking to perform better than we have done so far this season and that is our priority.”

 

Henley Just Miss Out in T20 Area Final

Henley have narrowly missed out on a quarter final spot in the ECB National T20 competition, after losing to Birmingham Premier League team C&R Hawks in the Final of their ‘Area Finals Day’ held at Bromsgrove CC. However, missing seven regular 1st XI players and skipper Roberts the only player on the day to have not represented the 2nd XI during the course of the season, the Henley players who competed can hold their heads high.

The semi-final, played against Northamptonshire Premier League side Finedon Dolben CC, saw Henley restrict their opponents to just 131 from their 20 overs. This total, although relatively low by modern standards, in fact represented a great comeback from being 2-3, thanks to brilliant bowling by Ashraf and Jordan and a smart run out by Henley’s own Jonty Rhodes, Gurveer Singh. Along with Euan Brock, Simon Wheeler and Zac Jones, Singh was able to restrict the Finedon Dolben batsmen to only the occasional boundary, with Henley’s fielding coming to the fore yet again this season.

In response, Oldershaw and Jones got the innings off to a strong start, with the former particularly impressive. Despite then losing both openers in quick succession and Legg soon after, leaving Henley on 39-3, the experienced pairing of Roberts and Ashraf weathered the storm before squeezing the throttle, guiding their side home in the 17th over. Captain Roberts finished 55 not out off 42 balls, whilst Ashraf played the accumulator role, ending not out on 26.

The win provided Henley with a strong blueprint to replicate in the final and after being asked to field first by C&R Hawks, they were confident of upsetting the competition’s form team. Although Omar Ali, brother of Moeen, played a brutal innings in the first six overs to get the innings off to a flying start, Henley stayed calm and patient, coming back into the game as spinners Ashraf, Brock and Singh showed their class. Seamers Wheeler and Jordan were also outstanding, responding well to Ali’s early onslaught. Henley eventually restricted the Hawks to 144, a brilliant all-round effort and one which provided momentum into Henley’s batting innings.

Again Oldershaw and Jones showed good intent up top, with Oldershaw playing some blistering strokes and showing the capacity he has to push for more regular 1st XI action. However, after losing wickets in quick succession again, Henley were unable to reproduce a match-winning partnership which saw them win their semi-final. Although credit must go to the Hawks for some very good bowling, especially at the death, the Henley batsmen failed to rotate the strike regularly enough, playing too many dot balls and allowing pressure to build. Despite rallying towards the end of the innings, with thanks to Barnes and Brock in particular, Henley left themselves with too much to do and finished ten short of their opponent’s total.

Even though the result was not what Henley had wanted at the start of the day, Captain Roberts was upbeat, stating, “I’m actually just immensely proud of everyone who played today. We were brilliant in many respects and showed great energy and attitude throughout the day. The club is in a healthy place if we are able to produce such quality cricket despite missing half a dozen regular 1st XI players. With a few tweaks in terms of how we play this format, I think we can go all the way next year.”

 

Finchampstead v Henley 1st Match Abandoned

For the second week running, rain hampered Henley’s chances of extending their lead at the top of the Home Counties Premier League Division 1 Table. Playing second place Finchampstead, the league leaders managed to reduce the hosts to 109-7, with a dominant bowling display which could have been further improved if it weren’t for a lacklustre display from the Henley fielders – a very rare occurrence this season. Nevertheless, both sides walked away with 6 points apiece, meaning a status quo at the top of the table, with all other games in the league also eventually being abandoned.

Missing regulars Morris, Rowe, Barnes, Davies and Woods for reasons various, with the latter on 12th man duty for England at the Oval, Henley went into Saturday’s fixture with a side made up of a number of 2nd XI players. Although on paper this perhaps looked a weaker team, Henley Cricket Club has developed strength in depth over the last 18 months and with its 2nd XI playing in only two leagues below, the side fielded on Saturday was more than a match for last year’s champions.

Nugent and Afridi were again outstanding, the former unlucky to not take more wickets and the latter bagging a ruthless 5-for, hitting the seam on a regular occurrence and getting the ball to move both ways in the air. FInchampstead simply had no answer, with only young Berkshire prospect Rogers showing any resistance, remaining unbeaten on 41. After a number of reprieves, House was the first to go, eventually caught by Jordan at mid-on off the bowling of Nugent. Oliver soon followed, caught by Brock at point off Afridi, before Nugent grabbed his second wicket, clean bowling Finchampstead’s robustly built captain Marles for 11.

Both Lincoln and Carter attempted to rebuild with Rogers, however lacked the requisite skills and determination to withstand Afridi’s relentless onslaught, which also accounted for Coetzee, brilliantly caught by Davison standing up to the stumps. Lincoln was caught by Legg at midwicket, whilst Carter nicked off to first slip substitute fielder Morris, who is set to return to action this weekend against High Wycombe after an injury lay-off. Just before the rain set in, Afridi had his fifth, Hodges caught again by Legg at midwicket.

Although frustrating to not gain full points, captain Roberts took the positives away, stating, “We are continuing to show great skills and character regardless of the opposition or the weather. If we can continue to enjoy the moment and nail our processes, we’ll be a handful for most teams on the run-in. However we have a big game this weekend against High Wycombe, who are always dangerous and full of quality, so we’ll have to be at our best to get full points.”

 

Henley Crowned HCPCL T20 Champions

After two dominant displays, Henley were deservedly crowned 2017 HCPCL T20 Champions, the only side to win it more than once since the competition’s inception, with the latest triumph being the club’s third in seven years. The venue for this season’s Finals Day was Burnham CC, which as the avid readers of the Standard will know, is producing wickets not too dissimilar from outfields at the moment. Thus high scoring, big hitting affairs were never going to be the order of the day and from this writer’s vantage point, it appeared only Henley were able to truly come to terms with the conditions at hand, adapting their tactics and style of play to meet the challenges on offer. Due to the wet conditions and Burnham’s second ground being unplayable due to a set of ineffective covers, it was decided that two 10/10 matches would make up the semi-finals, with the final reverting back to a 20/20.

Having won the toss against last year’s champions High Wycombe, Henley elected to bowl, taking advantage of the opportunity to see how the wicket would play and learning from Wycombe’s innings. The Buckinghamshire side are notoriously aggressive, however are also known to lack tact in more tricky conditions, a reputation evident from the outset when shorter-format specialist Ashraf provoked a poor shot from opener Casteleden, who hacked a ball down Nugent’s throat at deep-midwicket to leave Wycombe on 0-1. This dismissal then set the tone for the innings, epitomising a gun hoe approach which simply doesn’t work in such poor batting conditions. At the same time, a lot of credit must go to Henley’s bowlers, all of whom executed their skills brilliantly and were athletically supported in the field. Afridi and Nugent showed their quality and desire to make a difference in the fixture with the newer ball, whilst spinners Ashraf, Woods, Singh and Brock bowled with skill and to well thought-out fields.

Wycombe’s total of 54-6 off their 10 overs was never going to be enough, as Roberts and Allaway, who both lead Henley to the club’s inaugural T20 Championship in 2011, knocked the runs off in 7 overs. Allaway lead the way, playing a wide-array of shots, the best of which being a beautifully-struck straight six off spinner Dobb. He finished not out on 34, with Roberts happy to simply give the aggressor Allaway the strike, finishing not out on 18.

