Henley’s title challenge was very much back on track following a convincing victory over relegation threatened Potters Bar away at The Walk in their Week 15 encounter in Division 1 of the HCPCL. The home side were skittled out for just 98 in 30 overs, courtesy of some devastating bowling by Henley skipper Bjorn Mordt (4-25) and Queensland spinner Cameron Boyce (5-22) who was back in form following couple of less impressive weekends. In reply, Henley chased down the required total in just 18.5 overs, Jason Barber’s trademark power hitting seeing the visitors home. Banbury lost at Slough, who moved in to second place, so Henley are now 47 points ahead of Slough and 57 ahead of Banbury. There are just three games to go, and a maximum of 75 points on the table, so, only Slough or Banbury can now overhaul Henley
With rain forecast for later in the day, Mordt won the toss and decided to bowl on an overcast and blustery morning. Sikandar, Bar’s gun player and leading scorer this year, was late on parade owing to congestion on the M25, so George Scott, an U16 with Middlesex Academy, opened with Sogbodjor. Whilst the latter endured a torrid time, scoring just 2 off 23 balls before holing out to Gurveer Singh at mid-off off a Tom Nugent delivery, Scott showed plenty of youthful enterprise and promise, taking advantage of the fielding restrictions and clattering Nugent and Tahir Afridi to the boundary on a number of occasions. However, for the most part, Nugent and Afridi kept things tight, just 38 runs coming off the first 12 overs.
Scott greeted Mordt, replacing Afridi, by clouting him back over his head for six and should have been out with the very next ball, but Dave Barnes could not hold on to it in the slips. Nonetheless, in just three overs, the 16th, 17th and 18th, the game was turned on its head. First, Boyce bowled Scott (54-2), next Mordt bowled Sikandar, who played on, for just 1 and followed it up next ball by trapping Pascoe lbw (55-4) only for Boyce to return to remove Palmer, tempting the batsman out of his crease for Todd Ferguson to do the rest (55-5).
After that, it was really just a matter of time, Patrick Scott, an U16 brother of George, and Taylor mounted some resistance, but Scott and Pett had no answer to a wicked and well disguised quicker delivery from Boyce that clean bowled Scott and which Pett edged to Ferguson. Sri Lankan Walallawita soon demonstrated his intent with a trio of wristy fours before being bowled by Mordt who also had Taylor stumped. Boyce finished it off by trapping Hodge lbw and Henley had just 98 runs to chase down.
This they achieved with relative ease in a very short time. Barnes was joined by a returning Fahim Qureshi, playing his first game for Henley since 6th July. Qureshi soon dispelled any notions of rustiness by finding the boundary off a slightly wayward G Scott sand the pacey Sikandar. Although slightly slower off the mark, Barnes, rapped twice on the helmet by Sikandar, was soon doing likewise though living dangerously in the process by swiping at and missing some off-stump deliveries. With rain forecast and apparently imminent, skipper Mordt sent out the message to his batsmen to get a move on. Both batters climbed into spinner Pascoe before Barnes was caught at long off and Qureshi trapped lbw, which has been his Achilles heel this year. Mordt’s plan to deploy Afridi as a pinch hitter failed, but this was the cue for a Jason Barber Special. Once again deploying shots that owed more to baseball and, this time, golf, Barber’s 23 of 12 balls including two towering sixes, aided and abetted by Dave Allaway’s four though mid-wicket did the trick and it was job done in less than 50 overs by 2.43pm.
In fairness and to their credit, Bar had two under 16s, one U17 and an U15 playing for them, Sikandar was neutralised early and Pascoe was unable to work his magic, but in truth Bar had no answer to the guile and experience of Mordt and Boyce. Having just five bowlers including himself at his disposal, Mordt was able to see off Bar using just four.
Elsewhere, Harpenden beat Tring but are now too far adrift to make a challenge for the title, High Wycombe lost to Welwyn and North Mymms beat Burnham. All this makes for a tense three weekends at the bottom. Potters Bar are now last 17 points adrift but could still save themselves whilst the second relegation spot is very much up for grabs with Wycombe once more drawn into the mix and Tring now not yet safe. Anything is possible.