GALLERY: Harpenden brush champions-elect aside

Jake Pankhurst keeps his eye on the ball

Jake Pankhurst keeps his eye on the ball - Credit: Archant

CHAMPIONS-elect Henley proved no match for Harpenden on Saturday as half-centuries from Ben Frazer and Dan Blacktopp carried the hosts to victory.

The win means Nick Lamb’s side are guaranteed as least fourth but they can move up one place if they beat second-placed Slough this Saturday and Banbury, who currently sit in third, lose to High Wycombe.

Against Henley, Lamb won the toss and elected to bat first at Harpenden Common.

Gregg Cooper (3) departed early allowing Jake Pankhurst to join Frazer, promoted up the order to open, in the middle and the pair went after the bowling attack with aggression.

By the time Frazer became the second wicket he had accrued 64 in just 48 balls, hitting eight fours and two sixes, to put Harpenden on the front foot. Pankhurst was not hanging around either, hitting four boundaries on his way to 48 runs, before he was stumped with the score on 143.

Having seen his team-mates find success with an aggressive style of batting, Blacktopp, in at number four, smashed the ball around the ground to keep the score rocketing upwards despite wickets falling around him.

Will Jones (6), Lamb (4), James Latham (10), Simon White (12) and Richard Brabner (10) all partnered Blacktopp as they failed to find the same success as the top order.

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Blacktopp became the eighth and final wicket, run out by Gurveer Singh, after scoring 63 in 80 balls, including three fours and two sixes, to set Henley a target of 242 to win the game.

The reply never got going as Harpenden suffocated the run-rate while taking wickets at regular intervals.

Frazer (2-25) added to his top score with the bat by sharing the first three wickets with Will Jones (2-22) as Henley’s top order struggled to 47-3. Blacktopp’s catch with the gloves to dismiss Bjorn Mordt compounded the visitors’ misery as they reached 56-4.

Tom Nugent and Hamza Riazuddin led a recovery, scoring 24 and 17 respectively, but four wickets with the score on 98 took all the wind out of their sails and the end of the innings loomed.

Nugent was the first to go, caught by Lamb off Frazer, before the skipper cleaned up Riazuddin, Graham Furber and Tahir Afridi as Henley faltered to 98-8.

Rearguard action from Cameron Jacobson (32no), Todd Ferguson (19) and Singh gave Harpenden a scare as they pushed the score to past 150 but the hosts’ bowlers got the job done to win 25 points.

Harpenden’s final game of the season sees them travel to Slough this Saturday, 10.30am start.