The win provided Henley with a good blueprint of how to go about their business in the final, and having lost the toss to the other semi-final winners Harefield, were again in the field first. Not for the first time in the day, Henley’s bowlers proved too strong and too disciplined for Harefield. Provided limited opportunities to score, Harefield’s batters had to go hunting for runs and in their attempt to do so, lost wickets at frequent intervals. Afridi and Nugent both picked up one a piece, with the latter also producing a smart runout, whilst Brock (2), Woods (3), Singh (1) and Ashraf (1) all showed the quality available to Henley in the spin department. As has been the case all season, Henley’s fielding was again outstanding, with Zac Jones in particular taking a few smart catches at mid-off.

Harefield’s total of 59 was again simply not enough to trouble Henley, despite losing skipper Roberts early on in the run chase. With Allaway pulling a hamstring whilst fielding, Afridi was chosen to open and ably supported Henley’s superstar no.3, Waqas Hussain, with both finishing 18 not out and 40 not out respectively. The latter’s shot selection ensured he was the standout player of the day, coming to terms with the conditions better than anyone on any team. However, Henley’s victory reflected how this team is a sum of its parts, with each player contributing throughout the day.

Although winning the tournament provided skipper Roberts with his first piece of silverware, his and the team’s focus seems to be very much on the challenges ahead, saying that, “It’s great to win the T20 tournament and days like these don’t come along all that often, so we will enjoy celebrating with each other tonight. However we have a fantastic opportunity now to go and win the National T20 Competition. Despite likely losing a number of players to Minor Counties fixtures next Sunday, we are confident of having a side with the quality to go and put ourselves into the last eight. Moreover, the league run-in is hotting up and with a big game next Saturday against Finchampstead on the horizon, we will enjoy today but be back to work in the week.”

 

Rain forces Ist XI Match against Banbury to be Abandoned

Inclement weather across the Home Counties denied both Henley the opportunity to extend their lead at the top of the HCPCL Division 1 table, and others to make up some ground on the league leaders. Not one game was completed, with only a few actually getting underway at all.

One of those games however did feature Henley, who having lost the toss at Matson Drive, were put into bat by Banbury, a side going well thanks to the leadership of captain Lloyd Sabin, and one which was unlucky to not win when the sides met earlier in the season. If it weren’t for Tahir Afridi’s heroics on the last ball to tie the fixture, who knows what a win nine weeks ago could have done for Banbury in the race for the title.

Only 9 overs were possible before the rain set in, which were dominated by some very good new ball bowling by ex-Pakistan bowler Aizaz Cheema and young Bradley Taylor. Both made the most of the new ball and a wicket offering just enough seam movement, putting the ball consistently in a good area and always asking questions. Cheema accounted for in-form players Roberts and Hussain within the space of three balls, the former driving a ball to cover and the latter nicking off to keeper Hawtin. However, youngsters Jack Davies and Euan Woods looked immovable and if it weren’t for the rain, both players looked set to go and dominate the rest of Banbury’s arsenal of bowlers. Alas, after an early lunch was taken, with the rain not looking like abating any time soon, both the captains and umpires decided to abandon the fixture.

All ten sides in the league came away with six points, meaning a status quo at the top of the table. Henley travel to second place Finchampstead this weekend, a mouth-watering affair which won’t decide the title by any stretch, but will provide clarity as to who the favourites are for the run in.

 

Weather-Affected Winning Draw for the 1st’s at Burnham 15 July

Despite failing to fully capitalise on results elsewhere, Henley’s winning draw against Burnham meant the league leaders widened the gap at the top of the Home Counties Premier Cricket League to 20 points. With Gurveer Singh back to his best, bagging an impressive seven wicket haul, Henley will be eager to carry their momentum forward into the remaining timed fixtures, which will entail three of their toughest tests so far this season.

In recent years, the wicket at Burnham has proven to be a good cricket wicket, offering something for both batsmen and bowlers. However, Saturday marked a return to the Burnham wickets of old, offering drastic amounts of spin and often dangerous levels of bounce, almost from the outset. Having won the toss, Henley skipper Roberts elected to bat, looking to get first use on a wicket which would rapidly deteriorate. Due to a few persistent rain showers, it took until after lunch for Roberts and the returning Jack Davies to get Henley’s now reduced innings of 50 overs off to a good start, epitomising the application and conservative strategy required in such tricky conditions. Both players were forthright in defence against some useful new-ball bowling, but showed good intent when the opportunity arose, with Roberts particularly ruthless on anything slightly overpitched. The introduction of spin revealed the dangers ahead however, and after having reached an efficient 44, Roberts miss-timed a pull off spinner Khan, finding Basra at midwicket.

Hussain joined Davies with the score on 60-1, the latter showing plenty of character despite not being at his fluent best, and both began to build another strong partnership together. However five overs later, Davies unfortunately miss-timed a drive to a ball which popped off the wicket, looping a simple catch to point, leaving Henley on 89-2. Hussain continued to play with confidence, mixing patience with power, whilst Woods assumed the accumulating role, happy to occupy the crease in the knowledge that a huge score wasn’t going to define Henley’s innings. Woods continued to persevere despite losing Hussain for an impressive 47, the latter adjudged LBW to the off-spin of Burnham captain Gandam. Barnes’ introduction added increased impetus, perhaps the only batter on the day to make the wicket seem relatively placid, bringing Henley up to just shy of 150 before being bowled by Khan for 17. Davison and Woods then took the innings to a conclusion, with Woods out on the penultimate ball of the innings for a crucial 35, helping Henley post an above-par 172.

This left Henley with 42 overs to bowl Burnham out, a task which would prove just out of reach despite the away side’s best efforts. After a brief burst from Henley’s pace attack, it soon became clear that spin was the way forward for the foreseeable future, leaving Nugent and Afridi to save their skills for another day. The introduction of Singh and Woods paid dividends straight away, with the latter accounting for Ali on the stroke of tea, skying a ball which was well-caught by Hussain at square-leg. On the resumption of play, it didn’t take long for Singh to get in on the act, dismissing Raja, Basra and the dangerous Khan in relatively quick succession with the help of some brilliant Henley catching. And once Singh had captain Gandam expertly held by Woods at slip for a well-compiled 43, Burnham were reeling on 94-5 with 14 overs left of their innings. Both Woods and Singh were finding plenty of turn and bounce, causing plenty of challenges for Davison behind the sticks. However, Henley’s keeper was more than a match for the task, stumping Javed a few overs later off the bowling of Woods, after Singh dismissed his namesake in the previous over, caught by Davies at point.

Burnham then lost wickets eight and nine in quick succession, with bowler Haroon stumped by Davison and Malik caught easily by Roberts at short cover, both off the bowling of Singh. This left Henley with eight overs to find the final Burnham wicket and despite their best efforts, neither Singh nor Woods could put a halt to Burnham’s rearguard action. This was lead principally by Karun Kumar, a top order batter in his own right, demoted down the order due to poor form. Both he and Burnham’s number eleven showed great resolve and with a few pieces of good fortune, managed to steer Burnham to a hard-earned draw after a nerve-racking final over from Afridi.

Independent of Henley’s ameliorated position in the table, Henley would have left the Memorial Ground with a bitter taste in their mouths. However, the energy and the attitude which have served Henley well so far were on display again, matched by some brilliant catching and fielding in general. After the game, Roberts had this to say about the result, “To be honest, it is frustrating having played all the cricket and having played it to such a good standard. We showed maturity and nous with the bat, and gave it our all in the field. I have no doubt that if the game was not cut short due to the weather in the morning, we’ll have taken 25 points away. As it is, we’re continuing to do great things and we can’t wait for Banbury next Saturday, as well as the T20 Finals Day on Sunday.”

