Harpy head for first cup semi

FOR Harpenden a huge weekend beckoned with a top of the table Saturday league clash at home to Bishop s Stortford followed by a Sunday quarter final of the County Cup away at Sawbridgeworth. Ben Frazer s team were treating both matches as vitally importa

FOR Harpenden a huge weekend beckoned with a top of the table Saturday league clash at home to Bishop's Stortford followed by a Sunday quarter final of the County Cup away at Sawbridgeworth.

Ben Frazer's team were treating both matches as vitally important to the success of their season as they continue to lead the HCPL Division 2 East and look towards the latter stages of the premier cup competition.

Bishop's Stortford quickly asked Harpenden to bat in the league when they were confronted with a wet pitch and skipper Frazer (50 off just 41 balls) set the tone with an incredible half century that saw him the second batsman to be dismissed with the score on 54-2. Will Bates (56 off 117) played the important anchor role with Nick Lamb (55 off 63) then adding a flourish to get Harpenden towards a competitive score of 236-8 off 59.5 overs with Frazer sneaking in a declaration to prevent their close rivals from pinching an extra bonus point.

The focus then switched to the bowlers who responded admirably with the excellent Chris Arnold (8-2-25-3) exploiting conditions that were made for him. From 13-3 Stortford were destined to struggle in the run chase and Nick Lamb (11-0-32-5) provided the killer blow by collaring Steve Coleman (24 off 42) with a bouncer to halt a stand of 66 for the fourth wicket and then doing the same for Darren Whittingham (55 off 84). After that the innings meekly subsided to 130-8 before the coup de grace was applied with Stortford 144 all out.

Frazer acknowledged a major result in the season by praising his team: "This was our best win of the season and a complete team effort. We knew Stortford had to come and win and we outplayed them in all aspects of the game. Will Bates showed a lot of maturity and Lamby played a lovely knock. We knew early wickets would be the key and Arnie (Chris Arnold) bowled his best spell of the year and for once picked up the wickets he deserved. Lamby then came on and bowled with great pace and aggression. The last two weeks have been big tests for us and we have come through with flying colours."

Following a good Saturday night in the pavilion, a used Sawbridgeworth surface was enough to concentrate the mind in the Sunday cup match and a lost toss saw Harpenden take the field for the second time over the weekend. Ben Mahoney (10-3-39-1) bowled his 10 over spell straight through and contributed his best performance since coming back from injury. Frazer (1-13) shuffled his pack of bowlers and came up trumps with the introduction of Brad Moses (2-22) and especially Nick Lamb (7-2-13-4) who took a triple wicket maiden from his last over. Sawbridgeworth were held to a run rate of around three an over for most of their innings and Harpenden were pleased with the containing job they had done.

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The reply got off to a poor start with Brad Moses out first ball and a number of what might be termed unfortunate lbw decisions kept things interesting but Chris Bennett-Baggs (35 off 44 balls) played the innings of the day to steer his side to 86-6 and from there the depth of the Harpenden batting line up came through as Nick Lamb (25* off 71) and Will Bates (32* off 65) steered Harpenden home.

Director of Cricket, David Doyle, was understandably delighted and said: "To reach the semi-finals of the county cup is a great achievement and it was reassuring to know that our batting in depth would see us through."

Frazer added: "We now play Potters Bar who are a very good side and on paper are clear favourites but with the way we are playing you just never know."

Harpenden II were unable to shrug off the misfortune of losing the toss for the third week running, this time at Watford Town, as they were forced to bat first yet again.

On a surface that was green, damp and certainly not to be trusted Harpenden did extremely well to get to 81-3 with Mike Howard (32 off 61) and Tom Stewart (48 off 70) keeping the score moving but a flurry of wickets and some controlled left arm spin from Athumani Kakonzi (21-5-53-3) saw Harpenden struggle to 155 all out with 13 coming from the flashing blade of Peter Makower (16 off 19) in the final over before tea. Harpenden retained some hope that the batting surface would remain difficult but a predominantly seam attack did not fare as well as the spin of their hosts. Watford clearly knew their own pitch and put bat to ball with some good effect and despite taking 6 wickets Harpenden never quite had the runs nor the rub of what green there was in the pitch to prevent a disappointing result.

The match between Cockfosters II and Harpenden III built to an exciting crescendo as Simon Wade's team clinched a memorable one wicket victory chasing 164 to win.

Cockfosters put on 45 for their first wicket before they collapsed to 71-6 thanks to Ian Moxon-Booth (18-4-51-5). A stand of 56 for the seventh wicket then helped the home team but 163 all out left the men of Harpenden feeling confident that they could chase down the target. Despite being several regular batsmen short Harpenden quickly reached 106-1 from just 19 overs with Mark Louden (56) smashing the bowling to all parts but the inevitable collapse followed and at 159-9 it was left to the cool head of James Absalom (15*) to settle the nerves of his team-mates as Harpenden squeezed home by one wicket.

The local hero for Harpenden IV was 16-year-old James Latham as he notched a wonderful 111 not out including 12 4's and two 6's in the nine wicket victory over Northwood Town II. Dave Fraser continued his run of good all-round form as he took 8-0-46-3 and scored 38 for Harpenden V as they beat Bentley Heath II by four wickets.