By the skin of their teeth, Henley emerged victorious at Datchet in what ended up as the closest of encounters – well up there in the pantheon of Damn Close-Run Things. On a day when the weather stymied High Wycombe’s and Aston Rowant’s chances, the win took Henley up to fourth spot and keeps them very much in the mix, just 18 points separating Datchet, still top, from fifth placed High Wycombe.
In front of their hardcore travelling support, Henley won the toss and decided to bowl on a breezy morning, which, allied to Heathrow departures taking off a few hundred feet above, made for chill and noisy viewing.
Once the scoreboard started working in the fifth over, it revealed that opener Barrett had already departed lbw and fellow opener Dickinson was taking a shine to the Henley bowling. Dickinson would take some prising out, but durability was an issue for Datchet as Nugent removed Mead and Dickinson, and Johnny Connell revealed himself as a seamer of some talent, doing for Samoan International and Auckland Aces star, Sean Solia, and Brooks to make it 61-5.
By lunch, Datchet had slumped to 87-7, the vintage Naylor having also retired hurt with a damaged calf, his replacement, Joe Thomas almost immediately brilliantly run out by Connell, a direct hit with little to aim at and Akhtar bowled by Nugent (4-52).
After lunch, it was extremely slow going as Raheem Sher clung on but did little for the score, the sort of player Henley were happy to keep in post as a now somewhat restored and ready to reappear Naylor fretted on the boundary. A rather dull spell of cricket was enlivened when Datchet had 5 penalty runs awarded against them for repeatedly running down the wicket despite being warned more than once.
Sher (42 off 124 balls) finally departed and Naylor limped out for his second spell with a runner and struck a few lusty blows before becoming Shaariq Sheikh’s second victim. Smithson held on to the end with a slow 44 and Henley needed 186.
Out strode young opener Archie Carter, Henley’s gain and Wokingham’s loss. Just as the Morris chapter ends, so the Carter chapter begins and what a find he a is. His 67 exuded class and without it, this would have been a different tale. It was not Connell’s day nor that of Mikey Roberts, who despite being reprieved by the umpire, reversing his own decision, perished two balls later. Matt Rowe, batting at four, found greater traction for a 49-run partnership with Carter. Then, it was youth to the fore as Carter and Liam Hilditch added another 47 between them. But Carter’s departure soon followed by Hilditch, Euan Brock, and Nugent, invigorated Datchet, always lively in the field with their appeals and their “oohs” and “ahs” at near and far from near misses.
Solia might not have has much of day with the bat but, he was just too good with the ball (7-61). The ascent to victory was worthy of a “hors categorie” Alpine climb in the Tour De France as Stewart Davison and Adam Searle, ground their way up. Momentum drained away and runs came at an agonising trickle. Not an issue as overs there were aplenty. Datchet tried everything including trying to keep the ball far away from the batters, which donated 8 precious byes. 180, just six runs to go. Datchet resorted to bowling at the stumps and Davison and Searle were gone in a heartbeat.
Jordan and Sheikh! Last men standing. Darkening skies, rain about. Could they do it? Squeaky bum time and then some. Five dots following Searle’s departure. Solia to Sheikh, a maiden, four singles in the next over. Solia to Sheikh, a maiden. Harris to Jordan, the fielder diving, but clutching at air and two priceless runs! Over the line, palpable relief, euphoria. It was as tight as that.
This Saturday, the second half of the season begins with a trip to lowly Oxford and a game which Henley need to win if they are to keep their Championship hopes alive.