 

Henley 1st XI beat Great and Little Tew 8 July

Henley emerged winners at a canter at home to Great & Little Tew to maintain their lead at the top of Division 1 of the HCPCL in a game which served to emphasise that much sterner challenges lie ahead.

Winning the toss, the Tews elected to bat on what was and became evermore a batsman’s paradise of a wicket. Some early exuberance from opener and Tew skipper Harry Smith in serially despatching Tom Nugent to the boundary was tempered by the dismissal of fellow opener White by Tahir Afridi in his first over. Smith soon followed as Afridi removed his middle stump. This brought Lloyd Brock to the crease to join Garrett.

Both batsmen clearly adopted the view that preserving their wickets took precedence over run making as the pair ground out a 50 run partnership off something like three times as many balls. By the time Garrett departed for 47 off 90 balls, Afridi’s third victim of the day, 34 overs had passed with just 83 runs to show for it. By the same token Afridi and Nugent ran in hard all morning in hot conditions and never made it easy for the Tews’ batsmen. Indeed all the Henley bowling on Saturday was well executed and afforded little scope for exploiting the bad ball.

The arrival at the crease of Woodward upped the tempo somewhat, but following the departure of Brock for 40 off 120 balls with the score on 135 and 17 overs remaining, the scope for posting a competitive total was limited and Woodward was to derive little assistance from the middle and lower order, as Harry Jordan removed first Brock and then the  Tews’ South African overseas Jancan Adams and the spin of Gurveer Singh sorted out the lower order, thanks in no small measure to some stunning catches by Nugent in the deep.

Tew thus completed their 64 overs for 212 runs which was at least 60 and more like 100 short of par on a gorgeous day and a belter of a track.

The Henley response duly demonstrated what a good batting deck it was. Shrugging off the early loss of David Barnes who had started positively, Henley skipper Michael Roberts and Waqas Hussain set about the Tew bowling. Hussain, a clean hitting and at times vicious striker of a ball, took the lead and brought up his first and a very stylish century for Henley since joining them this year. His innings was mightily impressive, showing what an asset he is for Henley and Berkshire, and could well be for a professional outfit in due course. Roberts meanwhile played the anchoring role, happy to rotate the strike with the occasional boundary, perhaps more interested in watching his batting partner’s stroke play from the other end. Hussain was not to see out the innings and that task fell to Euan Woods whose unbeaten dozen included a mighty hook shot that had to be retrieved from the lower reaches of Matson Drive. He and Roberts guided the innings home, with the latter finishing 79 not out.

In the end then, a convincing win over a side that may struggle to avoid relegation this year but with Finchampstead, Horspath and High Wycombe all winning, there is no scope for slip ups and every victory and every point gained is vital in what is presently a pretty open contest. Commenting after the match, skipper Roberts had this to say, ‘We are playing some really good cricket at the moment but more importantly, the competitive fire is burning brightly and we’re loving the contests. Our energy and attitude have continued to facilitate our performances, but we are aware that tougher challenges lie ahead.’

 

Pivotal Win for Henley 3rd’s against Maidenhead and Bray 2’s

A pivotal game in Henley 3rds season as Maidenhead and Bray 2nd XI and currently 2nd in the league made the journey to Nettlebed in a crucial game in the promotion race. Losing the toss Henley took to the field in what has been their preferred approach in the first half of the season.

Harris-White opened up well and saw edges dropping agonisingly short of the slip cordon. Chappell provided control at the other end, with the Maidenhead opening batsmen trying to push the score early on. Chappell claimed two wickets, caught at mid off with King going for a big off drive and a short ball pulled straight down the throat of Harris-White at square leg. Neville, who’s been chomping at the bit all season also tried his luck with some seam bowling. Despite bowling well Maidenhead were still adding runs at a fair rate with a quick and dry outfield. It was the inclusion of Sean Taylor and captain Hopkins that changed the game in favour of Henley.

Taylor bowling a superb 18 overs in a row on a scorching Saturday, limited runs at one end. With his mix of cutters and slower balls Maidenhead could not get his bowling away for meaningful runs. Hopkins with his off spin on a receptive pitch kept the steady flow of wickets coming. His first an LBW darting into the pads. Two wickets in two balls followed, often with spinners it is the balls with less control that get wickets and that proved to be the case here. A loose short ball lit up the eyes of the batsman and Tom Jordan on the boundary made a difficult catch look easy. Next ball it was a low full toss spooned up and caught at cover. Hopkins kept taking wickets, with two taking out the stumps. Hopkins mopped up the tail, collecting a highly impressive 7-48 from his 14.2 overs, with Taylor adding one wicket for his resilient effort. Maidenhead and Bray set Henley 189 to win on what was not an easy pitch to bat on if the bowlers put the ball in the right areas.

Taking the old ball first up was a risk that did not pay off for the opposition. The Maidenhead spinner not getting as much turn as Hopkins, it let Matt Dalrymple and Andrew Hester settle into their batting and set Henley on the way. Dalrymple ended up on an agonising 49, going for a big shot to bring up his 50 he was bowled. Hopkins at three took on the bowling and some quick runs followed, it made Maidenhead take the new ball. Hopkins and Hester fell and Maidenhead had their tails up but the senior head of Paul Smith taking away any hope of victory out of sight. His approach stemmed the flow of wickets yet kept the scoreboard ticking over, creating a vital partnership with Manoharan. The test of the new ball quickly faded and Henley went about their ways to pick up a vital victory, an impressive run chase with Henley never in any danger of losing the game. Now just four points from the promotion places, this victory could provide a launch pad to promotion and has set up an interesting remainder of the season.

 

Henley 1st XI win away at Slough 1 July

Henley returned to winning ways on Saturday after a dominant display against a Slough side, who threatened much with the ball, but were again the catalyst of their own demise with the bat. This does not mean the Henley bowlers did not turn up however, as Messrs Nugent and Afridi again showed their class, ripping through Slough’s precocious batting line-up, with some assistance from a pitch which made life difficult for batters throughout the day.

Slough captain Bobby Sher won the toss and elected to bowl first on their home patch, which up until this point in the season, had proved fruitful for those with willow in hand. However Slough’s experienced captain perhaps saw something others didn’t, as straight away it became clear that runs would be difficult to come by. After Roberts just about came through the opening over from Slough’s answer to Pidge McGrath in Ikhlaq Nawaz, Barnes was the first man to go, nicking off to a loose shot off the bowling of overseas Ahmed for a duck. Former Slough man Hussain followed a few overs later, after a brute of a ball which rose off a length, struck the batsman on at least the helmet and perhaps the glove too. After the ball then tamely looped to gully, Hussain was adjudged caught. Whether out or not, the way the ball dangerously rose off a length epitomised the challenges to be experienced by Roberts and new man Morris for the next 12 overs or so, who despite slow scoring, managed to take time out of the game and get the ball into a condition which would be easier to play in due course.

