Cricket: Harlow CC’s promotion hopes dashed on last day of the season

Cricket / Mon 9th Sep 2019 at 06:32am

Final Weekend Round Up 7th September

ON a chilly autumnal weekend Harlow CC saw their promotion hopes dashed in the very last game of the season as both First and Second Xi’s came up short to finish third in their respective divisions. For Ryan Jessey’s first team it was their reoccurring issue of a catastrophic batting collapse when chasing a modest total that on this occasion not even the outstanding Jason McNally could rectify. All five league and cup defeats this season have come in almost identical circumstances – batting second chasing scores between 170 and 230. In truth, McNally’s outstanding performances in the second half of the season had masked the fragility of the batting for some time, a situation exacerbated by the absence of Alan Jones through injury. 

Rob Coldwell probably will reflect with less clarity on how promotion slipped away from his Second XI in the last fortnight of the campaign. Certainly, some key players were unavailable to him as the season reached its climax, either called into the higher side or abroad. Saturdays draw with bottom side Orsett & Thurrock actually did not have any affect as rivals Gidea Park won to secure promotion. The game that really hurt the 2’s was last week at Westcliff when a stand in skipper for the opposition was over cautious and scuppered both sides promotion chances by making a draw inevitable when both sides needed the win. 

The weekend was made no better by disappointing defeats for both the Third XI and already promoted Fourth team who can be forgiven a poor weekend after a superb season. Nevertheless, Faz Javed’s 3’s secured enough points for a mid-table finish in a tight league and that in itself has to be considered success in such a tough division.

First XI

A windswept and cold Chalkwell Park welcomed the First XI and a sizeable support for the winner takes all promotion clash. The toss was undoubtedly even more crucial than normal as having lost it Ryan Jessey saw opposition skipper, Peter Barnes, opt to bat ensuring Harlow’s only means of promotion was to chase down whatever score the home side could amass.

Just as they have done, week in week out, the bowling unit delivered an impressive performance despite a hard-fast outfield with two exceedingly short boundaries at each end of the wicket.  Waheed Azam trapped Westcliff’s leading run scorer, Lewis Wright, for only 4 as his mistimed a drive only finding the welcoming hands of Rehman Ahmed at deep cover. Mitch Howarde replaced Azam, at the Sea End and removed Charlie Lockhart caught at the wicket for 15 as our excellent start continued. At the other end McNally was steaming in with his normal hostile variations of short pitched fast balls coupled with fuller deliveries at varied pace. He rearranged Alex Portugal’s stumps with a slower ball and when Howarde claimed the fourth wicket shortly afterwards Harlow were in the ascendency. 

Pre-match, Westcliff skipper Peter Barnes had been identified as a threat and at this stage he was holding the innings together despite appearing to be playing within himself taking few risks. It was a surprise when he had a rush of blood and launched an over ambitious shot at a full McNally offering to be bowled for a well made 70.  With McNally on a roll, claiming four wickets, Matt Renvoize decided to attack the bowling at the other end striking two glorious sixes and a four within three consecutive balls as Westcliff boosted their score to something more defendable. When he fell caught behind, completing another McNally five-for, the total of 156-8 looked hugely vulnerable but Adil Ali and Sam Hallows added 30 before the innings closed on 197-9 in 50 overs.

Jason McNally 5-47 (16 overs), Mitch Howarde 2-62 (16 overs), Waheed Azam 1-39 (9 overs) and Sarfraz Ahmed 1-39 (9 overs).

The talk at tea within the Harlow ranks was that whilst a decent score the home side had not run well and missed multiple opportunities to rotate the strike. Determined to be positive and run hard was a solid plan but one that needed to be executed well and failure to do so was Harlow’s undoing. Within four overs both openers had been run out, both from the non-striker’s end, admittedly to good fielding and yet there must be the suspicion that both Yeats and Hassan would have got home had they back up with greater intent. 

A poor start became a crisis when the usually technically correct Rehman Ahmed played back and across to a delivery from Baker and was trapped leg before with the score only on 12. Charlie Coleman joined McNally at the crease and played three delightful drives to the boundary before he was yorked by paceman Sherwin Stanley. 37-4 rapidly became 39-7 as Stanley ripped through the middle order with barely a run added, one aided by a superb one-handed diving catch from Westcliff skipper Barnes. It was a horror show to be frank.

Only two weeks earlier, in almost identical circumstances the sheer brilliance of Jason McNally had saved Harlow’s season with huge support from Mitch Howarde. Innings like that only happen once in a lifetime and as the age old saying goes ‘lightening doesn’t strike twice’.  James Butler gutsed it out trying to support Harlow’s premier all-rounder but he too fell to a Stanley yorker for 15. Faced with batting alongside last man Waheed, Jason McNally had only one option left and that was outright attack but even he perished to Adil Ali to bring a demoralising end to what had been a season of such promise with Harlow dismissed for a season low 73 all out.

No doubt after a period of reflection there will be a post mortem of the First XI season and rightly that’s for behind closed doors and by others but I think I’m on safe ground when I opine that our level of athleticism and fitness is generally not at the level required and the batting order and manner in which the side bat require improvement. On the flip side there has certainly been many positives. The bowling unit functioned superbly all season. Monger, Sarfraz (who broke the First XI record with 43 wickets) and Howarde all consistently outstanding. 

