A Harp-breaker

Frazer’s heroics not enough for Harpenden but IIs enjoy a thriller on the Common

HCPL Division One

Harpenden 193

Banbury 194-9

Banbury won by one wicket

ANY illusions that Harpenden may have been under as to how hard it was going to be to challenge in the Home Counties Premier League Division One are now a thing of the past after the Banbury number nine Ashley Blanchard (62* in 109 balls) steered his team home to a heart-stopping one wicket win on Saturday.

Sharing partnerships of 52 for the ninth wicket and an unbroken 39 for the last secured the home side an extraordinary win after they had stumbled to 103-8 under some tight Harpenden pressure. Captain Ben Frazer (55 in 51 balls & 30-5-66-5) had led from the front all day, even opening the batting and bowling and he hardly deserved to end up on the losing side but the Gods of cricket were clearly concentrating on other matters as late chances to win went begging.

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Harpenden were hoping to put all of the lessons that they had learned in the first half of the season to good use and a total of 193 all out in 51.3 overs seemed a fair target with spin alwys likely to dominate. Frazer was without first choice seamers Pat Foster and Ben Mahoney due to injury but new spin signing Jon Ryan (10* in 18 balls & 21-3-66-2) made his debut in a re-shuffled batting order.

Nick Lamb (43 in 84 balls) anchored the middle order to a solid looking platform at 109-3 but it was Luke Ryan (19.3-6-53-8) who kept chipping away to leave Harpenden short of the target of making 200. This did not seem to matter hugely once Frazer and Ryan had reduced Banbury to 78-7 but matches have to be won and teams in the division are never beaten until the last wicket falls and so it was to prove. Blanchard could look back on his innings with no little satisfaction as Harpenden were left to look back in anger and disappointment.

n Sir Henry Newbolt’s famous lines were in the early evening air on Harpenden Common: “There’s a breathless hush in the Close tonight...”. Welwyn Garden City 2nd XI had just smote a 6 from the last over of spin from Jake Pankhurst (19-9-85-4) to leave them at 231-7 with just a run to win and three wickets left in hand. The match was surely won ? Pankhurst then utterly deceived the batsman with a faster one to leave him clean bowled. Next ball, a chop behind square to Ed Washington and a direct hit run out - 231-9 and the last man in. From the last ball, a wild charge and ‘keeper Graeme Sprowson completed the stumping leaving the teams locked in a tie with 20 points each. An incredible game in which both teams were given a deserved ovation from a good crowd outside the pavilion.

In the first innings Harpenden had compiled a respectable target of 231-4 on a very fast outfield with Aussie Sam Wiese (77 in 121 balls) making more good runs, Ed Washington (60* in 72 balls) more stylish runs in an increasingly impressive season whilst Mike Howard (43* in 33 balls) struck out at precisely the right time to give the innings momentum just when it needed it. Another twist in this match was that a Howard straight 6 that hit a sight-screen was down-graded to a 4 at tea when hawk-eyed umpires spotted that part of the sight-screen was in fact over the boundary line. On such things can matches be decided, or in this case undecided. ‘Keeper Sprowson had the best seat in the house for the final over: “We thought that the 6 had cost us the game but Jake kept himself under control very well. He stayed calm and we told him to keep bowling the quicker one and it worked. We took a while to wake up in the field and Matthew Hill (92 in 105 balls) batted well for them but we hung in there and we’ll take the result. It was exciting stuff and a very good game to be a part of.”