Notwithstanding his resolute defence, Roberts was eventually caught driving a delivery which popped off the wicket, striking the stickers of the bat and offering the simplest of catches to Baig at cover. Woods then joined Morris and the pair managed to quell Slough’s momentum, picking off more bad balls as the bowlers began to tire, whilst remaining watertight in defence when required. The introduction of spin allowed Morris to dictate the pace of the game more, with Woods ably supporting at the other end, bringing Henley to lunch on 74-3, which despite some brilliant bowling and a tricky wicket, was a good effort by the Henley batsmen. After lunch, Morris soon reached an impressive 50, which included both dogged defence and stylish stroke play. However, he departed soon after, caught at midwicket off Green, trying to ease the impressive spinner into vacant space. Ashraf joined Woods, who after a fortunate drop on 40, also passed his half-century and took the lead role, allowing Ashraf to knock the ball around and create another frustrating partnership for Slough. Despite not notching up big runs, Henley’s middle to lower order did well to support Woods, who’s 87 was worth 130 on a normal wicket. Tahir Afridi took up the mantle after Woods’ departure, playing as well as anyone and ensuring Henley managed to post 214, all out just shy of their allotted 64 overs.

This total was judged to be just over par, considering the volatile wicket and Slough’s strong bowling display. And so it proved, with Slough capitulating to 57-7 at tea, showing just how well Henley managed to adjust to conditions with the bat earlier in the day. Both Nugent and Afridi were outstanding, with Afridi at his metronomic best and Nugent, despite not necessarily at his most rhythmic, finding a way to be effective on the day and bowling some unplayable overs. Slough’s batsmen simply had no answer, with only Qureshi showing a combination of stroke play and defence which may have facilitated a threatening run chase. When he departed off the bowling of Nugent, his opening partner and Slough’s overseas had already been dismissed, leaving Slough’s middle order vulnerable. Paternott’s bravado lacked longevity and courage, leading to him nicking off to Nugent, a fate which also befell Khan, before Afridi accounted for captain Sher and Slough’s last recognisable batsman Feroz Baig. Henley showed superior skill sets, along with competitiveness and aggression to which Slough simply had no reply.

After tea, Slough were quickly 8-down, with Afridi bowling Green for a valiant 11. Despite some resistance from Zaman, and Henley perhaps taking their foot off the gas slightly, the introduction of Henley’s now fully-fit Gurveer Singh created problems straight away, as he soon dismissed Nawaz LBW, before having Berkshire’s Ally Raja caught at square-leg off an attempted sweep. Slough all-out for 96, a result which will have certainly made a statement at the halfway point of the season.

Roberts was delighted with the performance, saying that, “We’re by no means a finished article and are still some way from playing at a high level consistently. However the best teams are able to find a way to win in difficult circumstances, and we certainly did that today. We adapted to conditions quicker than Slough, and showed a level of attitude and desire to win which we will take into the second half of the season.”

 

Henley 1st XI continue their winning ways at Tring  17 June

Henley continued to show their championship-winning credentials after a hard-earned win at Tring Park, a game in which skipper Michael Roberts broke his own league record with a poised 160*, helping extend his team’s lead at the top of the HCPCL Division 1. Although the game may well be remembered for this feat, what will stand out to the Henley faithful was the way in which the 1st XI managed to take 10 wickets and get over the line on what was a relatively placid pitch, something which eluded them in the very same fixture last year, illustrating how this side has grown over the past twelve months.

On what felt like the hottest day of the cricketing summer thus far, the home team won the toss and decided to bowl on a typically slow and low Tring deck. Although on the face of it this seemed to be a slightly negative tactic, with stand-in skipper Payne perhaps prioritising some points over going for the win, their decision appeared justified. In just the fourth over of the game, after a few beautifully played front-foot drives, Rowe carved a wide wall to point off the feisty Woodland, who lead the charge ensuring Henley had to battle its way through to 37-1 after 10 overs. Despite the seemingly ageless Stanway keeping things quiet from the Pavilion End, with thanks principally to  Waqas Hussain and his wide repertoire of shots, Henley managed to slowly build momentum before drinks, with Roberts accumulating steadily at the other end. Hussain was particularly strong against Tring’s seam attack, driving off the front and back-foot with ease. He reached his 50 with minimal fuss, and looked set to go big, before offering an easy return catch off the erratic leg-spin of Australian Coleman-Ohrynowsky for 66 off 71 balls. Hussain’s departure however did nothing to prevent Henley from motoring to 159-2 off 33 overs at lunch, with Roberts continuing to quietly go about his business in partnership with the more aggressive Morris, who ensured Tring’s spinners had nothing more than hunger to take with them to the break.

After lunch, Morris showed his intent with a couple of trademark maximums off the Tring spinners. However having serenely passed the fifity-mark, he was run out, looking to pick up a single off a mis-field at cover. Skipper Roberts, although arguably at fault for the run-out, was able to remain focused on the task at hand and not long after, brought up his third and certainly most workmanlike hundred of the league season. However having lost Woods cheaply and with some time left to bat, Henley needed to ensure they made the most of their platform and the introduction of the athletic Davison increased the tempo of the innings dramatically. Perhaps too tired from his partner’s desire to run between the wickets, Roberts took the boundary route and went from 100 to 160 in just 29 balls, before declaring on an imposing total of 327 from 57 overs. Roberts’ 160* is the highest score by a Henley player in league cricket, with the Henley captain surpassing his previous record of 155 made against Horspath in 2015.

Regardless of the amount of runs on the board, the declaration games mean that only bowling performances out of the proverbial top drawer lead to victories for teams batting first. Last season, Tring held on for a draw, nine wickets down, thus Henley had something to prove and despite an indifferent start with the ball, Henley rallied and showed skills and character in abundance. Afridi accounted for Dixon early, bowling a beauty which the batter did well to nick behind to Davison. But  for the next 20 overs, Tring looked comfortable, and cruised to 86 without any real danger. As is always the case though at this level, when the spin comes on and batters are required to stay at a certain run-rate, cracks start to appear in more fragile batting line-ups. And so it proved here, with Ashraf continuing his wonderful form with the ball this season, snaring both Payne and Woodland, caught at slip and by gloveman Davison respectively, leaving Tring on 104-3 off 25 at tea.

On the resumption of play at 5:20pm, with the Henley players grateful for a light breeze coming across the ground, the heat remained well and truly on for Tring Park, who were beginning to look more and more vulnerable. Overseas player Coleman-Ohrynowsky was soon caught behind by Davison off the threatening bowling of Brock for a busy 27. Although next man in Rimmington showed some intent to stay somewhere near the required rate, Ashraf proved too good again, provoking a poorly executed cut which was edged to Rowe at slip. Club captain Gumbs, who played nicely for his 50, then hit a ball from Woods into the hands of Roberts at short cover, leading to an intense final 15 overs.

Despite Tring’s valiant resistance, notably by Shah, Rowe proved too crafty for Dutch and Stanway, false shots leading to their demise, before the returning Nugent and Afridi put out the Tring flame, with the latter accounting for the last two wickets LBW and bowled. The masterly death-bowling of Henley’s leading pacemen epitomised a display full of determination and expert skill-sets. Captain Roberts had a day to remember, saying, “I’m hugely proud of the team’s performance today, especially how we pushed to get over the line. That fighting spirit bodes well for later on in the season.” Of his record, he said, “It’s not something which really matters right now, I’m just happy to have contributed and I wouldn’t bet against one of the other boys going even further before the end of the season.”

Henley Seconds Lose By 5 Wickets

Henley 2nds played host to Stoke Green on a scorching hot day at Matson Drive. After winning the toss and electing to bat, Henley once again found themselves in a spot of bother as the combination of Saud Ahmed (3-27) and Ali Abbasi (4-61) produced a spell that accounted for Henley’s top order with the former finding exorbitant swing to remove Goodson, Allaway and Ellison, while the latter probed expertly around off stump to despatch the in-form Gurung and Zac Jones, leaving Henley stuttering on 67-5. Only the composure of resident gun Will Legg (34) offered substantial top-order resistance, but once he had fallen to the wily left-arm spin of Zulfi Butt (3-56), it fell to Jacobsen and Homewood (40*) to rebuild Henley’s innings. Jacobsen’s knock was one of panache and straight hitting, striking the ball cleanly off the Stoke Green spinners, while Homewood’s was a more stolid affair, contenting himself with taking the singles on offer, punctuated by the occasional boundary to relieve pressure. Once Jacobsen had departed for 52, however, the tail were cleaned up quickly and Henley were eventually bowled out for 188.

