Henley Batting Not Up to the Mark

Henley’s winning streak came to an end at London Road, High Wycombe on Saturday in a game that was there to be won but was thrown away through a poor batting performance that once again highlighted the rather soft centre to the visitors batting line-up that is all too often masked by excellent bowling and fielding and top order batting.

Winning the toss on a breezy and mainly sunny morning, Henley skipper Bjorn Mordt opted to field. Slowly warming to their task, Wycombe openers Baker and Russell notched up 47 off the first ten powerplay overs. Baker in particular chanced his arm but got away with it, scything at anything within his arc, at times to spectacular effect. Four shy of his fifty when Russell played on, Baker brought up his fifty by clattering Mordt for six over long-off. Morgan lasted just seven balls before chipping to Carter at cover off Mordt. But Baker motored on in the same vein as the Wycombe batting engine room of Benning, Cranfield-Thompson and skipper Eyles all came and went around him, making starts and partnering Baker to good effect but not themselves kicking on.

For its part, the Henley bowling attack, allied once again by generally tight and athletic fielding, stuck to its guns, prizing out the middle order and generally controlling the run rate within acceptable bounds, particularly after Mordt deployed the spin of Gurveer Singh and Euan Brock. Baker’s departure for an excellent 118, caught spectacularly by Michael Roberts at wide long-on off Nugent, in the 40th over, blunted Wycombe’s rate of scoring, just 33 runs coming of the last ten overs as Jones was stumped off Brock, and Singh accounted for Zaib lbw and Amjad, caught by Roberts over his shoulder at deep mid-on off a skier that swirled in the wind.

241 was perhaps slightly below par and reflected a job well done in the field, nonetheless showing what can be done if one player stays in and makes a big score. Absent Baker’s 118, the run chase might have been rather different but Baker had played to his strengths and if the Henley bowlers were guilty of one thing, it was of allowing Baker to do just that and not bowling more back of a length to him.

In reply Henley made a bright start and the ball was just three overs old before Roberts despatched it over the stream and netting and way into the park beyond, never to be seen again. Despite that, U18 bowler Burden was sharp and impressive though, it would be the more workmanlike Parsons, replacing Baker, who accounted for David Barnes, caught at second slip. This brought Ben McDermott to the crease. Just when it began to look like it would be his day, an almost run a ball innings of 24 was ended by a rather harsh lbw.
Still at 81-2 Henley were well up with the rate. Though Brock was out quickly and cheaply lbw, Roberts and Allaway had things well under control. Roberts brought up his 50 and Henley’s 100 in the 20th over and at half distance (25 overs), Henley were 122 runs to the good. However, trouble lay ahead, arriving in double measure in the 27th over as first Allaway and then Roberts needlessly gave their wickets away, unable to resist trying to smash diminutive spinner Zaib out of the ground and getting caught respectively at long-on and deep mid-wicket where Baker returned the favour.

In one over, Henley had gone from being well placed to cruise to victory to finding themselves with a mountain to climb. Henley really needed Roberts to stay in to the end and once he departed, the writing was on the wall as, with the honourable exception of Mordt, who demonstrated what can be achieved by unspectacular accumulation and not trying to hit every ball out of the ground, Henley’s run chase fell apart. In truth, none of his partners at the crease looked either likely or capable on the day of seeing Henley home. Afridi might have been but holed out to mid-wicket going for a second consecutive six, Nugent got the slightest of edges and was caught behind, Carter never got going and Davison saw the ball ricochet off his bat onto the stumps. With just Singh left to help him take Henley over the line, Mordt took most of the strike until he was unable to keep out the pacey Benning.

And that was that, 41 runs short and 32 balls remaining, amply demonstrating that with more wickets in the locker, the game could and should have been Henley’s. Henley still lead the League but Slough, winners over Gerrards Cross and next week’s visitors at the Brakspear Ground, are breathing down their necks just seven points behind. Exciting times!