Sun 11 August Henley Match abandoned – rain
They: 210/6 in 40 overs (Praveen Kumar 78, Liam Hilditch 54, Adam Sumner 4/49, Nitin Chaturvedi 1/28, Preetinder Singh 1/32)
We: 0/0 in 0.3 overs
This midsummer fixture is highly sought after. The premium cachet, beautiful location next to the river and a belter of a pitch all add to the charm. They also add to the challenges.
Starting with the first challenge – the busy ingress to Henley down Remenham Hill trips the GPS and even when you plan for it you are late, especially if you miss the sharp turn into the ground. That’s what happened to Nitin and Adam, engrossed in conversation, and not seeing Seethal’s frantic attempt to signal that they had overshot the entrance… twice! At least they had planned to get to the ground well in advance. The same cannot be said about several others who arrived in a trickle that stretched well into the 5th over.
Nitin lost the toss but got the outcome he wanted – to field first on this batsman’s paradise. What could go wrong?
Well, to start with, it’s also a bowlers’ hell, especially with a variable fielding unit – not just in typical quality but this time also in quantity. As it turned out, it was one of the most remarkable bowling performances by KCC this season. The bowling unit knew what they were up against and had practised getting their lengths right before the start. The results showed instantly. Adam and Seethal bowled brilliantly – disciplined containment supported by an in-and-out field – and were ably supported by Anuvrat and Preetinder. Henley threatened throughout but never really broke away finishing on 210 in 40 overs. Praveen Kumar with a well made 78 and Liam Hilditch with a fluent 54 were the standout performers for Henley. But Adam’s 4/49 was the highlight of that innings. This despite 6 dropped catches was outstanding and seemed like a mini victory given that we were batsmen heavy on that day.
The batters went to tea salivating about the prospects of chasing this total down without much concern. In the backdrop we could hear the rain – the short shower that all had expected since the morning and that came at such a perfect time during the break. By the time tea was over, it was sunny so we went out to bat, only to face 3 balls before another sharp shower. Sunshine again, but there seemed to be something odd in the distance. The Henley guys were not taking the covers off and the skipper was walking back shaking his head. Had Henley forfeited, fearful of the wrath of KCC batsmen being unleashed on that pitch? Probably not…
There were puddles all over the ground – one in particular was like a mini pond. That proximity to the river leads to a very high water table and there is literally no drainage. So that was that… it was frustrating for all but this remains a great fixture.
Sun 29 May Henley Won by 5 wkts (off the last ball)
They: 278/5 in 40 overs (A.Hayden 103*, Charlie Homewood 99, M.Bradbury 25, Bharat Gorasiya 2/33, Akhi Shailendra 2/43)
We: 281/5 in 40 overs (Tim Keleher 162, Neeraj Nayar 30, Varun Sarna 21, Alex Johnson 2/21, Jonathan Trist 2/66)
Henley-on-Thames bathed in sunshine on a Bank Holiday Sunday is a rather fine place to play cricket. With both Henley and KCC players taking a rather Sunday approach to arriving on time, Henley batted first on a flat track that had given away 570 runs the previous day.
Henley opener Charlie Homewood began finding the cover boundary to anything slightly off line from Akhi. Skipper Tim moved a man to extra cover to plug the gap, laying the perfect trap. Next ball a cleanly struck ball found the aforementioned cover fielder at chest height, only for it to painstakingly slip through his hands. Unfortunately KCC’s ‘dropped catch bug’, for which there is no known cure, spread swiftly through the team thereafter.
Charlie and the Henley no. 4 Ash Hayden joined up and pretty much had their own way for the bulk of the Henley innings. With Charlie on the brink of what would have been a well-deserved century, KCC formed a tight ring inviting the big heave over mid off. Akhi pitched one up slightly short of a length and with the bat dreaming of his name on the front page of the Henley Gazette, he proceeded to sky one high into the summer sky. Down the ball fell safely into Bharat’s hands, and a small but sweet victory was secured.
All in all though, it had little effect on the overall score with Ash safely reaching 3 figures soon after, Henley setting us 279 for victory in 40 overs.
Tim and Neeraj opened up in response and were immediately in the groove, cruising along at the required run rate with minimal fuss. Tim was punishing anything slightly off line, and Neej was rolling back the years with effortless cover drives. When Neeraj was out to a very smart catch at midwicket with the score at 125, KCC newcomers Varun and then Sid stepped into the supporting role without missing a beat. However, it was Tim Keleher all the way at his imperious best, dispatching 20 fours and 5 sixes with power and timing. The bowlers had nowhere to hide as Tim ticked off the milestones – 50 in 40 balls, 100 in 74 and 150 in 106.
When Tim’s innings ended on 162, agonisingly just 2 short of the Club record, KCC were well placed requiring 5 runs an over from the next 6. The KCC contingent was not so convinced. A snippet of the conversation from the boundary went as follows:
“We should be home here…but best finish this off before the final over”, and “Looking good…but I wouldn’t want to need to get runs in that last over”.
