Better Latham than never for Harpenden

Herts County Cup

Potters Bar 167

Harpenden 169-5

Harpenden won by five wickets

A YOUNG Harpenden side moved smoothly in to the Herts County Cup quarter-finals to face Letchworth GC CC thanks to the talented James Latham (81* in 85 balls with 11 4s) who impresses everyone who gets the chance to watch him in full flow.

Chasing Potters Bar’s 167 all out, coming in at 11-2 and batting in front of skipper Nick Lamb in the order, many young players would have felt the pressure and holed out leaving it to others to see the game through. Latham played himself in sensibly, organised his game and then paced the run chase to perfection leaving plenty of wickets and overs to spare as Harpenden cruised home at 169-5 in 34.3 overs.

With Saturday’s league match against Tring Park not having gone according to plan, Lamb (6-1-9-1) was happy to concentrate on the cup competition for a change of fortunes. He said: “It was a hot day but we bounced back from Saturday really well. We had a young side out but everyone coped admirably, especially our young ‘keeper Bryn Luffman who was brilliant behind the stumps. There was a lot of enthusiasm and diving around in the field and I love to see that.

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“Rich Darwin bowled well and picked up three and we knocked them off comfortably thanks to Jimmy Latham who held the innings together superbly.”

Asked further about Latham, Lamb admitted that he had not seen much of the player out in the middle before. “I’d heard a lot about him of course but this was the first time I’d really seen him bat. He got his head down and really showed some guts to stick it out until the end. He’s a classy player and someone I am keeping a very close eye on to come in to the first team regularly.”

On the issue of the cup Lamb had no doubts about his priorities: “It’s the league that I want us to do well in of course. That’s the toughest challenge for us as a team. We now have Letchworth in the quarters and together with the national T20 we are determined to keep going as far as possible in the cup competitions. We enjoy our cup games and today we’ve seen a real player for the future.”

On Saturday Harpenden were left to contemplate the wreckage of their game plan as soon as Keith Dutch called the toss correctly for Tring Park.

The covers had been unable to cope with heavy rain and a late start was coupled with a change in the designated pitch to one that looked to have better withstood the weather. Both skippers wanted to play but realised that conditions were less than ideal and that the team batting first was going to have to work tremendously hard to get through the early overs.

Dutch had no hesitation in bowling first and on an old fashioned “sticky dog” Simon Stanway (11.3-3-27-7) gave a masterclass of discipline and experience. Gregg Cooper (16 in 29) managed to get in but Lamb admitted: “Balls were popping, rolling along the floor and doing pretty much all sorts. Stanway is probably the one person you’d choose not to face on that sort of wicket and he rolled us.”

Tring ruthlessly exploited their good fortune as Dutch (10-3-20-3) took the rest of the wickets and nine catches were held in the field. Tring passed the Harpenden total of 55 for the loss of two wickets with Dutch (28* in 20) finding some easy runs to go with his wickets and the full points. This week Harpenden travel to High Wycombe seeking sunshine and a more reliable surface.

* Knebworth Park II opener Brendan Logue (173 from 147) took the game away from Harpenden II with a huge hundred only curtailed when a lower order team-mate refused to respond to a call leaving Logue run out by a distance as he came back for a lonely second run.

On Knebworth’s small alternative ground for the second year running, Harpenden had a measure of control as they kept their opponents to 66-2 off the first 20 overs but after that Logue cut loose and the bowling and fielding collapse under his weight of stroke. Seamer Joe Peck (15-3-74-3) bowled two whole-hearted spells at Logue in full flow but the support bowling was unable to match his efforts.

In the reply, as so often happens, opener Tony Hooper was good enough to touch the best ball of the day and a couple of questionable lbw decisions left the innings in disarray. Despite this, Harpenden could have no excuses and an improvement is urgently required.

Wicketkeeper Graeme Sprowson said afterwards: “It was an ugly performance and we let ourselves and our captain down. We need to admit that and there’ll be some honest words spoken. We know the quality that we have in this team and we just need to find the key to turning this around.” Harpenden II are at home to league leaders Cockfosters this weekend.

* Harpenden III had hopes of being the David Haye to Old Albanians’ Wladimir Klitschko as they had OAs on the ropes before Zahid Ali Khan (61* in 38) struck six 4s and two 6s coming in at No.7. Saving his team at 128-5 Khan added an unbeaten 62 for the sixth wicket whilst his partner contributed only 10 runs.

Matt Cooper (16-5-34-3) refused to throw in the towel and bowled well as did highly promising spinner Jack Doyle (10-1-55-2) but Khan’s run spree looked to have made the difference as his side closed at 224-6 in 53 overs. Set a higher total than expected, Mark Fettes (32 in 54) and Terry McGrath (25 in 30) managed to get the Harpenden reply to 65-3 after the loss of some early wickets but once again for Harpenden there wasn’t a half-centurion in sight and the innings failed to beat the referee’s count.

* Harpenden IV were out of action on the day but Nick Winchester (13-7-10-5) bowled Harpenden V to victory as Old Owens III were restricted to 132-5 in 47 overs and Andy Salvsesen (68*) safely saw his side home.

Harpenden VI were another to suffer the batting jitters as they were all out for 52 in 28 overs in a loss to Abbots Langley IV by seven wickets.