SUCCESSSFUL sports teams find ways of winning when everything seems set against them however hard they try. That is exactly the strength and resilience shown by the First XI on Saturday in their crucial league fixture at in form Epping. Put into bat on a pudding of a pitch, arguably on the wrong end of the odd questionable decision and in huge trouble at 102-6 they found a way. It needs character to fight your way out of trouble in cricket. Two batsmen surrounded by eleven fielders who know they are in the ascendancy with all that entails at that level requires people with personality to stand up and take it to the opposition. Time for people like Ryan Jessey, James Butler and Mitch Howarde who did exactly that and dragged Harlow to a score of 190 all out that at least gave us a shot at securing the desperately needed 20 points.
Back to the morning of the game then and it was to the surprise of everyone in green on arrival at Lower Bury Lane that Epping had failed to make use of any covers on the wicket despite the widespread advanced notice of heavy rain on Friday overnight into the weekend. Unsurprisingly, the outcome was a very damp wicket – in fact so soft was the surface that a passing fox had left very visible paw prints in the top of the wicket. One can only speculate at the thinking of the home side in this regard but it’s fair to say there was more than a suggestion that the home side were rolling the dice, praying for a favourable coin toss, hoping to be able to insert us in extremely unfavourable conditions. So, it came to pass as Ryan called wrong again and to the delight of the home side Yeats and Jessey (Lee) were strapping their pads on.
It wasn’t long before the openers were taking them off again however, soon to be followed by Jason McNally, who got a stinker of a delivery from medium pacer, Golum Wayes, that jagged back significantly to remove his off bail. A score of 35-3 quickly descended to 102-6 as Monger was caught at deep cover, Coleman probably unfortunate to be adjudged caught behind and Rehman Ahmed stumped of a wide when coming down the track to the off spin of Manan Patel. Of the top six batsmen only, Rehman (38) had found any degree of fluency in a hard-fought innings.
Skipper, Ryan Jessey, and Waheed Azam added 41 for the 7th wicket before both fell with the score on 143 for 32 and 13 respectively. Its was Ryan’s most important contribution of the season and at a critical time. Still in the mire eight down it was the turn of James Butler and Mitch Howarde and the boisterous pair proceeded to run Epping ragged in the field. Literally, playing tip and run the home side could not find a way of stopping the single and, as confidence mounted in the batsmen, Butler produced a couple of exquisite shots down the ground, including a maximum during which he managed to go head over heels at the none-strikers end whilst admiring his work. It was heartening stuff was the pair added 43 at a run a ball before Mitch Howarde was trapped leg before for 14 and a few balls later last man Sarfraz Ahmed just failed to make his ground on another Butler induced sharp run leaving us on 190 all out and the outstanding Butler on 31 not out.
One other incident of note was during the latter stages of the innings a heavy shower forced the players off the field. Remarkably, the under used covers were suddenly being deployed by the home side with the urgency of the aforementioned fox on route to his favourite chicken coop. Sardonic glances and mutterings from all in baggy green!!!
Unsurprisingly, whilst not perfect the pitch had dried over the course of the afternoon to the degree batting was not quite the challenge faced by the Harlow batters. The ever-reliable Luke Monger removed both openers with 46 on the board before Sarfraz Ahmed added three more victims to his seasons tally. In fairness, Sarfraz has bowled better and with greater control for most of the campaign but at this stage wickets were everything regardless of how they materialised.
At 122-5 the home side were probably slight favourites but for the second week running Mitch Howarde produced an excellent spell taking three wickets in eight overs of sharp swing bowling supported by catches from keeper Butler, Lee Jessey at slip and Waheed Azam who took a tremendous low catch off his bootlaces at mid-off. Waheed himself was now operating in tandem with Howarde and was proving to be unplayable as his extra height enabled some good bounce and carry off the drying surface. It was fitting that Waheed himself polished off the innings as the home sides resistance petered out at 144 all out.
Mitch Howarde 3-28 (8 overs), Sarfraz Ahmed 3-40 (7 overs), Waheed Azam 2-11 (6 overs), Luke Monger 2-38 (10 overs) and Jason McNally 0-27 (6 overs)
A very fine win then for the side made all the sweeter afterwards when news from Southend reached them that third place Westcliff had lost the seaside battle with top of the table Leigh on Sea. Results ensure that Harlow retain second place but now with a healthy 21-point advantage over Westcliff. Word of warning however, Harlow have to travel to both sides in our last four matches so its certainly far from over but a huge banana skin avoided ton Saturday that is for sure.
