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Cricket: Whitworth seals century with last ball six

Cricket / Sun 19th Jun 2022 am30 07:54am

ON paper the First XI fixture at Marigolds on Saturday looked like a home banker. Harlow had been in excellent form with five consecutive runs taking them third in the league table at start of play. The visitors found themselves 15th having lost key players during the winter. Also at the back of everyone’s mind was probably the seven wicket demolition inflicted on South Woodford last season by Sarfaraz Ahmed.

On a day that started brightly, but by the toss had turned cold and damp, Harlow had to be mindful of the elements as well as the opposition. Skipper Messenger won the toss and Harlow reverted to their aggressive plan of bowling first with the intention of chasing whatever they were set.

The second of the captains good calls was to introduce the wily Sarfaraz immediately with the new ball. Within six balls the plan had paid off, with the dangerous Kumar trapped leg before for nought. Harlow were again profligate in the field, shelling three catches early on, but Sarfaraz took to hitting the stumps rather than relying on his teammates as South Woodford struggled to 38-3.

Abi Farooq also produced a fiery new ball spell and was horribly unfortunate not to take 2 or 3 wickets with several close calls and dropped catches. It was a testament to Head Groundsman, Cliff Clark, that Abi was able to trouble the batsmen with a number of lifting deliveries from short of a length as the pitch showed some excellent pace and carry.

It was Abi who delivered a key moment. He had made a full length diving stop at mid wicket and then produced the perfect throw enabling keeper Riddell to whip the bails off to break a partnership that had taken the visitors to 77.

Bikram Singh batted well for SWCC and ultimately made 76 but he lost partners at regular intervals as Harlow turned the screw. Chris Whitworth snared a couple of wickets and Paddy Matthews trapped the  last man for a duck to dismiss South Woodford for 172.

Sarfaraz Ahmed 4-35 (13), Chris Whitworth 2-40 (9), Jake Messenger 1-39 (9), Paddy Matthews 1-18 (4.5) and Abi Farooq 0-34 (8)

As the clouds thickened and noticeably darkened, Harlow opening batsmen Yeats and Whitworth, had to ensure any run chase would not be curtailed by the weather. Initially cautious against some tight, swing blowing it was Whitworth who broke free striking a number of boundaries. As the visitors tried other options and rotated their attack Yeats also began to score with ease as the Harlow pair began to accelerate and dominate the bowling. Chris Whitworth was first to his 50 at better than a run a ball swiftly followed by his opening partner. 

A century looked unlikely given the lack of runs left to chase but Whitworth was undeterred adding three maximums as Harlow’s batted entered 5th gear. In stark contrast to some of the fielding on display, from both sides, one of those sixes was superbly caught in the score box seating area by the onlooking Harlow Head Coach, Luke Heskett. It may have been mentioned once or twice in the bar afterwards!!. 

With Whitworth on 90 not out and only 8 to win his partner Yeats blocked several balls to allow his teammate an unlikely shot at reaching three figures before the close. With two balls left in the over Chris flayed a wide deliver to the point boundary for four. His only real option was to hit the next ball for six otherwise he’d fall agonisingly short of his first Harlow ton. He got just the ball he would have asked for, full and in the slot, and dispatched it into the cheering supporters in the pavilion for a huge six, the win and his deserved century. Yeats concluded not out on 69 continuing his charge towards 1,000 league runs this season.

A huge 10 wicket win then but the day continued to get better for the baggy greens with news that promotion rivals Barking had lost at Aztecs and fourth place Newham could only draw after rain brought an early end to their fixture against Southend. Net outcome of the day was Harlow up to second in the table ahead of two games that might define their season. A trip to Barking next Saturday followed by a home fixture against Newham the week after.

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