Henley Hold On For Another Draw

hccFor the second week running, Henley had to settle for a the lesser end of a draw in a game which they never really took control of and which, but for an outstanding rearguard action by Cameron Boyce and Tahir Afridi, might easily have been lost.

Winning the toss, Burnham decided to have a bat on a beautiful hot morning and suffered early casualties as Kumar holed out to Hamza Riazuddin off Tom Nugent at mid-on and Hamzah Khan shouldered arms to a straight one from Tahir Afridi that rearranged his middle stump. Both opening bowlers were quite excellent in the early exchanges. This brought together Harveer Gandan and Aftab Khan, Burnham’s overseas player from Pakistan who plays first class cricket there for Habib Bank. Between them, they put on 72 runs for the next wicket with a mix of enterprising and fearless batting until Khan fell to Afridi, caught at slip by Bjorn Mordt shortly after lunch, at which point Burnham had been 92-2, having had the better of the morning.

Gandan pushed on and eventually was caught behind off the bowling of Gurveer Singh but not before he had racked up an excellent 68. Gradually, the wickets came but the Burnham batsmen, clearly determined to make up for the poor showing the previous weekend against Banbury, kept up the attack. Nadeem, Malik and Bashir in particular all made excellent contributions. With the exception of the wicketless Mordt and Riazuddin, who kept things pretty tight, the Henley bowlers were generally expensive. Nugent, Afridi and Singh all took three apiece, but Boyce, also wicketless, bowled rather too short at times and paid the price. When Bashir was bowled for the ninth wicket by Afridi, Burnham decided that 251 in 63 overs was enough of a target for Henley and declared.

And so it proved to be. Fahim Qureshi, opening in place of Michael Roberts, who had injured his left hand playing for Hampshire the previous day, and Dave Barnes made a decent enough start before Qureshi was caught at slip. Riazuddin lasted just three balls, caught at slip following a fortunate boundary that had looped over the keeper’s head, and once again, the middle order failed to fire as Dave Allaway, Mordt and Stewart Davison, who showed some early positive intent, all went cheaply. When Barnes was caught and bowled by Aftab Khan who would bowl 28 overs in what was, one over of seam apart. an all spin attack from the very start, Henley’s chances of victory disappeared, and at 92-6, with plenty of overs remaining, survival became the name of the game.

Ferguson hammered an enterprising 27 runs off just 22 balls before falling lbw to Khan and once again it was left to Boyce and Afridi to man the defences and see the game out. Whilst Afridi was, contrary to his normal attacking instincts, rock solid in defence, Boyce once again demonstrated that he is a class act with the bat who should be batting further up the Henley batting order, dominating the Burnham spinners, including smashing Ali out of the attack, in an innings of 53 that included nine fours and one six. Khan (4-70) and Ali (3-78) bowled 50 overs between them, Malik breaking the mould with a single over of seam which did nothing to faze Boyce.

So Henley held out and another 9 point draw was the result. As luck would have it, they maintain their 16 point lead over Harpenden who lost to Slough who chased down the home side’s 243 and Tring could only draw at Welwyn. Nonetheless, there is a  very real need to get the winning show back on the road and although Henley gave away a few more runs than they might have, that really means that the batsmen have to step up to the plate.

The game was marred by some very undignified misbehaviour on the field of play. Given that disciplinary consequences may result, it would be inappropriate to elaborate further, but if those involved feel that their conduct and manners were appropriate on the cricket field or in civilised society generally, it is a sad day.