Cricket: Harlow CC 2nd X1: Review of the season

Cricket / Tue 28th Sep 2021 at 04:31pm

IN 2018 the Second XI found themselves relegated from Division One despite playing some good cricket and achieving some pretty decent results. Maybe a lack of experience at key moments was crucial towards the end of that season.

The 2021 incarnation of the 2nd XI was a very different side. Highly experienced, incredibly competitive and with a seemingly never-ending supply of players with First XI experience they simply ground the division down as the season progressed. As others faltered, notably Epping and Westcliff, Harry Burton’s side just grew in confidence on a steady upward curve towards the league title.

When replacements were needed nobody ever let the side down and the likes of Thomas Smith-Smith and Tyler Dobson were unfortunate in the quality of the resources Harry had at his disposal as both bowlers always held their own when called upon.

Jason McNally often would state that anyone with a batting average of 30+ in club cricket was a good player. The Second XI had SEVEN players averaging above that figure during the 2021 season. Atif Mustehsan was the leading run scorer with 369 at an average of 41. He would no doubt have scored many more were it not for several First XI call ups. A mere 2 runs behind was Asad Baig who stepped up from the 3rd XI in previous seasons and looked completely at home at the higher level.

With the ball Amir Farooq was the star bowler of the entire division, leading the wicket taking across all sides with 35 wickets. Waheed Azam took 25 wickets and was also well placed in the top 10 in the division. Matt Hart grabbed 19 wickets as he produced a consistent season of pace bowling.

Pre-season went like a dream as Harry gathered and analysed his resources. Maldon were hammered by 9 wickets with Gull Hassan hammering an unbeaten century supported by 50 from the skipper. Bishop’s Stortford were overcome with further half centuries this time from Harry again and Atif before Epping were totally outplayed. All looked very rosy and confidence was high for a tilt at promotion. Then the league season started!!!!

Pre-season couldn’t have been better. The opening three weeks of the season couldn’t have been any worse. Rain on the opening day prevented any play before two crushing defeats to Epping and Westcliff on both occasions Harlow being bowled out for just 95. Things had to change and quickly. Credit to Harry and the side as whatever was said hit the spot. They didn’t lose another game for the remainder of the season.

The awaited first win came at Marigolds as they outplayed Ardleigh Green to win by 10 wickets. Abdul Munim starred with 4-22 and Amir took 3-17 but the entire bowling group impressed notably Waheed 2-12 and Paddy Matthews who went wicketless but bowled 6 overs for just 8 runs. Atif clubbed 70* from 46 balls with James Forde enjoying the show from the other end making an unbeaten 24. Sadly, James (who surely will be a First XI star for years to come) had a very injury hit season and we all look forward to him returning firing on all cylinders in 2022 and hopefully press for a First XI spot.

Amir took 4-24 with Paddy and Matt taking a brace each to seriously restrict Leigh on Sea to just 140 in their 40 overs the following week. Youngster Joe Radford top scored with 38 as we comfortably chasing down the target for a 6 wicket win.

Two tough away games in consecutive weeks at Belhus and Hadleigh resulted in drawn games. Despite not achieving a win the side showed excellent resilience and determination not to lose. Chasing a mammoth 277 at Belhus we lost two quick wickets but didn’t crumble and continued to chase the win with Asad making a superb 85, ably supported by John Perry (60) and Max Baulcomb (59). When they were dismissed the side ensured the draw closing on 244-7.

A different type of game at Hadleigh where Amir took 4-45 and Matt Hart 3-23 as we did well with the ball to restrict the home side to 182-9. Zabi (43) and Max (53) looked to be taking us to the victory but their wickets led to a complete collapse and it needed Tyler Dobson and Mark Quant to step up and block out the final over to avoid defeat. 

At this stage of the season Epping and Westcliff were disappearing into the distance and Harry knew he needed a string of victories to put Harlow back into promotion contention. He got that and more from his team as they won every game (other than one rained off) until the seasons close.

Tyler and Amir both took 4 wickets to keep Old Souths to a low score that Zabi (44) and JP (39) broke the back of to deliver a 6 wicket win at Marigolds.

Zabi’s fine form continued against bottom side Southend as he made 66 and Asad 63 along with good contributions from Atif and Mark Quant as we racked up 233-6 with Harry declaring 3 overs early. The visitors, to the amazement of all present, decided from ball one to block for the draw. In their attempt to kill off cricket as a spectator sport Stonewall Southend CC scored at around one an over but steadily lost wickets despite the best efforts of those adjudicating the action in the middle. Those extra overs earned by Harry’s declaration proved crucial as the final wicket was grabbed by Waheed in the 48th over as the visitors closed all out for 76.