So to the final over, still requiring 4 runs for victory, it was left to Ali and Stefanos to guide us home. Ali cracked a ball to mid-on, which one of Henley’s teenagers managed to get his shin in the way of. Being the good doctor that Ali is he raced over to the young lad reeling in pain and told him just to get out of the way in future. 2 balls to go and 2 runs required, the ball goes through to the keeper and Ali sets off for a suicidal single, then seemingly in an attempt to put out a nearby fire, stopped, dropped and rolled his way back to the crease. Thankfully, the keeper missed with his shy at the stumps.
Final ball, 2 runs still required. Alex, the Henley skipper who had removed Tim with his first ball and brought his side to the brink of an unlikely victory, must have been thinking to himself “Don’t bowl a full toss. Anything but a full toss”.
Ali put the subsequent full toss over mid-on’s head for 4 runs and victory for KCC was had in a last ball thriller.
Sun 31 May Henley Cancelled – rain
Sun 1 June Henley Won by 2 wkts
They: 175/10 in 38.2 overs (N.Hopkins 43, A.Johnson 25, S.Davison 23, Saikat Barua 3/26, Saurav Sen 3/43)
We: 178/8 in 39.3 overs (Tridib Das 34, Amit Shanker 30, Saurav Sen 30*, Deepak Ramachandra 16, T.Chappell 3/24, A.Chappell 2/28)
While KKR slugged it out with King’s XI in the IPL final, KCC and Henley manufactured a thriller of their own in the rather less frenzied format of a friendly Sunday fixture, played at Henley CC’s picturesque home ground.
Henley elected to bat after winning the toss, and got off to a brisk start, scoring at close to 5 runs an over for the first 15 overs. KCC’s only success during this period was claimed by Seethal Tharakan, who bowled 8 tight overs and was unlucky to have just one wicket to show for his hugely entertaining efforts. Despite this loss, Henley kept scoring at a brisk rate and it fell to Saikat Barua to conjure up a run out with a direct hit to get rid of the dangerous Hopkins (43) who was just beginning to find his stride. Nevertheless, at 128/4 in 24 overs, Henley had the platform for a big score and San Gore issued the directive of “must restrict the opposition to less than 200” in his usual quietly menacing manner. On-field nominal match manager Saurav duly proceeded to concede 14 runs in the very next over, but after that, wickets fell at steady intervals and even though several batsmen got starts, the score was kept in check as Barua (3/26) and Sen (3/43) were able to restrict the opposition. Deepak Ramachandra returned for a 3-over spell to pick up a wicket towards the end and, Amit Shanker cleaned up Henley’s last wicket with just his second delivery. Henley’s innings ended at 175, ensuring that KCC were able to comply with the requirements of the Gore Directive.
Tea, always a priority in any KCC game, was duly taken and, in keeping with KCC’s agility in the field, could not be characterised as rushed.
Our reply started at a measured pace, as San and Amit grafted 35 runs from the first 10 overs in the face of some restrictive bowling and excellent fielding before San, inspired no doubt by the IPL, sought to hit over the bowler’s head but placed the ball in mid-on’s safe hands instead. Tridib Das (34) then played a carefree and stroke-filled innings and put on 54 runs for the second wicket before Amit was bowled for a patient 30. 87/2 became 107/5 as the fabled middle order collapse duly followed, with Shahzeb falling while attempting his trademark vertical six. Deepak’s presence in the middle calmed KCC’s nerves and things seemed to be going according to plan until Alex Johnson pulled off a stunning catch at deep mid-on (one of five – yes, five – catches he claimed during the game) to get rid of him. With 40-odd runs to get and only the tail to come, KCC endured some nerve-shredding overs, losing Regan and Khush Khan in quick succession with the target inching closer but wickets running out. Luckily, some friendly bowling from the opposition enabled Saurav (30*) to shepherd the tail and finish things off in the last over with a 4.
Dhoni vs. Malinga at the Wankhede it was not, but KCC breathed a collective sigh of relief before engaging in the serious business of post-match refreshments. A close game played in great spirits, we look forward to the fixture again next year!
Sun 19 May Henley Won by 3 wkts
They 218/6 in 40 overs (A.Johnson 54, Furber 54, Khush Khan 2/34, Saurav Sen 2/49)
We 219/7 in 39.4 overs (Ajit Ramsagar 103, Shahzeb Mohammed 66, Furber 3/22)
Saurav won the toss and elected to field. Henley got off to a flyer, with the first ball of the innings dispatched for 4 despite the diving (some would – and did – say “falling”) efforts of the fielder at mid-off. That set the theme for the first 10 overs, when Henley’s openers managed to pile on 53 runs in spite of some good bowling from Amit Shanker and Seethal Tharakan, the latter sadly falling 5 wickets short of his 5-wicket haul of the previous year at the same ground.