With the pitch offering some assistance to the spinners, Henley opted to take the old ball – one of the more anachronistic elements of the game still going strong – and it bore fruit immediately, as Singh forced an error from Dan Simpson in the first over, driving uppishly to mid-off, followed by Jacobsen removing Karanpreet Singh the following over, sneaking one between bat and pad. That brought Abbasi to the crease, who promptly set about taking the game away from Henley, his composed 100 compiled virtually chancelessly. Support was offered by Basharat (30), who was eventually removed at the end of a hostile spell from Keegan Russell (1-19),and latterly Kashif Abassi (28*), seeing Stoke Green home to a comfortable 5-wicket victory.

 

Henley 3rd’s Back on track at Falkland  10 June

Henley 3s travelled to Falkland 3s to improve on a disappointing result in the previous week against Slough. Henley changed tactic from previous matches, electing to bat first, boasting a stronger batting line up than previous weeks. The start was not plain sailing, openers Andy Hester and John Neville quickly returned to the clubhouse, followed by Nathan Hopkins. 18 for 3 and the pressure was on Henley, the middle order of the third team has been inconsistent this season but it was Prakash Gurung and Alex Johnson who took control on the game, the ground being small it meant that once batsmen got themselves in runs came quickly and Falklands bowling line-up was weak after their openers. The partnership got Henley out of trouble, the situation these two were in the game could have gone either way but a partnership of 108 gave Henley the ascendency. Gurung hitting a superb 103, showing a full range of shots in a classy innings. Alex Johnson ended on 64 with some destructive hitting, the highlight being a straight six. Late cameos from Hary Manoharan and Nigel Dunstan put Henley in a commanding position of 265 all out.

Opening up Nick Johnson and Nigel Dunstan set to work to get early wickets and with Falkland trying to force the score early on, chances came. Andy Hester took a tricky catch at first slip with the second slip coming across him he snatched the ball and Henley were on the way. Johnson followed up with another wicket, taking out the batsman’s stumps. Dunstan struck with an unbelievable grab from Hopkins, at gully he dived backwards low to the left of him to take a stunning catch. Falkland kept going for shots and with the ball always in the air, Henley took their catches and regular wickets. Dunstan took a high ball off the bowling of Sean Taylor and Adam Lubbock caught off Andy Chappell to get the wicket of the Falkland opener Akram, the player who was looking dangerous. Chappell took a further two wickets quickly as the Falkland innings fell apart. Hopkins brought himself on to bowl and it was his bowling that finished the game with a hat-trick, Gurung completed his superb match with a diving catch. The last two batsmen tried to swing as hard as possible and Henley in the end strolled to a victory. After a shaky start to the match it was an excellent team performance with every player contributing. Henley stay 3rd in division 5b of the TVCL, they face Bracknell this Saturday (17th) at Nettlebed.

 

Impressive Win for 1st XI at High Wycombe 3 June 2017

Henley bounced back from last week’s defeat against Finchampstead with a convincing victory away at High Wycombe, putting in a first-class performance across all disciplines and completely outplaying the former league-leaders. Having struggled to piece together a performance reflective of the team’s capability in its first four games, the 1st XI set the bar high on Saturday and will be eager to replicate similar performances going into the longer format games starting next week.

On a hot day at the London Road ground, which invariably produces pitches of an extremely flat nature, High Wycombe captain Nathan Hawkes won the toss and surprisingly decided to bowl. His decision was never really justified, as Henley’s successful opening pairing of Roberts and Rowe stamped their authority on the game from ball one, setting the tone for the rest of the innings. Both batsmen scored freely, showing dominant stroke-play when the ball was pitched up, whilst being ruthless on anything short, ensuring neither Wycombe’s opening bowlers nor their spinners could easily settle. Both openers brought up their 50s in quick time, taking Henley to 121 for no loss after 25 overs.

Although scoring slowed a little in the middle-overs, perhaps accounting for Rowe’s dismissal at long-on in an attempt to up the rate, Henley’s new recruit Waqas Hussain entered the fray and showed what an asset he will prove to be this season and beyond. Having missed the first four games due to a hand injury sustained whilst playing in Australia, Hussain showed no signs of rust, as he played his way in before tearing Wycombe’s attack apart, allowing Roberts to anchor the innings at the other end. Hussain mixed power with precision, bludgeoning the ball to the boundary when the opportunity presented itself, whilst easing the ball over the ring-fielders to balls which most other players would have defended. By the time Hussain departed for 74 off 60 balls, his stand with Roberts had reached 140, with the latter quietly accumulating a third ton in three games, leaving Henley on 271-3 with 7 overs remaining. Skipper Roberts departed two overs later for a match-defining innings of 149 off 126 balls, and Henley’s middle to lower order, with the help of the experienced Barnes, made certain that no mistakes from last week were repeated as the innings closed on 325-8 after 50 overs.

Although an imposing total, a par score at London Road is always hard to discern and with a strong batting line-up lying in wait, Henley would have to be at their best to extinguish any hopes of a successful run chase. The Wycombe innings started quickly, with both openers Casterton and Baker showing intent from the outset. However with the dangerous Baker caught brilliantly by Hussain at mid-on off the bowling of Nugent, and Afridi showing his class with a remarkably tight opening spell at the other end, Wycombe were under pressure early despite reaching 84-1 off 16 overs. Even with Singh and Woods missing due to injury, Henley are rarely short of quality spinners and the trio of Ashraf, Rowe and the returning Brock proved to be simply too good for Wycombe. First, Rowe accounted for Castleden, expertly caught by Russell at deep square-leg, before Ashraf snared the dangerous Hawkes, caught behind by Davison, guaranteeing Wycombe’s captain had a day to forget.

From then on, Henley tightened the screw, with wickets falling at frequent intervals. Brock, following Ashraf from the bottom end, showed his mettle, bowling a mature spell and setting fields which meant scoring was hard to come-by. With the exception of Duncan, who played well for 44, none of Wycombe’s batsmen threatened and once the dogged Casterton was stumped for 76 off the bowling of Ashraf, Wycombe were in trouble on 166-6 off 37 overs. Henley wrapped up the innings just six overs later, with a convincing run-out by Henley’s best fielder Brock, who personified Henley’s passion and execution in the field.

Although Henley’s performance was outstanding, it was one well within this group of players’ potential and ultimately, will need to be repeated throughout the season if they wish to be title contenders. After the game, Roberts was of the opinion that, “Only now have we shown what we are capable of doing. However, we start again next week against Oxford, who are going well at the top of the league. If we continue to show the same attitude, energy and focus in the forthcoming declaration games, we are confident of being in a good position once the 50-over format returns with four fixtures to go.”

 

Henley overpower Banbury to progress to T20 Finals Day

A dominant display by a strong Henley side helped book their place in the HCPCL T20 Finals Day and ensured a positive end to the Bank Holiday weekend for the 1st XI.

