In a game that defied the rain, Henley got back to winning ways with a four-wicket victory over winless and bottom club, Buckingham Town, thereby moving up a couple of rungs on the Division 1 ladder.
Winning the toss, the visitors elected to bat, rain falling as the players took to the field. The Umpires peered skyward and a brief delay ensued. A couple more rain breaks further disrupted progress and reduced the overs. This did not inhibit Tom Nugent’s capacity for wicket taking, Wells caught behind and Cox caught by a gazelle-like Brock at third slip. Otherwise the rate of scoring on a good deck that held few demons was glacial. At lunch, Bucks were 45-2 off 21 overs.
It would take them to the 43rd over to pass 100, and by then, only two wickets remained. Nugent cleaned up Price, Harry Jordan bagged a pair, Brock taking a stunner at backward point to remove the most durable Bucks batter, the evergreen Leigh Tomlinson, and Adam Searle holding on to a King skyer. Nugent turned to spin and Declan Farland and Seale accounted for everyone else leaving Henley with the modest task of scoring 110 runs.
This was a day for the dedicated connoisseur. The weather, sub-tropical the day before, felt like winter as players and spectators donned anything that might afford greater warmth. Playing, umpiring, scoring, and spectating was a sort of sporting Great Gatsby, everyone at the party, but no one having any fun.
The Henley innings was not for those with a weak heart or nervous disposition. Matt Rowe was out LBW first ball to the wily Lahiro Gamage, a Sri Lankan seamer with five Tests to his name, and Mikey Roberts soon followed, a pull shot backwards of deep square leg well taken by Price. That made it 10-2 which became 31-4 as Liam Hilditch and Brock each struck graceful boundaries and then checked out to Price.
At the top end, Johnny Connell remained in post and was joined by Henley’s answer to Horatius on the Pons Sublicius, Stewart Davison. Between them, they mustered another 35 ruins before Connell played the same shot as Roberts and Price took an even better catch given the speed and trajectory of the ball, allied to near Stygian gloom. Rain intervened and it all looked rather terminal. But play resumed and no sooner than it did, a rather ordinary ball from Price induced a rather ordinary top edge and Nugent was toast, 77-6. On strolled young Searle, whose diffident mien belies steely determination and a good eye.
He and Davison chipped away, finding the boundary with style when they could, before cutting loose in Price’s last over (the 32nd) which yielded 16 runs and left Henley just two short of victory. The now hobbled Gamage charged in for his 17th over and Seale (19 off 18 balls, 4 fours) despatched the second ball through the covers and that was that.
In truth, nothing less than the win would have done. But on a day when rain led to three drawn games and new leaders Datchet chased down Aston Rowant’s 242 in just 35.2 overs in a performance of which Stokes and Bairstow would have been proud, Henley did their cause no harm. Due to variable form, a change in the allocation of bowling points this year, and no one club setting the pace, nothing separates the top seven, top eight even.
This weekend, Henley are at home again, to Wokingham who are at the high-water mark of their intermittent HCPCL career. Dark horses in last year’s promotion race from Division 2, they have some homegrown quality, have recruited wisely, and their ambitions in 2022 are not without merit. This all makes for a compelling encounter.
Report by Ivor Stump