Harps stay clear at the top

Harpenden 172 all out drew with St Albans 85-6 – match abandoned due to rain HARPENDEN remain 40 points clear at the top of the HCPL Division Two table after an abandoned draw against local rivals St Albans. Saints won the toss and forced Harpenden to b

Harpenden 172 all out drew with St Albans 85-6 - match abandoned due to rain

HARPENDEN remain 40 points clear at the top of the HCPL Division Two table after an abandoned draw against local rivals St Albans.

Saints won the toss and forced Harpenden to bat first in conditions made for ducks and bowlers.

In fact there were four ducks registered in the Harpenden top six as St Albans' spin king Murtaza Hussain (24-9-47-6) took a hat-trick.

It was openers Ben Frazer (43 off 30 balls) and Brad Moses (81 off 158) who ensured that this was not a bad day for the league leaders as Hussain caused the innings to flirt with disaster.

No wicket for 67 quickly became 70-5 as a number of poor shots caused raised eyebrows from captain Frazer as each culpable batsman trooped back to the pavilion.

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A recovery to 172 all out from 53.2 overs was thanks to some late runs from Nick Lamb (16 off 22) and David Keenleyside (15 off 33).

South African Moses deserved a mention in dispatches for holding the innings together with his best knock of the season.

Harpenden had their usual good start with the ball as Frazer (9.4-2-20-1) took a wicket with his second ball and this paved the way for Ben Mahoney (4.4-1-9-3) to tear the St Albans batting to shreds before a thigh injury caused him to drop out of the attack.

Hussain (52no off 114) stood firm in the middle of this collapse as the only Saints batsman to make double figures as they slithered to 85-6 off 32.4 overs before the game was halted.

Will Bates (7-0-31-2) was amongst the wickets whilst wicket-keeper Chris Bennett-Baggs had a strong appeal turned down for what might have been a crucial stumping.

Frazer phlegmatically accepted the bonus points on offer on the day. He said: "With the weather around a win was always going to be hard once we lost the toss.

"For the first time this year I was disappointed with the way we went about batting with the clear exception being Brad Moses as he played a great innings.

"One thing that I like about our team is the character we show when we don't perform to our best. We came out flying and had them 12-4 with Ben Mahoney showing his best form of the year.

"Unfortunately the rain came and we couldn't get the final few wickets."

HARPENDEN II were left somewhat bemused in their away fixture against Broxbourne in a match that also dissolved in to a damp draw.

Having lost the toss and been asked to bat first for the fifth time in a row there was some anxiety when efficient Broxbourne bowling and fielding held Harpenden to 98-5.

Tom Stewart (58 off 88 balls) was the only batsman all day to play with any real freedom on a slow but not spiteful pitch. Jake Pankhurst (27 off 58) and John Kerley (28 off 30) salvaged the innings with a brisk partnership of 31 for the seventh wicket.

A Harpenden total of 178-8 off 53 overs was perhaps better than it looked on paper but to everyone's surprise the Broxbourne response never really got out of neutral gear.

Almost four overs were bowled before the first run was put on the board and, with some disciplined bowling, the Broxbourne innings completely stalled at 40-5 off 30 overs.

From this point only two results were possible as Harpenden went fully on the attack despite losing Chris Roe (8.3-4-14-2) to a knee injury.

All of the Harpenden bowlers deserve plaudits but the pick was undoubtedly opening seamer Joe Peck (11-6-22-5) who was complemented by two excellent stumpings from Graeme Sprowson and a miraculous one-handed catch at mid off by Peter Makower.

In very poor light Harpenden had several deliveries at the Broxbourne last man but the home team survived on 112-9 before the umpires took the players off.

SIMON Wade was the happiest skipper of the day as his Harpenden III side wriggled home in a tight encounter with Wormley.

Wormley cast a total of only 109 all out thanks to the consistent James Absalom (15.3-5-23-4) supported by the reliable Simon Murray (12-7-19-2).

Harpenden were well aware that runs would not be easy and it was the father/son combination of Andy (17 off 26 balls) and 16-year-old James (51 off 100) Latham who put on 48 for the fifth wicket to secure victory in a low scoring match.

Harpenden now head the Division Four table by a single point with some big matches to come in the next few weeks.

Wade said: "This win has taken us somewhat unexpectedly to the top of the table as both the sides above us failed to finish their games.

"The challenge for the remainder of the season is to maintain the performances we have produced in the last six or seven weeks to ensure that we give ourselves every chance of promotion to Division Three."

HARPENDEN IV had a remarkable turn around in their match against Old Cholmeleians II even if it was to be another thwarted by the weather.

Many teams would have written the day off at 45-6 but Ed Brown (87no), Jason Guest (30) and captain Mark Bashford (43) added plenty of late runs in taking the total to 205-8.

Under-16 superstar Rohan Pancharatnam (8-1-22-5) then had a memorable day by emulating Hussain's feat in the first XI match by taking a brilliant hat-trick of his own before rain had the final say.