Lamb wants to be the best in the county

Harpenden skipper wants to finish highest placed club in the county

HCPL Division One

Harpenden 292-7

Banbury 197-7

Match drawn

AWAY matches in the HCPL are little different to those in the Champions league where a solid game plan should include the ability of the players to handle their assigned tasks as well as a kind bounce of the ball, an ability to quieten the home crowd (if there is one) and to make sure that the home side aren’t given the merest hint of an opening.

At Banbury last Saturday Harpenden executed all of this so well that skipper Nick Lamb admitted to coming away disappointed not to have won after his team dominated from first ball to last. Perhaps all that was missing was a self-appointed Stuart Broad in an “Enforcer” role?

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Lamb’s view: “For us to go away to a top side like Banbury and pick up 14 points is a job pretty well done. If I’m honest though I think that we could have won this one as we were on top for most of the day.”

Banbury themselves could reasonably point to an injury list not unlike India’s Test side and this disrupted their preparation and no doubt their performance but having won the toss the home side asked Harpenden to take first strike and from that moment the runs initially flowed.

Having taken the country by storm in his early performances, Aussie opener Ricky Damiano (42 in 57 balls) has endured a rough spell as all players will at one stage or another but slowly his form has returned and a strong second half of the season beckons. Damiano added 91 for the first wicket with Gregg Cooper (68 in 110) who hasn’t so much grasped his opportunity to open regularly since being promoted from the IIs as strangled it with both hands.

Such a solid platform helps anyone following in the order and with Ben Frazer (41 in 25) inevitably adding some quick runs it was time for wicket-keeper Chris Warn (59 in 84) to take the chance of coming in at first drop to record his maiden 1st XI league half century.

Warn, like Damiano, will be looking to further improve his batting stats in the latter part of the season.

Lamb said: “Ricky is getting some decent form back and with Coops gives us a solid platform at the top. For the first time this season we saw the class of Chris Warn and there’s plenty of runs left in the season for all of them.”

At the interval both skippers must have had mixed feelings on the state of the game.

At one stage Harpenden were 202-2 and Lamb must have had Andrew Strauss-like feelings for a testing declaration but a minor collapse to 256-6 left his team to close at a very respectable 292-7 in 66 overs.

Opening left-arm seamer Ben Mahoney (5-1-20-2) then struck early to remove both Banbury openers including Lloyd Sabin for a duck in the first over.

Banbury relied on the solid Craig Haupt (81 in 102) at No. 3 to fend off any thoughts of defeat although Frazer (17-2-48-4) caused the usual alarms in taking a clutch of wickets as Banbury flirted with danger at 178-6.

Ashley Blanchard (5* in 39) and Ian Hawtin (10* in 31) then blocked for the draw as Harpenden secured the points to be in mid-table in fifth and stay one place ahead of their opponents.

Harpenden are away again this week to bottom of the table Radlett who have still to win a league match this year.

It would easy for Lamb to be well satisfied with his team’s currently secure position but such an idea is quickly dismissed: “I can’t agree with that. We’re solidly in mid-table but that’s not what we’re trying to do here and we won’t settle for it,” the skipper said. “The primary aim of being the top club in Hertfordshire hasn’t changed for me and we’ll take that in to this week’s match against Radlett.

“We know the quality of their side and what they’ve done in the past but we want to get back to winning ways and put ourselves in to serious contention at the top of this league.”

Perhaps the side does have an enforcer after all.

Harpenden II captain Richard Darwin was facing the other side of the coin though after a disappointing performance against Watford Town CC.

The Town have been a bogey team for Harpenden over the past few seasons but the matches have always been at Watford’s ground. Harpenden had been looking forward to a return game with home field advantage but even winning the toss and electing to bat first conspired against them.

Lively and unchanged bowling from Remtullah (20-3-67-4) and Afridi (19.4-6-40-5) on a pitch that was perhaps not to be entirely trusted led to a well below par score of 124 all out in 39.4 overs.

Darwin was honest in his assessment: “With the bat we struggled again to build partnerships even with some decent seam bowling. This was something we did so well in the Hemel match last week.

“Joe Peck and Mike Howard bowled well for us early on but we weren’t able to defend a low score.”

Howard (10-1-30-4) found some good rhythm having missed several matches due to a family holiday but Afridi (69* in 78) made the difference as he took the Man of the Match honours.

Darwin was left to consider his options: “I firmly believe that we have quality cricketers in our side and now it’s time we showed that quality and the fighting spirit we have. I will be asking the players to focus on their own performance and standards in the upcoming games and to support their team-mates. I’m confident that if we do play to our potential we can turn things around.”

This week Harpenden are at home to Abbots Langley in a clash that could have serious repercussions at the lower end of the Herts. Division 2 table.

The one ray of sunshine following IIIs skipper Simon Wade is the one that allows his team’s matches to take place even when almost every other game in the county is washed out. It defied even a Michael Fish forecast that Harpenden were able to play at Wheathampstead last week and another loss was swiftly to follow against Kings Langley.

Harpenden’s 131 all out in 53 overs was never enough as no batsman was able to make 30 although Mike Cooper’s dismissal might have caused Test umpire Billy Bowden a puzzle.

Cooper was effectively stumped by the wicket-keeper (standing back) having wandered down the track whilst the fielding side were in the process of appealing for a catch behind (not given) but apparently before the umpire had called “over” after the delivery. Confusion reigned but the outcome of the match was not affected as opener Mitch Roberts (85) made some stylish runs for Langley.

Boxmoor CC beat Harpenden IV by 14 runs in a tight contest. Harpenden captain Mike Hughes (11-3-25-3) may have thought his spin had done enough but despite Teddy Peck (44 at No. 7) rebuilding the innings from 77-5 Harpenden fell tantalisingly short as four wickets were all lost with the score poised for victory at 161.

Harpenden V lost to Chiltern 06 CC by nine wickets whilst Wheathampstead III drew with Harpenden VI as the Harpenden last pair clung on.