Harpenden’s Damiano signs off in style

Aussie hits third league century of the season to seal top three spot

RICKY Damiano’s third league century of the season helped Harpenden to a six-wicket victory over champions High Wycombe on the final day of the season and with it a third place finish in HCPL Division One.

Just 12 months ago Harpenden needed a dramatic last day victory over Potters Bar to avoid relegation but after a winter of recruitment there were no such worries this time around as the club fought off stiff competition to take a top three spot. That turnaround has delighted skipper Nick Lamb and he paid tribute to the team’s spirit and ability to step up to the challenge.

“Last year we stayed up thanks to a heroic last day performance from the boys, so the plan this year was to consolidate and totally cement ourselves in the top league,” Lamb told the Herts Advertiser.

“To finish third, above last year’s champions, is a brilliant achievement and I’m immensely proud of everyone involved and the efforts that have gone in both on and off the field. This year’s success has come about thanks to the combination of some brilliant individual performances from a number of players and a great team spirit. We have beaten every side this year bar Welwyn and Stortford (both rain affected) and this shows just how far we’ve come as a team.”

The bowlers laid the foundations on Saturday by knocking Wycombe over for 238 before Damiano (108) and Gregg Cooper (79) put Harpy well on their way to victory with a 188-run opening stand. Will Spencer (27*) and Lamb (7*) saw the home side over the line.

“Beating Henley and High Wycombe - last year’s and this year’s champions respectively - was obviously a great achievement, but I think beating Banbury at our place early on really set us on our way to a good season,” added Lamb.

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“The sun was out, there was a big crowd in and Fraze (Ben Frazer) bowled their skipper in the last over to win the game and make the place erupt. I think it showed everyone that we were really going to give it a good go and show the bottle to fight all the way this year. It also started a nice run of wins at home and I’d like to think the Common is now a fortress.

“As far as individual performances go, Fraze demolishing the Radlett attack was something we will all remember, however what was so special this year was that a number of players stood up on different occasions to win us games; Ricky (Damiano), Jon Ryan and Gregg Cooper in particular have had great seasons and together with Fraze taking his regulation 40 wickets for the year, set us on our way to becoming the best cricketing side in Hertfordshire.”

Damiano’s heroics on Saturday saw the Australian end the season with 701 Division One runs to his name at an average of 50.07 and Lamb revealed discussions are already underway regarding the overseas star’s return next season.

“Ricky’s been a brilliant attribute and role model to the club both on and off the field,” explained Lamb.

“He’s the first one at training, the loudest and most enthusiastic player on the field, and always happy to socialise around the club after the game. The 700 league runs he’s scored have also helped. His explosive batting performances have at times made the opposition - and us - stand in awe of his abilities as a cricketer and I am already in conversations with him regarding returning next year.”

Lamb says his hundred against former club Welwyn GC was his personal highlight of the campaign but admitted his main focus as captain was on winning matches.

He said: “I’ve had a decent year personally, scoring a ton against my old club and good mates was obviously a highlight, but for me as captain my main focus was on winning games of cricket as a team and finishing as high up the league table as possible.

“Any cricket captain will tell you that there are politics to deal with both on and off the field but there are so many good people at Harpenden that the job is made easier and as the season goes on things start to run more smoothly.

“We’ve had fantastic support from the locals and club members all year, and my thanks goes out to everyone who helped us get where we are now.”