Other than Fibonacci, most sequences come to an end sooner or later. Whether it was going to be Finch’s 3 game winning streak against the visitors or Henley’s top order batters scoring 150+ in a row (Connell’s was for Berkshire) would be settled later.
The sun shone on a parched Finchampstead ground, with the outfield resembling The Oval in 1976 with the early spectators using local knowledge to seek out the shade at the picturesque ground.
On winning the toss Finchampstead captain Woodford asked Henley to bat and was rewarded with the wicket of one of Henley’s 150+ batsmen, smartly caught and bowled by Sharp in his follow through. After 6 overs Henley were 6-1, Rowe and Connell set about building a partnership, trying to establish what a par score would be on this surface and progressing cautiously till Connell edged Thilo behind in the 20th over. Radhakrishnan and Rowe then continued building sensibly with the former showing his range of wristy shots as the partnership passed 50. It was not till the 30th over that Woodford turned to his spin options in Daniel. Although he conceded 7 runs from his first over, he soon settled into his rhythm and was rewarded with the wicket of Radhakrishnan caught driving uppishly to cover. Woodford then joined the attack and 119-3 became 129-4 as he had Rowe caught by Crerar for the innings top score of 41. When Davison was run out and Hilditch chipped a return catch to Woodford the prospect of four in a row loomed ominously. Debutant Desai and skipper Nugent had other ideas as they took the attack to the spin bowlers. The 40 runs they added were priceless as the innings subsided to 204 all out in 62.5 overs, 31 of which were bowled by the two spinners, Daniel and Woodford.
Whether this was a defendable total given the speed of the outfield was debatable but the clue was there in that 5 of the 8 wickets taken by bowlers fell to spinners and the visitors had 4 of them. Nonetheless Henley needed to start well and take their chances. Needless to say, 22-0 off two overs was not what they had in mind as overseas player Moffat took 8 from Nugent’s first over and unfurled a range of shots with Jordan’s opening effort going for a further 14. The skipper wasted no time in introducing spin to the attack in the third over as Searle began his spell from the pavilion end and was rewarded in his second over as Smith, somewhat left behind by his partner, was caught at mid-off for 4. Meanwhile Moffat had reigned his shots in and was looking solid when to the final ball of Nugent’s fifth over, he offered no shot and had his off stump disturbed. The first ball of his next over could have provided a crucial moment as Gilks edged fiercely to second slip where Connell found himself unable to cling on, as the ball raced away to the boundary. Things were evenly poised at 43-2 but started to tilt in Henley’s favour as Bell was trapped LBW by Searle and a becalmed Parsons kept Gilks company as the score progressed past 50. The New Zealander took to Searle, hitting him for four and then first ball of his next over for six but the spinner has his revenge by bowling him next ball for 22. Nugent was still steaming in down the hill in the afternoon heat and in his tenth straight over induced an edge from Parsons to end his half hour stay for 2 and the hosts on 65-5 which moved to 77-5 at tea. Crerar and Sharp dug in and although the partnership was only 27 it occupied the Henly bowlers and it was with relief that Carter took a smart catch off Sharp to give Searle his fourth wicket. This soon became five as Radhakrishnan dived full length to dismiss Thilo with the total still shy of 100. Farland was the next to try at the far end of the ground and his left arm spin provided a different option as Crerar went quietly about keeping the scoreboard moving and reducing the deficit but then Connell made amends for his earlier lapse by taking a fine diving catch to give Searle his sixth wicket and leave Finchampstead on 114-8. Enter skipper Woodford, inexplicably low in the order, to join the obdurate Crerar in what was the best partnership of the innings as the score mounted. The pair were still together when Searle completed his allowed 20 overs, with figures of 6-60, and Nugent returned as Crerar completed the only 50 of the match from 65 balls. This allowed Farland to change ends and when Nugent’s next over went for eleven runs the total was 157-8 with overs in hand the game was on. Farland ended the stand when he lured Crerar down the pitch and had him stumped brilliantly by Davison from a ball that bounced and turned. Rowe was introduced to the attack as twelve runs from the next two overs reduced the target to 36 and with 14 coming from the next two the equation was 22 from eight overs with one wicket left. Five came from the first two balls of Nugent’s next over but the fourth ball got through Bulteel’s defences and the Woodford was left on 36 not out and Finch 16 runs short.
Henley’s 25 points moved them up to 4th in the table and technically kept their title hopes alive. They have to play two of the four sides above them, starting with Aston Rowant next Saturday at Matson Drive as the format reverts to win/lose for the final four games of the season.