Back, on a beautifully prepared covered wicket, at Marigolds Rob Coldwell’s Second XI played host to Hadleigh and Thundersley who they had comfortably beaten in the reverse fixture earlier in the season. Alas, despite making a better than par 244-9 the visitors romped home winning by eight wickets. It had all looked so promising when, for the second week in succession, Jack Sykes found the form of two seasons ago to top score with 85. Despite no other Harlow batsman making a significant contribution, although fifty plus extras helped, Rob Coldwell would have been delighted with his sides total especially when on paper at least his team looked decidedly short in that department due to late cry offs and call ups.
Alas, that was as good as it got as the visitors set off in a free scoring style that they pretty much maintained throughout losing only two wickets in the process. Although Amir Farooq and Sunni Ali both bowled decent spells the lack of wickets meant Harlow were unable to put any form of pressure onto the batting side slumping to a hugely disappointing defeat.
The only ray of sunshine for the side was the fact that they retained second spot in the table but with five sides now clustered within 18 points of each other at the top of the league some calm heads will be needed to finish the job of being promoted back to Division One at the first attempt. A visit to second bottom West Essex beckons next week and if ever there was a must win game then this is it.
The trials of the 3rd XI in the past few weeks have been a cause for concern as a series of defeats saw them slide close to relegation danger. A home fixture against bottom of the table Chelmsford as probably just the fixture they needed and Faisal Javed’s side delivered the urgently required 20-point win. Harlow won the toss and despite the conditions Faisal made the brave decision to bat first. He may have been doubting the wisdom of that decision initially as Harry Burton and Luke Close both fell cheaply but leading from the front the skipper steadied the ship to top score with 61 ably supported by Kashif Latif (40) and Asad Baig (42). Daniel Whelhams added a late flurry in 23 not out as Harlow reached 210-7 in their allotted 45 overs.
Full praise to the bowling unit as they all contributed in restricting the scoring from the off and taking wickets at regular intervals. Muhammed Faisal set the tone with an opening spell that saw him take 2-9 in 7 overs. Tyler Dobson, Dan Stone and Dave Whelhams continued the good work in the middle overs (Dobson 3-26, Stone 1-32 and Whelhams 2-26) and Kashif Latif chipped in with a run out and a wicket on top of his earlier runs for an excellent day’s cricket. Chelmsford were dismissed with five overs to spare, well short of the target, making 154 all out.
Tyler Dobson 3-26 ((8 overs), Muhammed Faisal 2-9 (7 overs), Dave Whelhams 2-26 (6 overs), Danny Stone 1-32 (9 overs), Kashif Latif 1-21 (4 overs), Daniel Whelhams 0-26 (6 overs)
Rizwan’s 4’s travelled to Horndon on the Hill CC to take on their 3rd XI. It was yet another case of the captain leading from the front as he dominated the Harlow innings making a superb 115 not out. The home side certainly were left to rue a number of dropped catches but Rizwan made them pay the price. As is becoming a regular feature Nathan McCarthy added his weekly thirty odd (31 this week) and Syed Ali (26) and Zahid Habib (26 not out) also added support for the skipper. A total of 264-5 in 45 overs certainly appeared to be a very tall order but the home side gave it a decent crack, ultimately falling short to close on 217-6.
Unusually, one of the home openers carried his bat in the reply but in only making 62 left far too much to his colleagues. Haider Rasool took two stumpings as the bowlers chipped away at the batting order to ensure a comfortable win.
Syed Ali 2-30 (9 overs), Sohail Ali Khan 1-19 (6 overs), Zahid Habib 1-33 (9 overs), Myles Baldock 1-45 (9 overs), Irfan Shoukat 0-20 (3 overs) and Omar Qureshi 0-54 (9 overs)
The win leaves the Fourth XI in second place but with a tremendous advantage of 28 points over third place Harold Wood. Promotion looking a very real prospect for Rizwan and his team.
A tough week for the young 5’s against a strong Stansted Hall & Elsenham 2nd XI. Put into bat our side, full of 13- and 14-year olds, found run scoring difficult with James Forde (32) and Ben Terrington (31 not out) leading the way in a total of 108.
It proved not to be enough as Harlow lost by 6 wickets despite a committed performance from all. Special mention to Abbas Shah who bowled beautifully without luck only conceding 9 runs in his 7 overs.
B. Seary 1-11 (5 overs), J.Forde 1-19 (4 overs) , H. Hamid 1-21 (5 overs) , M. Adamjee 0-21 (2.5 overs), A.Shah 0-9 (7 overs) , M. Fisk 0-24 (5 overs)
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