Lambert sinks Harpenden

Henley bowler takes 7-34 as Harpenden slip to seven wicket defeat

FOR the Harpenden First XI it was another early meet for an hour’s journey in the Home Counties Premier League for the visit to Henley. The tough games in the division come thick and fast. Henley were last year’s champions and currently sit third in the table behind Oxford and Welwyn Garden City.

Harpenden batted first on a pitch that may have set some early alarm bells ringing but a collapse to 71-6 was always going to be a long road back for skipper Ben Frazer’s team. Opening bowler Tom Lambert (12.1-4-34-7) set out to destroy any Harpenden effort to establish an early batting platform as none of the top four in the order made it to double figures. This left Frazer (69 in 60 balls) and Will Bates (25 in 37) as the fulcrum of any sort of recovery but such crumbs of comfort were few and far between as a total of 137 all out in 40.1 overs was well below expectation levels.

Opening left-arm seamer Ben Mahoney (7-1-21-3) brought some concern to the home dressing room with two early wickets but from this point Jonno McLean (67* in 76) made sure that there were no more concerns as Henley were coxed home in complete control to win by seven wickets at 141-3 in 29 overs.

These are hard lessons being learned in the fires of extremely competitive league cricket as Harpenden are fast learning. Potters Bar are next to visit Harpenden Common and each week sees a new opportunity to make the most of any chances that come with bat, ball and in the field. The margin for error is small but Frazer maintains his positive outlook: “Obviously this was a disappointing result but playing a side like Henley was always going to be difficult. We weren’t quite there today but we need to keep going and look forward. We are still fighting and it only takes a couple of wins and we are right back in the thick of it. I believe that we are not too far away from being a side that can compete with most”.

Harpenden 2nd XI appear to have turned a sharp corner as they recorded their second successive victory, this time over Preston on Harpenden Common. Chasing down totals has proved a problem this season but a 5 wicket victory was a sign of a return to form. The early losses of Tony Hooper and overseas star Sam Wiese in the first two overs left a potentially testing chase at 7-2 but Barney Francis (55 in 79 balls) and Mike Howard (54* in 71) showed enough class for a comfortable win. Ed Washington (38 in 67) also continues to impress with some audacious driving through the covers.

Preston had chosen to bat first but 190-8 in 53 overs looked a few less than ideal with a lightning fast outfield. Spinner Richard Darwin (21-4-75-4) wheeled away and was supported by some sound catching in the field. Anthony Ender (46 in 54) timed the ball well for Preston but he then picked out the only deep fielder on the boundary from a poor delivery from Darwin. John Kerley (13-2-41-2) knows how to bowl well on the Common and returned his usual reliable figures. Harpenden next face top of the table Knebworth Park II. The sides have already met once this season in a pre-season friendly when Harpenden squeezed a tight win.

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Captain David Whiteley said afterwards: “Despite some selection changes we stayed positive and our bowlers stuck to their task very well to keep Preston to a total that we were very happy with. To lose both our openers at 7-2 wasn’t the plan but all it required was some consolidation and we got that from Francis, Howard and Washington. It was good to see.”

Harpenden 3rd XI have “hit the wall” as marathon runners like to say. A run of victories took Simon Wade’s team to second place in Division Three but these heights have proved hard to sustain with losses to Hatfield and now Ickleford resulting in a slide to eighth place. Once again a talented batting order failed to live up to expectations except for wicket-keeper Paul Goodwin (45 in 55 balls) who put the travails of his colleagues in to some perspective at number 10 with a last wicket partnership of 48 with Joe Peck (12* in 23). Ickleford made short work of the target for an easy nine-wicket win.

Wade was succinct in his analysis: “This was a very lacklustre performance on a good pitch. We will need to play considerably better in the coming weeks if we are to stay in touch with the rest of the pack.”

Waltham Cross & Rosedale 2nd XI declared early at 250-6 in 47 overs but they were made to rue this decision by a David Byrne (111*) brilliant hundred for Harpenden 4th XI. Byrne was immense in the middle order as he shared a crucial 6th wicket stand of 81 with Teddy Peck (43) to break the back of the run chase as the target was overhauled with plenty of time to spare and at a fine run-rate.

Harpenden 5th XI bowled out Luton Town & Indians IV for just 42 as Ben Dearman (8.5-5-8-5) and Dave Fraser (8-2-27-5) recorded five wicket bags for a win by 98 runs. Fraser (31) also made runs in the first innings for a good all-round performance. King’s Langley IV only managed 106 all out as they lost to Harpenden VI by nine wickets with star Under-14 bowler Billy Lange-Hewlett (10-4-18-4) largely responsible for his team’s easy win. Finally, in a friendly, the honours were shared between Harpenden VII (199-6) and Botany Bay V (148-7) with Mike Lacey (44) top scoring for Harpenden.

In the evening sunshine the club were delighted to entertain Paul Allott from Sky Sports as a guest in the pavilion who remarked on the impressive availability of the playing membership for Harpenden in being able to field seven Saturday sides.