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Cricket: Harlow edge local rivals in last ball classic

Cricket / Sat 24th Jul 2021 at 06:35am

GLORIOUS evening sunshine, a healthy sized crowd, bar open and a terrific local derby that went to the final ball. It hasn’t got much better than this for the past 18 months or so.

The final T20 league group game served up a Harlow derby at Marigolds with the home side still in the hunt for qualification to the quarter final stage whilst visitors Town just had the (significant) motivation of another victory against us – a run that goes back further than most would care to mention.

Skipper Jake Messenger won the toss and Harlow chose to bat first in delightful conditions with temperatures well into the mid 20’s despite the 6pm start. Rob Petchey got the innings off to a flyer with a rapid 22 before he was well caught on the boundary by Town skipper Dan Farmer off the bowling of Toby Goddard. Rob’s dismissal was the trigger for the, to that point, circumspect Ben Yeats to open up which he announced by launching Farmer into the BBQ area for a maximum. 

Yeats was to go on and bat until the final over making a better than run a ball 74, his third T20 half century in only 4 fixtures this season. Others batted around the opener, many perishing in the chase for quick runs as Harlow posted 156-7.

With the sun dipping and shadows starting to lengthen, skipper Jake made the brave decision to open up with his off spin in the power play. It was a master stroke as he bowled superbly allowing a mere 14 runs from his 4 overs as pace off the ball proved a more successful option. The Town openers, Lowles and Alderson, appeared much more comfortable manoeuvring the ball to the boundary using any pace available and the skipper (with the quiet support of Head Coach Luke Heskett) selected to return again to off spin utilising 14 year old prospect Joe Radford and Ben Yeats in combination. 

Radford in particular was superb. Unbelievably for a T20 the youngsters opening 2 overs both produced maidens (virtually unheard of at any level of cricket and all the more incredible against two set batsmen). Every ball looked a potential wicket as Radford turned the ball sharply into the batters with a succession of appeals rejected. At the other end Yeats held a sharp return catch to dismiss Alderson and followed it by having the dangerous Suraj Chauhan well caught on the boundary at cow corner by Ant Webb. 

At this point a mention of the fielding. Harlow were hugely committed and the bowlers were backed up magnificently by their teammates. Oliver Allen and Mark Quant both made diving boundary stops to save a couple of runs each whilst Amir and Abi Farooq bravely blocked absolute rockets smashed in their direction on the edge of the ring. Those moments alone prevented a greater number of runs than the eventual winning margin.

With in excess of 12 an over needed, the game appeared to be slipping away from Town swiftly, but Darryl Pettengell had other ideas as he immediately showed others how to attack the spin on offer with some glorious straight hitting. With 30 needed off the final two overs surely the home side had the game in the bag but still Pettengell threatened to rob the home support of the win they craved. Needing 17 from the final over Callum Sykes was keeping a lid on the scoring bowling full and wide outside off stump until late drama saw him no balled by his brother. Lowles was run out for a well made half century off the free hit and it was carnage and classic T20 stuff. 

With 6 needed to tie off the final ball Sykes again hit that perfect length and the unfortunate Town batsman could only get a bottom edge for a single leaving a winning margin of 5 runs for the victorious home side. Pettengell who had batted superbly ended 55 not out.

A terrific win then for Harlow but both sides were an absolute credit and clearly very closely matched. It was a game played in a tremendous sporting atmosphere with players of both sides well supported with the home crowd giving generous acknowledgement to some of the exquisite batting from the Town lads whilst cheering on the Marigolds baggy greens. 

The mathematics of qualification are such it is still not clear of Harlow have earned a quarter final spot with their record of 2 wins, 1 abandonment and 1 defeat from their group fixtures. Fingers crossed they have. Every game has been on a knife edge and it has to be said we have played significantly better in these games than in recent league games but hopefully the boys can take some of the confidence shown tonight into Saturdays crucial games at whatever level they represent the club at the weekend.

Hats off to Jack Sykes for umpiring all 40 overs and Simon Baulcomb for allowing me a night away from my dingy score box.

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