Harpenden become champions

HCPL Division Two East Harpenden 145-2 beat Hertford 144-8dec by eight wickets IT was a great evening at the Harpenden Cricket Club pavilion on Saturday night as Ben Frazer and Simon Wade, remarkably both skippering their respective XI s for the first tim

HCPL Division Two East

Harpenden 145-2 beat Hertford 144-8dec by eight wickets

IT was a great evening at the Harpenden Cricket Club pavilion on Saturday night as Ben Frazer and Simon Wade, remarkably both skippering their respective XI's for the first time, brought back with them both the Home Counties Premier League Division 2E and the Herts League Division 4 titles.

These can now sit proudly with the fifth XI title from Division 13 that was secured last weekend. Chairman Steve Hewlett addressed a packed crowd as he congratulated Frazer's brilliant first XI who led their league from the very first week and Wade's resolute third XI who took the title by stealth as they hit peak form at the climax of the season.

For a club to secure three league titles in a season has been a wonderful achievement involving a lot of hard work and a committed playing squad of talented cricketers. There are also a huge number of unsung heroes in the background including groundsman Mick Boot and a beauty parade of regular scorers including Angela Arnold, Sharron Brown and Ronnie Booth.

Frazer and the director of Cricket, David Doyle, can now look forward to plotting a campaign for the Home Counties Premier League Division One where they will lock horns with Frazer's old club, Welwyn Garden City as well as Radlett, Potters Bar and Tring Park among others.

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As Doyle explained: "This has been a fantastic season for us and we've played some tremendous cricket but the real hard work now begins over the winter with what we want to try and do for next year."

On Saturday the first XI went to Hertford knowing that just a few points stood between them and the league crown.

This was uncharted territory for some of the younger players in the team and the experience of Frazer, Nick Lamb and Ben Mahoney was vital in steadying any nerves.

Hertford won the toss and chose to bat and in a gesture of defiance in the face of Harpenden's superiority chose to declare their innings closed at 144-8 off 52.3 overs thereby denying Harpenden some precious bonus points in the bank. Chris Arnold (12-5-26-1) was steady again and not flattered by his wickets column but Brad Moses (12.3-3-33-3) had beautifully symmetrical statistics and three run outs also helped the cause. Tom Bancroft (43 off 93 balls) and Ollie Ray (35 off 41) were the only ones to dig themselves in to try and frustrate the league leaders but it never looked like being enough.

The Harpenden captain's opinion as to the early declaration can be perhaps guessed by the way he decided to go about the run chase in the second innings.

In short time Frazer (36 off 14) had cracked the ball many a mile towards Hertford town centre with two fours and four sixes in an innings of ominous intent. With the momentum that this created a serene Brad Moses (66no off 48) joined forces with the talented Will Bates (31no off 41) to see the team home. It was fitting for Bates to be there at the end as a product of the club's youth development system.

He has been a team regular this season and, along with other promising young stars like Chris Bennett-Baggs, David Keenleyside, Adam Winchester and Ollie Tuck, has a great deal to look forward to next year.

FOR Wade's warriors in the Third XI it was a more difficult equation to consider as 14 bonus points were required for the title against mid-table Baldock. Wade's dilemma was whether or not to pursue the necessary bonus points or to go all out for the win to put matters beyond doubt.

In the end the team did everything required of them by batting first and gaining full bonus points with a total of 224-5 off 52 overs. Wade (43 off 48 balls) took on some of the responsibility as did the stylish Deshan Karunaratne (47 off 94) and the thoroughbred Mark Fettes (64 off 107) who stroked his way to twelve boundaries.

From this position only four bonus points were required and it fell to Joe Peck (14-3-41-3) to take the all important wicket that sparked off a team huddle in the middle of the pitch. Cheered on by some of the first and second XI regulars, Wade brought on Alex Randall (10-0-49-4) and the young left-arm spinner responded with the final wickets as only Julian Muir (50 off 83) resisted. An obviously emotional Wade led his team from the field of victory in a dignified manner befitting the sense of occasion that he clearly felt.

Wade said: "It has been an excellent year for the club as a whole and for us to contribute such a successful season is very special indeed.

"For the third XI to win our league in a division made up of predominantly first and second XIs is testament to the playing strength of the club. We are really looking forward to the challenge of playing in a higher league next year and I have every confidence we will continue to progress."

A FINAL review of the second XI season showed a side with many of the tools required for a sustained assault on the summit of Division Two next year. An easy nine-wicket win over Knebworth Park II allowed David Whiteley's team to finish in the top six thanks mainly on the day to Barney Francis (59no off 72 balls) and Chris Roe (9.4-4-18-4).

The hostile Justin Savio (9-2-18-2) and the metronomic Peter Makower (16-7-18-3) also deserved plaudits in a season that could well have ended in promotion were it not for a couple of below par performances.

Skipper Whiteley will be looking for the continued development of young off spinner Jake Pankhurst and batsman Ed Washington as well as some improved fielding performances and higher levels of fitness for next year.

The last words can be left to chairman Steve Hewlett: "It has been a truly momentous season for Harpenden Cricket Club. We have had more teams playing than ever before from a new "Mini" section for six and seven-year-olds through colts at all ages to three Sunday sides and up to six teams on a Saturday. Our Saturday third XI and fifth XI were both promoted having won their leagues and our first XI emerged as league champions thus securing promotion to the Home Counties Premiership.

"There really has never been a season like it. It's a real tribute to everyone connected with the club, the players, officials, all those who work on the administrative side and all our loyal supporters.