Harpenden win and Oxford blue

Damiano and Cooper’s 176-run opening stand too good for Oxford

HCPL Division One

Oxford 264-8 Harpenden 267-1

Harpenden won by nine wickets

SINCE Harpenden gained their place in the HCPL division Oxford have been something of a bogey side to the extent that Stuart Hole-inspired seam bowling has made several contests almost a non event.

Ask any self-respecting Manchester City fan and they’ll tell you that it doesn’t matter how long you have to wait, that victory, when it comes, can be all the sweeter. On Saturday, Australian opener Ricky Damiano (136* in 126 Balls) put all fears for his form and class in to such perspective that a near perfect batting performance ensued.

With the Proms season now in full swing it was a delight to watch Damiano and Gregg Cooper (91 in 109) waltz to an opening stand of 176 as Harpenden built to a crescendo as they chased down Oxford’s 264-8 with time and wickets to spare.

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Damiano, by his own admission, has been in ordinary form for more of the league season than he would care to remember but having made a start against the Oxford attack he simply carved his way to a magnificent hundred showing confident strokes played all around the wicket.

Nick Lamb was impressed: “Ricky was close to perfect on Saturday. He’s put himself under a bit of pressure as he knows his numbers are down on where he would like to be but that knock had class and bottle stamped all the way through it. I’m delighted with a comprehensive win over a side that we have struggled to match over the past few years”.

Lamb was equally as pleased with Cooper: “Coops has been almost the find of the season for us and he was unfortunate to miss out on a well deserved ton and he should be thinking about where his game could now take him. It’s really pleasing to see how far his game has come on this year and he’s playing with a smile on his face. Finally, a quick note that Warny (Chris Warn 30* in 44) has recently switched to number three for us and that’s also paying off as he played a cracking “finisher’s” knock to see us home with only one wicket down”.

Having won the toss and perhaps made life difficult for his own side last week against Radlett, Lamb admitted surprise that Oxford skipper Jason Harrison chose to bat first on a pitch with enough green in it to interest the bowlers. Harrison (2 in 17) was lbw to Chris Roe (7-2-23-1) but opener Daniel King (50 in 64) and Stuart Laudat (82 in 156) put on 77 for the second wicket as Oxford built a platform.

At 179-4 Ben Frazer (24-1-78-3) was waiting to have his usual impact as he then snapped up middle order wickets including Laudat who was held by Cooper. Harpenden’s ground fielding was sharp led by the energetic Ed Washington who was happy to pull off several diving stops on an awkward outfield.

Lamb summed up: “Our chase was immaculate. I honestly don’t think that the Oxford attack had an answer to Damiano, Coops and Warn today. To any young players I’d say that these guys work hard at their game, they net well in the week and it all pays off. They’re a great example. After a poor result against Radlett we are now back in fourth and the goal of finishing as the highest Herts club continues. My thanks goes out to the wonderful support yet again from all of the watching club members.”

This week Harpenden are away to defending champions Henley who they previously beat in the original fixture this season on Harpenden Common.

Harpenden II are fighting for survival in Division Two and with some safer hands they would have beaten Luton Town and made their mission somewhat easier.

A first innings total of 202-8 in 53 overs gained maximum batting points thanks to Mike Howard (72 in 199) and Barney Francis (37 in 67).

Thereafter Joe Peck, Howard and skipper Richard Darwin all shared two wickets apiece as only Mahmood Ali (85 in 107) stood firm for Luton. Careless hands led to a number of chances being grassed by Harpenden so that they ended with full bonus points but may regret the extra points dropped for the win as Luton ended on 197-9 with wickets still falling in the very last over.

Harpenden III are reliving “Groundhog Day” in a season that never seems to come closer to ending. An under par batting performance against Northampton Exiles led to another all out total in a post code somewhere around the 150 mark with nobody able to make a half century. The Harpenden attack then rolled up their sleeves and again nearly pulled off a miracle as Exiles fell to 79-5. How captain Simon Wade would have loved to have thrown the ball to left-arm spinner Alex Randall at this stage but with Randall called up to the II’s after his 5-fer of the week before, Wade had no such option. Rizwan Badar (60 in 86) won the match for his side at No.6 as Exiles won by four wickets at 146-7.

Harpenden IV won the local bragging rights against their counterparts at Radlett as skipper Sam Jones (88) returned from injury to have an immediate impact. Harpenden won easily by eight wickets chasing down Radlett IV’s total of 179-7. Harpenden V lost to Luton Town IV’s by five wickets in a low scoring match where no batsman on either side managed to make it beyond 13 runs.

Harpenden VI had an exciting match against Stevenage VI who won by 1 wicket as they inched their way to 121-9 as Harpenden used eight separate bowlers to find a breakthrough.

The valiant efforts of Matthew Greene (40), Steve Hewlett (21 and 7.4-1-12-2), Jake Dearman (8-1-21-3) and Oliver Lacey (5-0-8-2) were perhaps thwarted by the telling statistic that Harpenden conceded 39 extras of which some 23 were wide.