Despite dominating Wokingham with the bat, Henley had to settle for a draw as the weather closed in and put paid to any hopes there might have been of securing victory. With Datchet and High Wycombe both winning, Henley remain in fifth spot, but lost ground to the leaders Datchet.
Winning the toss, Henley opted to bat on a belter of a wicket, albeit that for the first seven overs it seemed anything but as the Wokingham seamers, spearheaded by former Henley player and Wokingham sophomore, Andrew Rishton, limited Johnny Connell and Matt Rowe to just seven runs. In the eighth over, Rowe viciously dumped Creighton into the allotments for six, but come the ninth, he faced Rishton for the first time and was caught at slip.
Cue Mikey Roberts to stride the crease and, for the rest of the morning, he and, gradually, Connell exposed the shortcomings of the Wokingham bowling and proved beyond any doubt that the wicket was indeed a very flat track.
After a particularly brutal (13th) over that yielded 14 runs, Rishton was replaced by former Slough player Khan and Creighton by Uttley. But the boundaries kept flowing and as Wokingham skipper Dan Housego, once a Henley teenage prodigy, posted more fielders to the boundaries, so came the easy pickings for ones and twos.
Rishton returned in the 25th over, now partnered by Muirden, but it made no difference, the pair serially dumped out of the ground, necessitating, not for the first or last time, a replacement ball. By lunch, Henley were flying along on 129-1 (Connell 56*, Roberts 57*) and Wokingham were bowling for runouts.
Which was precisely what happened soon after lunch as a switched off Connell played an innocuous shot but forgot to recover his ground, and was run out by a switched on Uttley. Once again, a century went begging, but it is not far away.
Richard Morris, playing his last game for Henley, now joined Roberts. One of Roberts’ first acts when made captain in 2016 was to persuade Morris to join the club and what he player he has been. A key element in the team that won three consecutive championships, he had the satisfaction of leaving on a high with a trademark, swashbuckling 45. By then, Roberts had holed out for 112 at long-off, as annoyed with himself as if it had been 12.
But if the Wokingham bowlers thought that calmer waters lay ahead, Euan Brock (39 off 33 balls, 1 four, 3 sixes) and Stewart Davison (36 off 31, 2 and 1) soon disabused them of that notion, Brock clattering a by now thoroughly demoralised, borderline lachrymose Rishton (20 overs, 3 maidens, 2-125) into Remenham Hill on three occasions, no less.
Tactically, Brock’s departure in the 62nd over with the score on an unassailable 303 should have been the moment to declare rather than bat on for another 17 balls and 21 runs and gift 4 bowling points to Wokingham. So it was that when the dust settled, and the game was drawn, Henley had 11 points to show for their efforts, one less than Wokingham, which hardly reflected the balance of the game.
The downside of a great batting deck is that it makes taking 10 wickets very hard. By the time persistent rain finally ended proceedings in the 31st over, Rishton and Housego were looking comfortable and just three wickets had been prised out, pick of the bunch being Rowe’s reaction catch at short midwicket off the returning Shaariq Sheikh to remove the much-travelled Conrad Louth.
This Saturday, Henley complete the first half of the League programme (yes folks, it is that time already) with a Regatta weekend trip to high flying Datchet, against whom, Henley have a good record. Another exciting game beckons and an away win at the Wally Gage Memorial Ground would open up the title race and do Henley’s chances no harm.
Report by Ivor Stump