Despite the possibility of rain, Henley opted to bat first and quickly justified their decision by accelerating to 55 – 0 after the opening powerplay, with both Rowe and Roberts combining to prevent any of Banbury’s bowlers from settling. The former was dismissed in the 9th over for 24 off 21 balls, and was the only real casualty for Henley, as Woods and Roberts put the hammer down, scoring at 10 an over for the rest of the innings. Roberts ran himself out in the last over for 119 off 69 balls, completing back-to-back hundreds for the Bank Holiday weekend, with Woods compiling a classy 54 not out off 30 balls, both helping Henley set an imposing total of 220.

Thanks to some excellent new-ball bowling by Nugent and Afridi, and a Banbury batting line-up missing much of their quality, the away side were never in the fixture, losing wickets on a regular basis and finally capitulating to 65 all out. The wickets were very much shared around, with the excellent Afridi taking four, Nugent with three, Brock with two and Ashraf with one. Despite the opposition not being at their best, which could have led to complacency, Henley showed high levels of energy and attitude in the field, demonstrating a notable improvement from Saturday’s performance.

The Finals Day will be held at Burnham CC on the 23rd July.

 

Three in a row for the Thirds as they beat Aldershot 2’s

Summer finally hit for the visit of Aldershot 2s to Nettlebed to face a confident Henley 3rd XI looking for three consecutive wins. In what looks to be the norm, captain Hopkins decided Henley would chase any type of target Aldershot could set and it looked to be a great decision when Nick Johnson struck in the first over. The Aldershot opener reaching for a ball outside his off stump and edging to Olly Gould diving at gully. Henley demonstrated tight bowling throughout the innings with Johnson at one end and young Tom Jordan, opening up for the first time at the other with both limiting early scoring opportunities. Johnson picked up the second and third Aldershot wickets with two LBWs. Andy Chappell was brought into the attack and also kept runs at a minimum. The Aldershot captain had managed to get himself in though and started to build a partnership and remained with wickets in hand.  Johnson finished his 11 overs 3 wickets for 43 runs and at the drinks break it looked evenly balanced.

Drinks often changes games, batsmen lose concentration, and with the first ball Alex Harris-White delivered a Yorker that took out the middle stump. Aldershot bizarrely did not push the score forward, going five overs without a run off the bat, digging themselves a hole. Pressure resulted in Chappell collecting his first wicket with a good catch from Harris-White. With the scoreboard not going anywhere, Chappell continued bowling tight lines, collecting another two wickets with catches from both Johnson brothers. Olly Gould bowled from the pavilion end after Harris-White, slightly erratic at the start of his first spell of the season, he settled into a rhythm bowling wicket to wicket with Chappell. With two wickets in two balls from Gould the innings was coming to a climax. Chappell finished it off with the number eleven trying a different idea of aggressive hitting. Two fours in an over, then trying one too many and Hopkins catching on the boundary to end the innings. A strange batting display from Aldershot who looked well set, but Henley asserted themselves on the game and Aldershot capitulated to 149 all out from 102 for 3.

Alex Price and Alex Johnson opened up, Johnson fell quickly trying one too many sweeps and was LBW, Price fell soon after showing some early promise. Continuing on his good form, Hopkins picked up more runs. Waiting for the short ball which sat up on the Nettlebed pitch from the Aldershot spinner, the highlight of the innings being an impressive three consecutive fours off one over, all blasted through extra cover. Hopkins got to his first fifty of the season, his timed hitting destroying any kind of hope Aldershot had and silence grew in the field as Henley seized a tight grip on the match. Hopkins was bowled after getting to his fifty which included ten fours and a six. Nick Johnson at the other end played with real diligence and patience, not giving a sniff to the fielding team. He took lead of the chase after the aggression of Hopkins. Olly Gould provided some runs to support Johnson and Adam Lubbock attempted to finish the game in spectacular style. It was Johnson who scored the winning runs, a chase that never had Henley under any real pressure. An emphatic victory from a team that is growing in confidence, with each player learning their role within a settled team.

 

Final over thriller as Henley 1st’s go down to a gritty Finchampstead

Henley continued to misfire at the start of the Home Counties Premier League season with a loss at home to Finchampstead, who, with thanks to veteran Gary Loveday, ultimately showed higher levels of determination with the bat. Despite plenty of positives to take away from game, notably Captain Michael Roberts’ 120 and Zia Ashraf’s 3-32, Henley will rue the opportunity to capitalise on a good start to their batting innings, as well as fixtures going their way elsewhere.

Having won the toss on a balmy morning with sun forecast for the majority of the day, Henley decided to get first use with the bat on what was a relatively used wicket at the Brakspear Ground. Although three maidens were bowled up-top by the dangerous Coetzee and crafty Carter, it didn’t take long for Rowe and Roberts to get into their stride. Both batsmen took advantage of anything loose, executing a wide-range of stroke play, with Rowe being the aggressor against the early introduction of spin. Roberts accumulated at the other end and their complimentary batting styles brought the 100 up in 20 overs. In spite of losing Rowe on the stroke of drinks for a typically fluent 53, Morris’ injection of dominance against the spin and speed between the wickets ensured Henley’s good start continued to flourish.

Having reached 50, skipper Roberts went through the gears, taking a particular liking to the reintroduction of seam into the attack and beginning to open his shoulders against the Finchampstead spinners. His 100 came up in the 32nd over, the first of the season in the 1st XI, before being caught at long-on four overs later for 120 off 121 balls. This left the dangerous Morris poised at the crease, with Henley in a strong position on 208-2 and set to easily go past 300.

However it was not to be, as a batting collapse, reminiscent of years gone by, came back to haunt the home side and showed how, regardless of batting conditions, it’s imperative for any new batter to spend a bit of time acclimatising to conditions before playing their shots. The in-form Woods fell first ball, before Morris and Ashraf fell in quick succession, the former caught in the deep off a ball which got stuck in the pitch, and the latter guilty of a poor runout. Despite efforts by Davison to anchor the latter part of the innings, a lack of application ensured that wickets continued to tumble. Russell and Singh attempted valiantly to bat out the innings but it should never have been their responsibility to do so and Henley capitulated to 237 all out, losing 8 wickets for 29 runs.

At half distance, whilst Henley’s total was somewhat under par, the match was still very much in the balance, with a wicket beginning to deteriorate and a bowling attack capable of First-Class performances on its day. In the event, the game went down to the wire and the Henley side can hold its head high by taking the game right into the final over. Nugent and Afridi started well, with the former accounting for House caught behind by Davison. However under no real pressure to score, Finchampstead’s batsmen could quietly go about their business and despite being left on 64-2 after Smith was adjudged LBW to Woods’ first ball, this only served to kick the innings into life.

Berkshire’s Lincoln came to the crease and proceeded to play one of the more belligerent innings seen at the Brakspear Ground for some time. In partnership with the dogged Rogers, Lincoln helped Finchampstead into an authoritative position in the game, requiring to go at less than a run a ball with 90 to win once he departed for an outstanding 61 off 43 balls. However, with the subsequent departures of Rogers and Lincoln Jnr in quick succession, Henley were back in the game and it took some slow accumulation by Loveday and Finch’s overseas Coetzee to bring Finchampstead back onto an even keel. After Coetzee’s dismissal, Finchamspstead required only 42 to win but thanks to some brilliant run-outs by Russell and Oldershaw, coupled with excellent glove work by Davison, Finchampstead were again reeling as the game crept into the final overs.

Although Henley’s death bowling was tight, and showed that anything over 275 would have been out of reach, Finchampstead required only 3 runs off the remaining 6 balls, and Berkshire legend Loveday showed composure and maturity matched by his age to steer the away team to victory, with a straight maximum to win the game by 2 wickets.

