Cricket returns at Harlow Cricket Club

Cricket / Wed 22nd Jul 2020 at 09:52am

By Andy Yeats

LEAGUE cricket of sorts returned on Saturday to Essex and to be frank it was marvellous just to be back playing and watching. For those not quite up to speed, this season sees the normal divisions altered, just for 2020, to ensure fixtures are more local with each side playing 9 matches in a league format. No promotion or relegation as a consequence but trophies are being awarded to the various divisional winners. All games are of straight 40 over a side format and therefore no draws etc.

I’m not sure whether the Essex Senior League has a fixture computer (I doubt it) but someone had a sense of humour when the opening day of the belated season pitched the two Harlow sides against each other at 1st team level.

The baggy greens could have been forgiven for feeling a little tentative against their normal higher division rivals who arrived at full strength, including their pro Suraj Chauhan.

Town skipper Dan Farmer won the toss and decided to bat and so the opening ball of the season was duly sent down by Callum Sykes. Two deliveries later and Sykes found the edge of opener Gadvi’s bat and Max Baulcomb took an excellent low catch in the gully to inject a huge burst of confidence into the home side. When 17-year-old First XI debutant Matt Hart removed the other opener, Shaun Alderson, with a superb catch from keeper Andre Riddell Town were looking shell shocked at 15-2.

Chauhan and Pat Yates then steadied the ship for Town before accelerating hard and striking some damaging shots particularly against the faster bowling forcing new interim Harlow captain, Jack Sykes, into several changes of bowling. With the score on 97, and visitors now scoring in excess of 9 an over, Rehman Ahmed made a crucial break through as he got Pat Yates to miscue to Waheed for 36 from only 27 balls. Waheed then found the edge of dangerman Chauhan’s (51) sizeable bat and despite the ball flying through to first slip at height and pace, Jack Sykes pulled off a stunning one-handed catch to turn the flow of the game in our favour once again.

Pace off the ball from spinners Rehman and Ben Yeats followed by the accurate medium pace of Amir Farooq tied down the visiting batsmen for a significant period with Dan Farmer and various batting partners content to knock the odd single and block out for the majority of deliveries until Farmer and Ben Eversden opened up towards the end of the innings as Town posted 197-8 in their 40 overs. Rehman Ahmed the pick of the bowling with an outstanding 2-13 from his 8 over spell.

Rehman 2-13 (8), Callum SDykes 2-54 (7), Hart 1-35 (4), Waheed 1-36(8), Farooq 1-28 (8), Yeats 0-30 (5)

A quick home-made sandwich and hand sanitise and we were off again with 17-year-old opener Yeats joined by Syed Hassan. Both made a confident start against the pace of Chauhan and Wilson until Syed lofted a mishit drive to cover off the medium pace of first change bowler Ben Eversden, as once again pace off the ball was causing greater difficulty than outright speed on a relatively slow Marigolds strip. Rehman in at 3 looked in imperious form from the outset and quickly got into a fine expansive rhythm whilst his younger more cautious batting partner helped blunt the Town attack as we ticked along very nicely at the required rate until, with the score on 95, Yeats allowed his frustrations at being tied down by Farmer’s medium pace to get the better of him and he miscued a straight drive to end an innings that had helped put us in a fine winning position with eight wickets in hand and plenty of overs remaining with the scoring rate under control.

Alas, from this point forward every time we looked to be grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck a wicket would fall, including crucially that of Rehman for a very fine 64 from Dan Farmers penultimate ball of his 8 over spell. Town celebrated the wicket in a way that suggested they knew full well how important it was leaving us on 139-5. A rush of blood saw Callum Sykes drawn down the wicket to be stumped shortly afterwards and we were in a world of problems. Brother Jack though, played sensibly and assuredly making 21 before he fell on 163-7. Andre Riddell and Waheed Azam then looked to have turned the game completely in our favour and when Waheed struck three consecutive boundaries only 13 runs were needed from the last 3 overs with 3 wickets in hand.

