HCPCL: Week 2
Henley v Welwyn Garden City at Digswell Park
Henley won the toss, Welwyn batted first.
Win for Henley, 76-2 (16.3 overs) over Welwyn 75-10 (33.3 overs): Mordt 10-2-24-4, Afridi 6.3-0-20-3; Nugent 6-3-5-1; Agar 6-1-19-1; Singh 4-2-4-1. Roberts 33*, Barnes 29, Allaway 6*.
Henley 25 points, Welwyn 0 points.
League position: Joint 1st
Henley’s excellent start to the 2013 campaign continued with a resounding eight wicket victory away at Welwyn Garden City against a home side that really did not turn up. On a sombre, overcast and very still morning, the only option was to bowl first and having won the toss, Henley skipper Bjorn Mordt wasted no time in doing just that. Tahir Afridi, keen to make up for a nil return in Week I, was quickly into action removing opener Champion (0) in the first over, Dave Allaway making no mistake at mid-on. Afridi then had Scott (1) caught behind in the third over before opener Baker and Southgate staged a mini-revival to take the score to 24 at which point, Baker pulled Nugent to midwicket where the ball was dramatically if improbably caught one handed by Fahim Qureshi leaping like a gazelle and holding on despite landing on his elbows.
Southgate, now joined by Chalker, ploughed on, but progress was painfully slow with Welwyn on 44-3 after 16 overs. Mordt replaced Afridi on a morning tailor made for his medium-paced swing bowling and Welwyn began to unravel. Southgate (24) spooned a Mordt delivery to Allaway at wide mid-off, Ashton Agar bowled Chalker (19) and that was the effective end of any resistance on the part of Welwyn. Nolan (2) was sharply caught at first slip by Michael Roberts, skipper Hewitt was out for a golden duck, lbw Mordt and Greenall became the third batsman to hole out to mid off, this time caught by Agar, as Mordt recorded an outstanding 4-24 off ten overs. Gurveer Singh and a returning Afridi cleaned up the tail and it was all over in the thirty-fourth over as Welwyn set the bar at just 75.
It was a dispirited Welwyn that took the field and things got off to a bad start as Baker bowled four wides down leg and before the Henley openers had put bat to ball. When Baker did find the range, Roberts cut him to the boundary and set the tone of a studied but untroubled and elegant unbeaten 33 that included six fours, including a run four to close out the game. If Roberts feasted off the fast medium pace of Baker, fellow opener David Barnes (29) went to town on spinner Paul Barker who, somewhat bizarrely, opened from the Monk’s Rise end, serving up some appetising fare which Barnes duly dispatched to all parts.
There was a brief glimmer of hope for the home side as Southgate replaced Baker with spin from the Pavilion End and served up a mouth watering half-tracker to Barnes who went to smash it over long-off only to sky it back to the bowler. Southgate followed that up to remove Qureshi with a first ball lbw, but that was the end of the revival as Roberts and Allaway closed things out in just 16.3 overs.
And so, a second straight win, in fact the sixth consecutive League win if one takes 2012 into account, which leaves Henley on top of the tree joined there by Slough and Tring Park. Henley can point to another excellent display in the field by all involved allied to a bowling attack which poses a wide range of different problems to and sustained pressure on batsmen. They can also point to an excellent batting line up including a cruelly unlucky Qureshi who will nonetheless win games for Henley as the campaign develops. But all that said, Welwyn were woeful and seemed to lack composure and spirit in marked contrast to previous years. True they could point to the absence on holiday of key player Laraman and the commendable blooding of some youngsters but skipper Hewitt was subdued and the home side undoubtedly under-performed and scored precisely “nul points”.
Week 2 produced an interesting crop of results with Slough chasing down Wycombe’s 282 with three balls to spare, Potters Bar making a far better fist of things than in Week 1(239) but still getting beaten by Tring, Burnham beating Harpenden, and last, but by no means least, North Mymms, visitors next Saturday to the Brakspear Ground, chasing down Banbury’s 214, again with just three balls to spare.
All this leaves Henley, Slough and Tring with 100% records, Welwyn bottom with just 2 points, five behind Potters Bar and Wycombe languishing in an unchartered and uncharacteristic eighth spot with just 10 points. Between them and the top three, there is a crowded midfield. Still, there is a very long way to go and these are but early days, but as Banbury found to their cost, promoted North Mymms are not to be underestimated.