In the end then, a thrilling game for the impartial observer but a frustrating one for the home side, whose batting display fell some way short of the championship winning credentials often associated with this team. However, the area of improvement is well within Henley’s control and no doubt they will be eager to respond next week away at local rivals High Wycombe. Skipper Roberts emphasised as much, stating, “We aren’t quite firing on all cylinders at the moment. However we are aware that it is a long season and as long as we are learning each week from our mistakes, we will begin to put in more consistent performances. The lads can’t wait for next week now.”

Henley Seconds Flail Finchampstead     Saturday 27th May

Henley 2nds travelled to Finchampstead on Saturday, with both sides needing to win in order to mitigate a somewhat shaky start. Finchampstead having lost their opening 3 matches while Henley’s progress had slipped away somewhat after their week-1 victory.

Under cloudy skies, but on a pitch that certainly looked as if it had more than a few runs in it, Finch captain Simon Bell won the toss and elected to bat. Openers Jenkins and Lane began solidly enough, before Harry Jordan (2-18) prised both out, the latter in particular being undone by a ball that angled in to him and did just enough to find the edge. It wasn’t long before Wheeler got in on the act, first dismissing Bell with a leg-stump yorker, then extracting the middle order of Eaglesham, Adkins and Predgen in quick succession, leaving Finchampstead on 48-6 and Wheeler’s final figures being 5-24. Dunstan and Brock cleaned up the tail and Henley had a modest target of 60 to chase.

Any hopes that Finch had of applying the same pressure on Henley’s batsmen were quickly dismissed as Barnes (42*) and Goodson (18*) set about their task efficiently, dispatching the required runs in a mere 6.2 overs to seal a 10-wicket victory.

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20 May 2017 Banbury v Henley

First XI Report

Banbury CC, along with High Wycombe CC, were founder members of the Home Counties Premier Cricket League in 2000 and there they have remained in the top division to the present day – they are the only two clubs to do so.

Champions in the first season, they have subsequently been seen as the perennial bridesmaids, finishing runners-up on no less than six occasions without replicating their initial success.

Over the past seventeen seasons they have had the services of many fine overseas players supplementing an array of home grown talent which has been led by the League’s all-time leading run scorer, the evergreen Craig Haupt – still going strong in his 45th year.

Of late, the Club has lost the services of a number of key players, none more so than previous captain Luke Ryan and opening batsman Hugo Derby, but in new captain Lloyd Sabin and Pakistani overseas signing Aizaz Cheema they have excellent replacements.

Cheema made his debut today having previously played in seven tests and fourteen ODIs and whilst at 37 years of age he is clearly not in the first flush of youth he will undoubtedly spearhead a useful attack which also contains quality off spinner John West.

On winning the toss, Henley Captain Michael Roberts had little hesitation in inviting Banbury to bat.  Conditions were cold, windy and with a real chance of rain – hence the possibility of a Duckworth Lewis intervention.

Losing both openers and another wicket all to the pace of Tom Nugent, Banbury were in real trouble at 29/3 when Captain Sabin was joined by John West.  Beginning slowly but gathering momentum both batsmen played with skill and common sense building a partnership of 138 before both fell for 77 and 76 respectively.  The Banbury tail offered little and fell cheaply in the quest for quick runs with the innings closing on 195/7 in the allotted 50 overs.   Nugent with 4/32 and Afridi with 2/33 were the pick of the bowlers this week offering far greater discipline than in the two previous outings.  The spin attack, although not expensive, looked innocuous and lacked penetration on a slow and low wicket.

Following an extended break between innings due to a rain shower, Henley began in pursuit of a winning total on a testing surface.

Matt Rowe (4) and Captain Roberts (15) perished to opening bowler Taylor, a recent signing from Hook Norton CC, a village hitherto better known for its beer.

Scoring was proving difficult for Euan Woods and Richard Morris as they endeavoured to rebuild.  Their partnership of 89 was broken when Morris chipped the persistent West to short mid-wicket and Wicketkeeper Davison fell soon after.

When Woods was eventually out trying to force the pace, for a mature and well-crafted 83, 11 runs were required off the final over.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man!  Ziafat (Zippy) Ashraf had played an innings of controlled aggression and once again proved the man for a crisis.

With five runs needed off the final ball, Henley needed six to win or four to tie bearing in mind that a five was highly unlikely.

In strode Tahir Afridi to face his only ball which he smote for four – oh so nearly a six – and amidst great excitement the match was tied.

Probably a fair result between two teams who will surely be in the mix at the end of the season.   12 points each was a return which both teams will accept but must be thinking “If only”.

Next Saturday Henley return home where they entertain current champions Finchampstead  for whom the current campaign has not started well.   It is then Banbury at home once again on Bank Holiday Monday in the quarter final of the T20 competition.

Henley Seconds vs Cookham Dean

Henley entertained Cookham Dean with hopes of building on their promising start in Division 1 of the Thames Valley League. On a showery day at the Brakspear Ground, Cookham Dean’s captain Ben Millar won the toss and had no hesitation in bowling first. With intermittent squalls punctuating the first couple of hours of play, batting was always going to prove a little harder than usual. Price and Goodson proceeded carefully, doing their best to counteract an impressive opening spell from Wasim Ahmed. Once Goodson fell for 12 against the skiddy action of Maharoof, the door was open for Ahmed (3-21) to blow through the Henley top order, snaffling Price, Brock and Legg in quick succession to leave Henley reeling at 34-4.

Ahmed was replace at the top end by off-spinner Tapiwa Mufudza (2-21), who bowled with skill and control throughout his spell and accounted for last week’s centurion Chris Ellison (14) and wicket keeper Charlie Homewood (22), with only Zac Jones, fresh from avoiding another ban the week before against Boyne Hill, providing any durable resistance, his 58 proving to be the only score of note in an underwhelming batting performance by Henley. The hosts were eventually bowled out in the penultimate over for 149: surely not enough, despite the overhead conditions.

Henley’s bowlers started brightly enough, with Simon Wheeler dismissing opener Marrow early on, aided by a sharp catch at second slip by Brock. That wicket was shortly followed by Rastogi feathering a full ball behind off the bowling of Harry Jordan, and Henley were in the hunt at 32-2. However, a composed partnership between Millar (65*) and Lowden (47*) was enough to see off the rest of Henley’s challenge, culminating in an emphatic 8-wicket victory for the visitors.

Henley 3rd XI v Wokingham 3rd’s

Looking to capitalise on last weeks’ impressive win over Wargrave, it looked as there may not be a game to play against Wokingham 3rds as rain set in, with heavy showers interrupting the start of play. The rain eventually subsided and the game started, after a delay to let the square dry. Henley won the toss and put Wokingham in to bat. Nick Johnson and Andy Chappell opened up, both offering tight lines and restricting early runs on what was a difficult wicket to score meaningful runs on. Johnson was the first to strike in the 7th over as the Wokingham opener looked to drive aggressively through the covers only to spoon it high over captain Nathan Hopkins who took a difficult catch running backwards to set Henley on their way. Chappell struck in the next over forcing the batter to edge behind with Manoharan taking the simple catch. Henley’s opening bowlers continued to control the game and a steady stream of wickets fell. Some excellent fielding and a notable 3 catches for Alex Johnson. And one for Tom Jordan on his first game for the 3rds, taking a superb diving catch in front of him off the bowling of Chappell. Nick Johnson took another three wickets at the other end. Both openers ended up with 4 wickets to their names. The last two wickets fell to a run out from N Johnson, and young Jordan taking his first wicket for the 3rds. Henley had really imposed themselves with only one Wokingham player reaching double figures. 66 all out, it was a very solid bowling and fielding performance.