Maybe it was our inexperience in comparison to the visitors but instead of runs being accumulated towards the winning total, attempted big shots resulted in wickets, albeit one due to a very good running catch by Farmer to dismiss the unfortunate Riddell, and suddenly we were in the last over with only one wicket remaining. Waheed took a single exposing youngster Hart and Wilson pitched one up and knocked over his stumps to secure a Town win that had looked very unlikely ten minutes earlier by a mere 6 run winning margin.

Despite the disappointment of defeat this was a cracking match to open the season. Our lads performed admirably and had produced 95% of the performance required to beat their opposition but just didn’t have the ability and experience to get over the line at the death.

Rehman 64, Yeats 21, Sykes (J) 21, Waheed 20 *

Harry Burton led his new look Second XI to Epping to play what turned out to be a strong 2nd XI unit from the Lower Bury Lane side. Harlow were to get off to a decidedly average start with a combination of wayward bowling and several mis-fields allowing the home team to get off to a flyer. Tyler Dobson helped drag things back in the middle of the innings with 2-44 supported by Sunni (1-47) but with wickets in hand the run rate soared once again towards the innings end as Epping racked up a sizeable 303-5 in 40 overs.

In reply, the early loss of Atif second ball was far from ideal but 14-year-old James Forde dug in with Asad Baig until three wickets in a single over torpedoed our innings below the water line to a fatal degree. Forde remained the rock of the Harlow batting effort before finally being dismissed for a superb 61 in his first ever game at this level of adult cricket. Wickets continued to fall and we were dismissed for 174 leaving a heavy defeat to ponder.

The Third XI also suffered a chastening loss albeit to Woodford Green’s 2nd XI. Put into bat only Biju Matthew (28) and Rizwan Qayyum (39) showed any lengthy resistance as we were bowled out for 113. Our bowlers managed to knock over five of the Green batsmen but they cantered to victory inside 19 overs for an early finish with Irfan Shoukat the pick of the bowlers with 2-7 (3).

You’ve all heard of Clough & Taylor and Bayliss & Farbrace. The Fourth XI now have a new interim leadership team of 17 years olds McCarthy & Baldock and what a start they got off to as they achieved a crushing win at Oakfield Parkonians 5th XI. Parks won the toss and elected to field (school boy error) especially when the visitors include former first teamer Jon Allen. Rolling back the years Jon struck a chanceless undefeated 117 before gallantly retiring to allow others a chance to bat rather than seeking further individual glory, Co-captain Nathan McCarthy dabbed and bashed his way to an attractive 62 whilst Abbas Shah (51*) and Ronnie Fuller (33*) inflicted yet more damage to a demoralised home attack.

With ball in hand the tone of the game remained unaltered as Myles Baldock struck early with a brace followed by wickets for every bowler (many of them youngsters) Harris Hamid 1-12 (6), Myles Baldock 2-13 (6), Oliver Allen 1-22 (6), Abbas Shah 1-11 (4), Ronnie Fuller 3-13 (5) and Asad Naqvi 1-10 (2) as Parks mustered a paltry 88 all out.

Russ was good enough to send me a copy of the 5th XI scorebook but sadly it’s not quite readable. Nevertheless, I know they lost at Hatfield Heath playing Albury and Russ was good enough to send me a summary of the action. Apparently, Ben Searey bowled very well, John Conroy on debut behind the stumps was excellent and Muffadol Adamjee was batting with great maturity until being rattled out LBW (presumably by one of our own umpires who in fairness may not have been particularly experienced at the job). Steve Searey was batting nicely but decided that disappearing off to work for hard cash was preferable mid innings whilst ‘golden arm’ Evie Matthews broke a bail with a pin point direct hit (invoice in the post to the Matthews family for flagrant damage to club equipment).

Probably the best moment of all this weekend was being sat on the outfield of Marigolds after the game watching the various First XI players from both sides sat on the grass mixing and chatting (well as long as they weren’t tapping Rehman up which may have been the case after his performance) whilst members stood around chatting and making good use of the new socially distanced bar facilities. Mr Howick had a glass of fine red and suddenly things looked as if they might be on the road to ‘normal’ again. Cricket was back and by goodness it felt good and you know what – not even a defeat to Harlow Town could take that feeling away from us all.

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