Henley were never in the hunt at Butts Way, Aston Rowant winning by six wickets, a measure that does not truly reflect the degree to which Henley must raise their game if they are to have an impact on the 2022 HCPCL campaign.
Winning the toss, Henley skipper Tom Nugent opted to bat. The visitors were soon on the back foot, Johnny Connell’s off-stump uprooted as he shouldered arms to the last ball of the first over to the manifest delight of Rowant skipper, Karl Penhale. Penhale and left-armer Bethell continued to put the ball in good areas to good effect. A couple of elegant boundaries from Mikey Roberts got him off the mark but he found himself pinned down. Trying to gain traction, Max Mannering snapped him up at third slip to give the now delirious Penhale his second scalp of the day.
Richard Morris’s valedictory year at Henley continues to be a bit of a struggle, this time strangled down the leg side, a decision he found somewhat challenging as did Matt Rowe, adjudged lbw which made it 26-5. By then, Euan Brock had cross-batted himself out of the game, and the rest of the batting line up faced a Sisyphean task to see out 64 overs and post a defendable score. Stewart Davison brought his workmanlike resistance to bear for a top score of 34 off 90 balls that featured three boundaries and along the way he was ably supported by Adam Searle, who showed some nice touches with 23 off 48 balls (4 fours), and, also by his skipper.
But the score crept along at snail’s pace and 64 overs felt like a distant shore somewhere far over the horizon. Absent anyone from the top order still being in post, no one looked remotely like conjuring up a dazzling game-changing score. A bit like asking someone to paint the Sistine Chapel when they are yet to master painting by numbers, and shades of the pre-season game at Ealing without anyone making a century. Eventually, in Over 48, with last man Simon Wheeler for company, Davison felt the need to give it the long handle, but found only Penhale at deep midwicket and Rowant needed 106 to win.
In the field everyone did their best. Wheeler removed Condon and Nugent did likewise with Rossouw, both caught behind, but Sutcliffe added ballast to the innings with a meaty 19, supporting former skipper Josh Smith who made a run-a-ball 45. Both failed to see the game out as the belated introduction of spin bore fruit. But Watling and the Rowant Overseas, Ben Le Bas, from the Bankstown Club in Sydney, did the necessary and it was job done in 25.1 overs.
Henley were well beaten by a better side that played better, simple as that. Rowant certainly deserve their current leader’s spot, but, as they say in motorsport, the only lap you need to lead is the last one when the chequered flag comes out.
Skipper Nugent had this to say: A disappointing result and performance this week, we need to make sure we learn from the last 2 weeks and work hard this week so that we are in a good position on Saturday. Looking at the positives, we showed good spirit and fight in the field right to end defending a low score.
The result leaves Henley in 7th place in what is a crowded ladder where just 18 points separate them from second placed Finchampstead. So all is far from lost and there is a long way to go. At the bottom Oxford and Buckingham Town have already dropped off the back of the peloton and Henley will look to return to winnings ways against bottom club Buckingham Town, yet to win a game this year, this weekend’s visitors to Matson Drive.
Report by Ivor Stump