Harpenden in a hole

Batting collapse costs Frazer’s side dear

HCPL Division One

Oxford 132

Harpenden 48

Oxford won by 84 runs

CRICKET in the Home Counties Premier League can be an unsentimental business as Harpenden and seam bowler Chris Arnold found out last Saturday against Oxford. Arnold (12-1-39-4) followed the example of Mike Howard back in 2006 by bagging a 1st XI league hat-trick as Oxford were reduced to a hardly credible 57-9 during the morning session. Ex-Middlesex batsman Jason Harrison was Arnold’s first victim, clean bowled by an unplayable delivery that hit the maker’s logo on off stump. In consecutive balls Nick Ferraby and Jamie Perkin were then caught and bowled and LBW respectively in a stunning collapse. At this stage it was hard to see a way back for a reeling Oxford team but wins in this tough division have to be worked for as Shamilal Mendis (38* in 109 balls) and Philip Evans (28 in 89 balls) added 75 for the 9th wicket to slowly turn the momentum of the contest. Oxford staggered to 132 all out from 57.3 overs but maybe felt that they had just given themselves a total to bowl at if they could get in early amongst the Harpenden batsmen.

At this point ex-Warwickshire swing bowler Stuart Hole (10.4-3-24-7) shined the ball and wrecked the Harpenden innings with a tremendous display of orthodox swing bowling, reminiscent of debutant Aussie Bob Massie at Lord’s in 1972. Only Nick Lamb (25 in 41 balls) provided any resistance as the rest of the batting line-up were unable to summon a score of double figures. Lamb’s dismissal at 36-2 by Stefan Van Dyk (10-3-23-3) was another crucial point in the game as a shell-shocked team collapsed to 48 all out in 20.4 overs to lose an astonishing match by 84 runs.

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After the match skipper Ben Frazer was able to use the long journey home to reflect on a harsh afternoon’s experience. A defiant Frazer admitted later “We have to take what positives we can from this but also not hide from the outcome of the match itself. We bowled well for 95% of their innings and Arnie’s hat-trick was a brilliant moment for him. We were well short on application and grit when we batted so we have a great deal to learn. If we can bowl like that again then a win will come. We knew that this season was going to be tough so this Saturday against High Wycombe is a huge test of character. Good players don’t hide, they stand up and fight and my team is full of good players”.

As if the 1st XI had not had a difficult enough day it was little better for David Whiteley’s 2nd XI as they limped to a feeble defeat against Broxbourne on Harpenden Common. Whiteley backed what he considered to be a strong batting line up as he asked Broxbourne to bat first and watched them rattle up 212-4 in 53 overs on a blameless pitch. Spinner Alex Randall (20-4-76-3) did a good day’s work but he must have felt frustrated with some poor fielding allowing four dropped catches and a missed run out. What happened next was a dreadful run chase that saw the cream of the Harpenden order reduced to 43-5 as John Hodgson and Tony Rhodes took four wickets each simply through bowling relatively straight. Only a 9th wicket stand of 45 took the total over 100 but when Randall (19) was adjudged to be LBW then the result was in no doubt.

Whiteley was also left with a lot to reflect upon and said: “Last year we had much the better of it against Broxbourne at their ground when they clung on for a draw but this year it wasn’t to be. I’m obviously bitterly disappointed and we need to go back to basic disciplines in what we are trying to achieve. My players are all individual talents but this is not translating itself in to a team performance”.

Simon Wade’s 3rd XI continue to ride the crest of a wave as they climbed to 2nd in the table with a remarkable win of their own away to Southgate Adelaide. What ought to have been a strong batting order also struggled to get runs on the board chasing Adelaide’s 152 all out but Wade had spin bowling all-rounder Richard Darwin (17.3-4-32-5 & 52* at number nine) to thank for a come from behind win. Harpenden were in dire trouble at 65-8 but a ninth wicket stand of 68 between Darwin and ‘keeper Paul Goodwin (28) made the crucial difference in a heart-stopping one wicket win.

Wade has been delighted with his team’s start to life in Division Three: “I really thought that the match was over but Darwin wanted to have a go as a draw was hardly likely and he backed himself to hit his way out of trouble. Paul Goodwin was an ideal foil and they put the bad ball away after getting their heads down. It’s a great win for us.”

Harpenden managed to select seven sides on Saturday and in the other matches the 4th XI had a much needed win as they beat Hatfield 2nd XI by 3 wickets with opener Mick Brookes (63) top scoring. The 5th XI won by 2 wickets in another exciting finish as Rickmansworth 4th XI were all out for 82 but took eight Harpenden wickets in reply. Stevenage VI fell victim to Adam Driscoll (6-1-9-5) as they were 28 all out to lose to Harpenden VI by eight wickets whilst the brand new VII drew with Chaseville CC as Bertie Hewlett (51) scored his maiden half century for the club.

Finally, to round off an amazing weekend, teenager James Latham (213* in 112 balls) scored a miraculous double century on The Common on Sunday in a Chess Valley league match versus Northwood CC. Harpenden racked up a mammoth 451-6 in 45 overs to win by 372 runs on the day. The individual score and the team total are both confirmed as club records with James beating a score of 203* recorded as having been made as far back as 1911.