On a wet deck at Old Brentwoods, a crucial toss win saw Waheed make the very most of the conditions taking 5-21 as all the bowling unit enjoyed success leaving the opposition dismissed for just 45. Game over.

The boys were now on a roll but faced two key fixtures at Marigolds as they hosted the top two clubs in successive weeks.

Big spending Epping were first up. Batting first Zabi (67) and JP (47) once again laid the foundations that allowed the destructive talent of Gull Hassan to play at his expansive best with 36 off just 16 balls. Amir crashed 27 and Matt Hart made a rapid 20 as we posted an imposing 231 all out. The bowlers followed up with an equally impressive performance as initially quality pace and swing from Callum Sykes, Matt Hart and Mark Quant tied the run rate down allowing Amir to make the very most of batters trying to up the scoring. Amir took 4-16 and Callum 2-24 but Tyler also bowled an excellent tight spell taking 1-10 in 5 overs. Epping had no answer to the problems being presented and nosedived to just 99 all out for a massive win in all respects.

Could the side repeat the trick against second placed Westcliff? Actually, we played even better to crush the visitors by almost 200 runs. Atif made 61, Amin 40 and Thomas Smith-Hughes 35 as we totalled an impressive 271-8. Joe Riddell (4-35) and Amir (4-8) backed up by Matt Hart 2-22 overwhelmed the Westcliff batting to leave them heading back around the M25 with just 86 to their name.

Ardleigh Green were taken apart by Waheed (7-17) and a half century from Asad for another comfortable in and we entered August as the form side hot on the heels of the now stumbling Epping and Westcliff.

Rain across the county ensured a week of no movement in the division before Rob Petchey’s quality (4 wickets and 43*) shone through in a match winning performance.

Hadleigh proved a far harder nut to crack as they batted well to make 208-4 in 40 overs at Marigolds. Atif (54), Amin (40) and Asad (31) were key contributors to a 2-wicket win achieved with four overs to spare in a nerveless run chase that took us into the promotion places.

Two away games, both in Southend in finish the season, and promotion within our grasp. First up were Old Souths in the harder game on paper. The entire bowling unit were outstanding to restrict the home side to 156-7. Atif (60) and Munim (50) opened and won the game with ease despite their very late dismissals in an 8-wicket win.

Last day of the season was upon Harry and his side with a return match against bottom of the table Southend. A win was needed for the league title but Harry wanted to make a statement and having won the toss set his side out for a bat. Two and a half hours of carnage later his side had amassed what is likely to be our highest ever total in a league fixture 411-7 in 40 overs. 

Munim opened proceedings with a superb maiden century for the club (103) before Charlie Coleman hammered 60 from 36 balls and Asad helped himself to 36 from 23 deliveries. Just when Southend were thinking the damage might be restricted to around 300 out stepped Rob Petchey, batting at 7. Within 64 balls faced he somehow scored 149 not out, striking 27 of them to the boundary. In doing so Rob propelled himself into the all time top 10 innings for Harlow.

The only question remained was whether the bowlers would make hay and secure an early finish for an early night to begin celebrations. Matt Hart clearly had a bit of thirst on as he led the way with 4-27. The ever-reliable Amir grabbed a quick 3 wickets and TSH took a brace of his own to wrap up the season inside 25 overs.

A richly deserved league title then for the 2nd XI. The winner’s pennant will be a welcome addition in the club house. Many congratulations to Harry Burton and JP for their leadership of the team and to all the players who contributed as it was clearly a massive team effort to go on such a magnificent run to chase down and overhaul the leading clubs from the mid-season point. One hopes their success helps build a stronger club all round with the increase in standard for those just outside the First XI and a narrowing of the gap between the sides in terms of level of intensity and opposition. 

You’ve all done us proud gentlemen. Shabash Shabash!!!!!

Top Run Scorers

Atif Mustehsan 369 (ave 41.00)
Asad Baig 367 (ave 36.70)
Zabi Hakimi 276 (ave 30.67)
Rob Petchey 207 (ave 207.00)
Abdul Munim 205 (34.17)

Top Wicket Takers

Amir Farooq 35 (ave 9.11)
Waheed Azam 25 (ave 10.80)
Matt Hart 19 (15.74)
Abdul Munim 9 (16.00)
Tyler Dobson 9 (24.33)

Best Innnings – Rob Petchey 149*
Best Bowling – Waheed Azam 7-17
Most Catches – Zabi Hakimi 10

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