Henley kept themselves in contention for the 2023 HCPCL Division 1 Championship with a resounding 107 run win over Slough at Matson Drive on Saturday. Now in sixth spot, 21 points behind new leaders Aston Rowant, who crushed Wokingham at Sindlesham, they are in close touch with a group that now includes dark horses, Banbury, who have stealthily moved into third spot at the expense of Datchet, and High Wycombe.
But to the matter in hand, the Henley faithful needed a real pick-me-up after the previous week and that was precisely what they got. Slough won the toss and elected to field. After some initially cagey overs, openers Archie Carter and Johnny Connell began to find their feet, only for Connell to succumb to a rather innocuous ball from Silva, Slough’s Sri Lankan overseas.
Although three further wickets would fall during the innings, that was the visitors’ last cause for celebration as Carter and Jack Davies, produced spectacular virtuoso batting performances. Slough had no answer and were not helped by losing Ali Akbar, the former Henley man, with a broken digit. In the process, Carter and Davies set a new Henley HCPCL second wicket record of 258 as the ball was despatched to all parts using every proper cricket shot in the book and then some. Both scored 152, Carter seeing off the first ball and walking off unbeaten. Davies was finally trapped lbw but not before his last 50 runs came off 18 balls, Kashif Ali’s last over going for 23 (4,6,4,4,4,1).
Davies is now a seasoned young pro, but on the day, Carter was very much his equal. The returning Mikey Roberts gave Northant’s Saif Zaib his only reward for some hard, thankless graft, and Liam Hilditch remained in post until skipper Tom Nugent called time and declared with a couple of overs to spare.
Great batting tracks do not always make for taking all ten wickets and with the batting at their disposal, Slough could reasonably harbour ambitions for a run chase. But Nugent marshalled his troops well and the Henley bowling held their nerve and stuck to their guns to prize out a very talented top five. Some tasty shots showed why Sheridon Gumbs is highly thought of at Surrey before cutting to Adam Searle at point, Zaib got a start only to hole out in the deep, Declan Farland trapped the dangerous Lincoln lbw just as he was beginning to motor. For a while, Worcestershire signing Kashif Ali and Silva gave hope to the Slough cause until Silva was tempted once too often by Searle and caught on the long-on boundary to his evident frustration.
After which Slough steadily unravelled rather lamely for just 66 runs, Nugent turning to Euan Brock who responded by weaving his magic with 4-31, and Searle taking two successive wickets in the 39th over. Kashif Ali was the last to go, bowled trying to late cut and keep the strike, leaving the brave Ali Akbar, who had returned from A&E to hold up an end, stranded. And that was that, a day which will remain long in the memory of the Henley support and a tonic for all after the miseries the week before.
This Saturday, Henley travel to Finchampstead who will be keen to make it four in a row over their visitors. On a Saturday when Aston Rowant and Banbury will fancy their chances at home to Buckingham Town and Oxford and anything could happen between Slough and Datchet and High Wycombe and Wokingham, there is no better time for Henley to get the Finch monkey off their back and collect another 25 points.