Wiese and Darwin on song

Aussie batsman Sam Wiese hit 108* and Richard Darwin took 7-68 as Harpenden II beat Ampthill

SHL Division Two

Harpenden II 218-7 dec

Ampthill 190

Harpenden II won by 28 runs

STORMY clouds hung over Ampthill Park on Saturday and not just the cumulonimbus looming over Catherine of Aragon’s cross either. Harpenden 2nd XI’s abject performance against Broxbourne the previous week had been a water-shed moment for the team and a huge improvement was needed against the high flying home side. Harpenden were asked to bat first and Australian Sam Wiese (108* in 155 balls) along with Tony Hooper (43 in 48) put on 77 for the first wicket in a promising start. Hooper was caught after squirting the ball out to point in the first over from spinner Chris Esh (18-3-67-4) as three quick wickets fell including a senseless run out as the total lurched to a pivotal 81-3.

As Wiese became increasingly fluent, especially on the back foot and through the off-side, he was joined by skipper David Whiteley (28 in 44) in a frisky partnership of 63 for the fifth wicket.

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Esh bowled well with plenty of drift and guile as no batsman found it easy to get going, including Wiese, so a score of 218-7 in 52 overs was thought to be enough for Harpenden to safely declare an over early.

In grim light Ampthill replied with some confidence having chased down bigger targets already this season but batsmen came and went with alarming regularity as a game plan to hit out over long on from the start led to catches being held in the outfield. No Ampthill player made it to 40 as Howson (38 in 62), Gould (31 in 33) and Lewin (36 in 27) all expired of belligerent intent as Richard Darwin (17.1-3-68-7) embarked on a superb spell of controlled left arm spin. Supported by a somewhat out of sorts Alex Randall (15-0-88-3), Darwin either perplexed the striking batsman out or lured them to hit straight to fielders as Mike Howard and Whiteley took four good catches between them and Randall held a steepler in front of the pavilion. A promising 104-2 soon became 166-8 as the flow of the game went Harpenden’s way even when an attempt to reintroduce seamer Chris Roe was foiled due to umpiring concerns over the quality of light. Undeterred, Whiteley simply threw the ball back to Darwin (who had been due to change ends) and with his first ball of the next over Darwin triumphed with another good shout for an lbw. This time the umpire agreed with the bowler and the Harpenden clouds lifted as the sun made a metaphorical appearance.

Harpenden III have been the team in form over the past few weeks but this happy trend came to an abrupt halt against Hatfield in what will be a tightly contested Division Three.

Hatfield’s 195-6 in 53 overs looked a fair total but despite missing skipper Simon Wade, the Harpenden batting line up was full of stroke-makers. As so often happens, a talented line up could not translate their ability in to runs in the book and a slump to 98-5 was a big disappointment. Barney Francis (38 in 60 balls) top scored but the major innings of the day was missing as a meek chase concluded at 139 all out and a loss by 56 runs.

In Wade’s absence, stand-in skipper Paul Goodwin was frustrated: “We certainly missed Simon as captain and senior player but we kept Hatfield to what I felt was a modest total and then our batting didn’t fire and we fizzled out. We need to bounce back strongly next week”.

Harpenden IV drew an exciting home match with Ickleford II as the visitors lost a wicket to the final ball of the day to finish 9 wickets down but just eight runs short of victory at 251-9 in 48 overs. A tremendous game of cricket saw Mark Lowden (77) and Ed Brown (32) putting on 79 in the first 11 overs and Mike Hughes (61) then helped the Harpenden score along to a very competitive 258-8 in 52 overs. Jason Guest (14-0-61-6) then took over but was perhaps short on support with the ball as both sides strained for the win.

Captain Mark Bashford said afterwards: “This game was a credit to both sides as everyone knew the value of keeping the run rate going the whole time. There were some excellent performances and if we could only have had another over at them - but then Ickleford probably feel the same way.”

John Hosking (51) scored a half century for Harpenden V as they lost to Ware II by three wickets having set a target of 166 all out. The VI were dismissed for 97 all out and also lost to Bushey III by three wickets.