 

Henley got to the target eventually but it wasn’t plain sailing. Alex Johnson was caught behind in the second over that gave Wokingham an instant sniff of hope. With runs having to be earned on a challenging wicket, returning John Neville also fell cheaply. Hopkins steadied the ship, adding 31 runs to the cause, but wickets kept on falling around him. Lubbock tried to finish the game quickly as he had successfully done last week, but fell cheaply. Ranger, Manoharan and Gould couldn’t steer Henley home. The middle order collapse synonymous with the 3rd team in recent years was happening again until Nick Johnson coming in at number 8 and Alex Harris White at 9, both with a cool heads put the game to bed. Back to back wins for the 3rds puts them 3rd in the league and a productive season look to be set if a settled team can be kept.

13 May 2017   Henley v Burnham

Being well versed in the vagaries of the morning climatic conditions in the Thames Valley, and its effect on seam bowling Burnham, on winning the toss, had no hesitation and inserted the home side. Skipper Roberts and his opening partner Rowe proceeded steadily against the pace of Haroon and Singh. With the score at 30 Rowe skied Singh and slightly miscued his shot to be caught at mid-off. Joined by Euan Woods, the Henley skipper proceeded to punish the bad balls before Woods was bowled for 23 in the 19th over with the score at 82-2. Roberts was then joined by Morris, the former soon reaching his 50 to bring up 100 in 22 overs.  Morris also reached his 50 before Roberts fell for a skilful 89, trying to force the pace with the score at 168-3. His innings featured some excellent boundaries which were well struck off both the front and back foot. Davison and Ashraf now tried to force the pace but the innings became somewhat becalmed as the overall skills of the Burnham bowlers allowed the Henley batsmen little leeway to score quickly, Khan and Raja bowling their 20 overs for a mere 87 runs.

All Henley batsmen made useful contributions in the context of the game but several of the cognoscenti from beyond the boundary were of the view that the final total of 255-7 from their 50 overs might not be sufficient to bring success against a strong batting side. The nemesis of many of the Henley batsmen was largely brought about by a period of self destruction based on “slogging” rather than sticking to their obvious strong batting skills.

After the break, Burnham responded in a similar vein to the home side scoring at a comparable rate before the first wicket fell at 48 to Ashraf. At 71-1, Burnham appeared to be in control of proceedings before three wickets fell in rapid succession to Russell’s pace and Woods’s off breaks. At this stage, the Burnham innings became becalmed as Ashraf bowled his 10 overs for a meagre 30 runs before Woods dismissed Gandan to an excellent catch by Rowe. The dangerous Basran then joined the fray to change Burnham’s approach to the game. He proceeded to score a rapid 55, including 46 runs in boundaries and was well supported by Singh who likewise scored a well struck 62 in an hour. At 174-4, Burnham looked well placed to bring victory to the away side. However, the Henley pace attack then came to the fore with Afridi, Nugent and Russell claiming the last five wickets as Burnham were dismissed for 237. Particularly impressive was the bowling of Russell who, demonstrated the value of bowling straight, finishing the Burnham innings with the excellent figures of 4 for 49 including two clean bowled victims in his final over.

Henley well deserved their victory on the day and it was particularly pleasing to see the superb fielding which supported that victory. In all, seven catches were taken, six of which were outstanding. Nonetheless, it was disconcerting to note that 12 wides were bowled during the Burnham innings, the equivalent of giving the opposition two extra overs. This is a luxury which Henley can ill afford and could lead to their nemesis in the future. However, after an indifferent start to the season the show is now on the road.

May 13 Henley 3rd’s v Wargrave 2nd’s

Henley 3rd team won the toss and elected to bowl first. Starting the field with only 8 players they kept the runs down surprisingly well with Wargrave only going at 2 an over and Henley even had a slip in place. Largely down to excellent bowling from N Johnson and Taylor with the new ball.

When the rest of the team had turned up Henley tightened the screw and managed to nick a couple of wickets. Henleys good fortune continued as regular wickets fell with some good catching behind the stumps from stand in keeper and skipper Hopkins and 3 catches for A Johnson the specialist fielder. Wargrave ended up on 162-9 from their 52.

It was Henleys turn to take to the wicket and despite losing the early wicket of Kenworthy henley never looked in doubt. The returning Price looked like he’d never been away and saw us through with his 50* supported with some strong striking from Hopkins before Lubbock came in and whacked it all over the park for his 63* and secured Henleys first win of the league season.

6 May 2017  Great and Little Tew v Henley

Great & Little Tew CC is a well organised and attractive club playing in rural Oxfordshire.

The ground is well-maintained and must look a picture on a bright sunny day.  Unfortunately Saturday last was not such a day being cold, overcast and with a wind that chilled the bones to the marrow.

The host club was missing a number of players through injury but was still fielding a strong side under the leadership of new skipper Harry Smith and with new overseas capture South African Jancan Adams making his league debut.

For their part Henley were missing the promising Jack Davies (school commitments) and new acquisition Waqas Hussain (injury).  In came the evergreen David Allaway (38) and young Kiwi Keegan Russell (18) to make his first appearance providing two players at either end of the age spectrum.

On winning the toss, Henley skipper Michael Roberts invited the opposition to bat – a plan which backfired due to the inconsistency of the opening attack and it was not until the introduction of the speedy and skiddy Keegan that Smith was surprisingly bowled by a full toss which he appeared to lose sight of in flight.

The remainder of the Tew innings was built around a well-constructed 77 from Jordan Garrett helped by some cameo contributions, namely 46 from Curtly Slatter and 33 n/o from the debutant Adams.  The innings finally closed on 242/8 with Matt Rowe (3/50) the leading wicket taker.

In general terms, however, the attack looked innocuous and lacked penetration despite the Captain’s efforts to rotate all seven bowlers used.

The Henley innings began well enough with Roberts and Rowe putting on 40 before three wickets fell in quick succession.  Roberts was brilliantly caught on the square leg boundary and Rowe (caught behind) and Morris (bowled) with only 4 runs added.

Euan Woods, despite feeling unwell, and wicket keeper Stewart Davison effected a recovery with a partnership of 66 before the latter succumbed to the spin of Ian Bryan.

Ashraf followed LBW first ball and the veteran Allaway who had incurred a rib injury whilst fielding had to retire hurt after only facing three deliveries.

After Woods departed for a well-crafted and mature 50 to a leading edge it was left to the tail-end to endeavour to get Henley over the line.

In the encircling gloom, Afridi, Russell and in particular Tom Nugent and Gurveer Singh edged the total every nearer but it was not to be.  With nine runs needed off the final over Singh holed out to long-on leaving the immobile Allaway and his runner stranded at the non-striker’s end.  The Tew wickets were shared evenly between seam and spin with Tom Nugent coming in at Number 9 having batted as well as anyone.

To fall only eight runs short was galling to say the least but in all fairness it must be said that Tew were the better side in all departments of the game and thoroughly deserved their victory.

A Henley side containing nine players with Minor Counties experience, six of them current, should have performed better than this in what can only be described as a lack lustre display.

The team should not, however, be over-criticised on one poor performance.  Better times undoubtedly lie ahead – hopefully starting on Saturday when Burnham CC are the visitors to the Brakspear Ground.