Home Counties Premier Cricket League: Week 1
Henley v High Wycombe at the Brakspear Ground
Henley won the toss, Wycombe batted first.
Win for Henley, 164-4 (42.5 overs) over Wycombe 163-10 (41.1 overs)
Henley 25 points, Wycombe 3 points.
League position: Joint 1st
For the first time in a several seasons, Henley succeeded in beating High Wycombe in their HCPCL Week 1 encounter at the Brakspear Ground which was also the first game played in the League in the new 50/50 over win/lose format which will involve the first five and last four games.
The match was nonetheless tinged with sadness as the players wore black arm bands and observed a minute’s pre-match silence in honour of Mary Nelson, wife of Club President John, who sadly died last week after a long battle with cancer and who will be much missed by all.
Winning the toss on a murky breezy, overcast and at times showery morning, Henley skipper Bjorn Mordt wasted no time in putting Wycombe into bat. Tom Nugent, operating from the Pavilion End, has added an extra yard of pace and a vicious bouncer to his repertoire over the winter and drew first blood bowling Eyles (11) in the sixth over. Morgan was now joined by Birkby who greeted the arrival of Mordt, replacing Nugent from the Pavilion End, by swatting him for a couple of boundaries. But Mordt exacted swift revenge to remove Morgan (18) thanks to an outstanding stumping by keeper/coach Todd Ferguson, trumped only by Simon Wheeler’s spectacular caught and bowled as Birkby viciously flat-batted a short delivery back to the bowler who, sharp in the field all day, managed to hold onto a ball that would otherwise have removed his teeth if not his head. 58-3 became 58-4 as Wycombe skipper Benning nicked off a swinging Mordt delivery to Dave Allaway at second slip. Youngster Zaid let his frustration of ten dot balls get the better of him as he tried to hoike Mordt out of the ground and was bowled for his pains to make it 64-5 in the 19th over.
Still, all was far from lost as Cranfield-Thompson was joined by the equally experienced Duncan. The former flayed the bowlers around and out of the ground as he and Duncan put on 53 for the next wicket, Duncan (13) a disappointed lbw to Ashton Agar. Dobb marked his arrival at the crease by swatting Nugent, now operating from the Remenham Hill end, for two big sixes over deep backward square and contributed a useful 27 before coming Agar’s second lbw victim of the day. But by now, Cranfield-Thompson (49, ct Ferguson) and Hussain (0, lbw) had both fallen victim to Gurveer Singh and it was matter of time before the tail capitulated in the 42nd over, leaving Henley to score 164 to win.
A slightly stuttering start saw the early departures of Fahim Qureshi (0, lbw) and Jason Barber (bowled, 2), but any hopes that Wycombe might have harboured were steadily eroded as Barnes and Allaway took the game away from Wycombe with a 112 run partnership. A largely youthful bowling attack posed few, if any, problems to this experienced pair who took full opportunity to demonstrate their wide range of shots, Barnes imperious through the covers and Allaway increasingly strong through the leg side. Allaway (56) rather gave away his wicket to become Hussain’s third victim and Agar was out caught behind to a rather loose shot off the bowling of the combative Duncan. But that was it as an initially scratchy Mordt (17*) gradually found his rhythm and accompanied Barnes to an unbeaten 78, Barnes closing out the game with seven overs to spare by hammering Duncan to the boundary square of the wicket and through the covers.
So there it was, a welcome first win of the season, always a good way to start, against a Wycombe side that is much changed from last year following the departure of some experienced players and the commendable introduction of some home grown and locally recruited youthful talent. Overall, Henley played well, the fielding was pretty sharp, the bowling generally tight and effective and there was enough form batting on show notwithstanding the absence of Hampshire duo Michael Roberts and Hamza Riazuddin. However, and it seems odd to say this in the context of a game against Wycombe, sterner challenges lie ahead.
Elsewhere, there were wins for Banbury over Welwyn Garden City, Slough over Burnham, Tring Park over North Mymms and notably Harpenden home to Potters Bar where the visitors were shot out for 34. It is already clear that in these 50/50 games, the absence of the draw and the probable paucity of points for the losing side are going to have a big impact on the League standings. It is early days and perhaps too early to say, but the chances are that by the time the League returns to the traditional format, the dye will be largely cast and will only change, if at all, in the last four games.