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Cricket: Harlow CC win cliffhanger at Matching

Cricket / Sun 18th Apr 2021 at 08:58am

ARGUABLY it really shouldn’t have become anywhere near to being as interesting as it was but Harlow First XI won an incredibly tight pre-season friendly at Matching Green CC on Saturday.

In a game that had more twists and turns than an episode of Line of Duty and having the game in the palm of their hand, Harlow seemed intent on complete self destruction batting second as they collapsed appallingly from a match winning position to need a herculean effort by the two most inexperienced members of the side to secure the win.

All-rounder Abdullah Farooq and First XI debutant Paddy Matthews added 41 runs for the final wicket despite everything Matching could throw at them.

Earlier in the day Matching had won the toss and decided to bat first on a beautiful sunny day. Openers Steve Green and Rizwan Akram leapt all over some wayward bowling making the most of the tight village green style idyllic surroundings and a score exceeding 300 looked a possibility. It took several bowling changes to rein in the scoring with Farooq squeezing a perfect yorker under Green’s bat for the first wicket. Rizwan fell LBW shortly afterwards but new batsmen Jason Green and Olly Hartnell followed by Dan Sibley all kept the hammer down as the runs flowed and the ducks in the neighbouring ponds were repeatedly disturbed by flying cricket balls.

Harlow skipper, Jake Messenger, changed the flow of the innings by grabbing three key wickets with his off spin backed by any a brace from fellow spinner Ben Yeats. The quick bowlers returned to finish off the tail as the home side were dismissed for 190, significantly short of what was anticipated given the nature of the start of the innings. A good fight back from the bowling unit backed up well in the field.

Messenger 3-50 (8 overs), Yeats 2-24 (5 overs), Farooq 2-29 (8 overs), Riddell 1-22 (3 overs), Matthews 1-24 (7 overs) and Azam 1-38 (7.1 overs)

In reply, Harlow lost opener Syed Hassan to his first ball, trapped LBW playing across the line. Last weeks centurion, Ben Yeats, nicked a useful delivery to the keeper for 13, leaving us under pressure. That was soon relieved by a brilliant display of controlled aggression from new signing Gull Hassan. Gull displayed an excellent range of power hitting whilst maintaining good technique to race to a half century in only 26 balls. When he fell for a hugely entertaining 66 the game looked done and dusted at 105-3. John Perry had batted very sensibly in support of Gull but when he was also trapped LBW for 23 the Harlow innings took a turn that few expected. A combination of poor shot selection and lack of game management saw a horrendous clatter of wickets as home spinner, Simon Hartnell, grabbed three quick wickets supported by Jason Green. 

At 152-9, still 39 adrift of the target, defeat looked inevitable but the inexperienced Abdullah Farooq and Paddy Matthews showed some of their teammates what was required by playing very carefully and only playing run scoring shots to suitable deliveries. At first the score crawled along but this was exactly what was required as both batsmen got themselves ‘in’ and as the bowling side became increasingly frustrated run scoring opportunities opened up. Matching skipper, Rizwan, rotated his bowlers desperately to find the breakthrough without success and suddenly the target was a tantalising 3 runs away. Jason Green, who had been the most dangerous of the home side’s seamers, charged in but 17 year old Farooq turned the ball through mid wicket and it raced to the boundary to seal a victory that Harlow looked to have thrown away 45 minutes earlier. Farooq ended 30 not out and Matthews 9 not out.

An unbeaten pre-season for Harlow’s senior side with many positives, certainly in terms of the contribution of the younger players and the emergence of Gull Hassan but still with question marks over the fragility of the batting.

To date, this team looks capable of anything from highly proficient performances to some fairly ordinary cricket – often on the same day. 2021 looks likely to be an interesting season down at Marigolds to say the least.

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