Then there is Jason McNally. The outstanding player of the division without doubt. A colossus of a cricketer with 831 league runs at faster than a run a ball (leading run scorer in the division) plus 32 league wickets (in the top ten) added to his knowledge of the game and coaching skills that have helped so many at the club. One can only hope it doesn’t have to happen but how on earth do you begin to replace his contribution? Ryan Jessey has engendered a real team spirit within the side and the engagement between first team players and the rest of the club has never been better in my experience so a real base to build upon for the future one hopes.

Ultimately though, a third-place finish and another season in Shepherd Neame Senior Division 3 for Harlow. Frustratingly, during the course of the season both sides going up were beaten by the baggy greens and the same number of victories were achieved as second placed Westcliff as we lost out on bonus points accrued. On reflection though both sides deserve their promotions, even at Harlow’s expense. In the long run it may be a blessing, enabling time to resolve the deficiencies within the side and build for the long term who knows.

From a personal point of view, being alongside this team for virtually the entire season from ball one at a freezing Broxbourne in pre-season has been a pleasure. I thank each of them for their efforts and positivity throughout. Regardless of the final outcome they have been a credit to the club.

Second XI

An emotional day at Marigolds as club veteran and 2nd XI captain Rob Coldwell put his whites on for the very last time. Although this will be reflected upon in greater detail elsewhere current Club President Alan Howick rightly described Rob as one of Harlow’s greatest ever captains. Eighteen years at the club with nine as captain Rob sought to get the Second XI promoted back to Division 1 at the first attempt. Sadly, results elsewhere meant that that would have been impossible on the day regardless of a frustrating draw with bottom side Orsett and Thurrock who opted to block out for a stalemate despite their impending relegation.

The die was cast for the Second’s last week at Westcliff. Rob and his side can rightly feel a little aggrieved at the circumstances that denied them promotion with sides playing negative cricket that prevented them from winning either of the last two games but on the whole, they have had an excellent season.

On Saturday that won the toss and batted first but despite 30 from the retiring skipper and 24 from Atif Mustehsen they were struggling to put on enough runs to be competitive when Callum Sykes took matters into his own hands supported by Andre Riddell. Sykes hammered a superb century with Riddell adding an unbeaten 35 enabling an early declaration with the Harlow total 238-5 in 44.5 overs.

Four early wickets from Aldred, Joe Riddell (2) and Amir Farooq looked to have broken the visitor’s resistance until Haroon Khan (46) and Sandeep Chavda (71 not out) sucked the life out the contest. Rob rotated his bowlers, even having a rare 5 over burst himself during which he dismissed Khan stumped by Perry, but despite Sykes claiming a wicket to go with his ton Orsett saw the game to a draw ending on 166-6.

Joe Riddell 2-31 (9 overs), Rob Coldwell 1-14 (5 overs), Callum Sykes 1-19 (5 overs), Lewis Aldred 1-21 (10 overs), Amir Farooq 1-25 (10 overs), Sunni Ali 0-14 (4 overs), Max Baulcomb 0-1 (1 over) and Matt Hart 0-25 (6 overs).

Sadly, not the dream finish everyone had hoped for Rob but he can be extremely proud of his record and contribution to Harlow Cricket Club. Almost all the home-grown players in the current first eleven have benefitted from playing under him at some stage of their development along with countless other players. A fine cricketer and an outstanding captain. 

Third XI

Faz Javed took his side to Upminster knowing they were virtually safe after last week’s crucial win. Probably just as well as despite a fine effort from the bowling unit to dismiss the hosts for only 154 Harlow’s batting collapsed in a heap. 

Things had looked so good for a season ending win when all the bowling unit produced good spells to restrict the scoring and knock over the home batsmen. Mudasser Naeem and Abdullah Farooq both claiming three wickets apiece.

Abdullah Farooq 3-17 (4 overs), Mudasser Naeem 3-32 (12.4 overs), Thomas Smith-Hughes 2-22 (6 overs), Dave Whelhams 2-28 (6 overs), Tyler Dobson 0-12 (7 overs), Dan Stone 0-23 (10 overs) and Faz Javed 0-10 (1 over).

The Harlow reply was car crash of First XI standards with five players out for a duck. The only innings of note was Madasser Naeem making a fine 55 amounting to over half the total number of runs as we closed all out for 103.

A disappointing end but this has been a fine season for the Third XI. A brief flirt with the relegation zone was as bad as it got and eventually a mid-table finish is a very decent effort playing as they do in the Premier Division of 3rd XI cricket.

Fourth XI

The already promoted Fourth XI went for bust in an attempt to win the league title. The only way that could be achieved was with a 25-point batting first victory so despite the damp strip Rizwan opted to make first use of the bat for understandable reasons. The conditions were such that the variable pace and bounce caused by the drying wicket troubled every batsman as Harlow posted 150 all out. After several hours exposed to a stiff drying breeze the conditions had eased for Harold Wood batting second and they made light work of knocking the runs off for the loss of only one wicket.

Further details await from the fixture but it has been a wonderful season for the Fourth XI and they are alone at the club in achieving that honour. A fabulous achievement.

Photographs courtesy of Austin Bullman.

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