A change of bowling slowed down the run rate as Deepak Ramachandra bowled a beautiful spell. However, as drinks were taken, the message from the opposition pavilion to us was clear: wickets, please. Henley sportingly obliged as wickets fell at a steady pace and KCC found themselves in the unfamiliar position of exerting control on the batting side. The score was in danger of stalling around 160, until Furber and the tail launched an onslaught that took the total to a respectable 218. Remarkably, all KCC catches were held, notably by Rohan Ghosh who held on to a tricky (as described by Ro) dipping knee-high one at square leg, and Ajit Ramsagar (inset) who took a skier looking into the sun to get rid of the dangerous Furber.
KCC’s chase got off to a less than ideal start as Rohan departed in the first over. After that, it was Ajit Ramsagar (nearly) all the way, as he built a solid 146 run partnership with Shahzeb Mohammed to bring KCC within easy sight of victory. Henley’s bowlers doggedly stuck to their task, though, and got rid of Ajit and Shahzeb (and a few others) in quick succession to create a flutter in the KCC camp. Further tension was added as our unnamed scorers Rohan and Seethal failed to master the technology behind the electronic scoreboard, leading to some unconventional patterns of scoring being displayed in big bold numbers and a lot of head scratching from the opposition players. With the dreaded spectre of negative SanPoints looming, it fell to Amit and Khush to see us home in the last over.
Sun 19 August Henley Lost by 117 runs
They 235/8 in 40 overs (Brock 74, Manoharan 38, N.Johnson 34*, Seethal Tharakan 5/42)
We 118/9 in 27.1 overs (Allen-Turner 21, Rohan Ghosh 19, Amit Shanker 17, Brock 2/5, N.Johnson 2/12, Palmer 2/24)
The combined talents of Tony Always-Believe-in-Your-Soul Hadley and T’Pau, appearing at the Rewind 80’s music festival somewhere across the bridge, pulled in so much traffic that reaching Henley at all was something of a success. With the notable exception of Seethal’s five-for, it was the only success any KCC player could claim in a heavy defeat to the enthusiastic youth of Henley. We blame the moon.
Henley chose to bat and made good use of their excellent pitch despite Shanker giving nothing away from the Pavilion end and Ro building a bit of pressure after replacing Matt at the other. A lot of runs came in boundaries, the hot weather and quick outfield not helping the KCC cause, even when Seethal Tharakan (inset) ripped through the middle order, yorking three players in quick succession and ending with an all-action 5/42 from just 5 overs. We were thankful throughout for a rotating Henley sub in the field. By the end of the 40 we looked a bit ragged but 236 to win felt gettable.
It wasn’t. From the moment that Chris Ledger slapped a wide long hop into point’s hands, closely followed by Shahzeb, doing well to nick the only ball that misbehaved all day, we were under the cosh. Atul, Amit, guest player Dean Allen-Turner (batting with a nasty injury to his hand, picked up making a good stop at cover) Ro and Karan all got just about in before succumbing. Brock backed up his fine 74 with 2 wickets in his only over to go with 2 each for Palmer and Johnson. Opening bowler Chappell was invited to bat against his buddies, KCC being short handed, and smacked a couple of boundaries through the crowded close field, entertaining us all and helping us limp to 118 all out. Cobras all round.
Sun 14 August Henley Lost by 2 wkts
We 197/7 in 40 overs (Amit Shanker 117*, Shahzeb Mohammed 39, Brock 3/27)
They 201/8 in 38.2 overs (Ward 43, Brock 42, Ranger 42, Johnson 27, Bharat Gorasiya 3/40, Tabrez Khan 2/31)
Something looked a bit odd as we walked towards the square at the picturesque Henleyground in patchy, warm sunshine. It looked as if there were two strips, each beautifully prepared and ready to enjoy. On closer inspection the more central of the two had tiny scratches at the crease, as if a hen had dallied there, and a bowler had clearly jogged through his action a few times, warming up we presumed. It turned out Henley’s first team had bowled out their opposition for something like a Kim Jong-Il golf score (11 holes-in-one in a 38 under-par round), promptly knocking off the runs and sending the club into an all-day session by way of celebration. Fortunately, they had arranged a young side to take on KCC, either untouched by Mr Booze or quicker to recover than cricketers of a proper age.
Typically, the coin came down tails for Matt and Kensington chose to bat on the scarcely marked surface (or did we use the one we were supposed to use?). The home skipper Nick Johnson, tall and bouncy, took the new ball from the pavilion end and struck straight away, having Furquan caught at slip for having the temerity to cuff him for 4 through backward point off the previous ball. While Amit Shanker settled in for the duration only Shahzeb kept him company for any time, the rest of the line up contributing little to back up his measured, unbeaten century. Brock was easily the pick of the bowlers and, but for 2 expensive overs, would have bowled his 8 for close to nothing, taking 3 wickets in the process. 197 seemed a little light but Kensington had a bit of bowling to play with so the game was well set.
This optimism looked misplaced as the openers tucked in to the new ball. Brock struck it particularly cleanly and, after Khush had Davison caught behind, the free scoring ‘Sideshow Bob’ Ranger joined him and these two started slicing the target into little pieces. Leg-spinner Gabriel Thomas was quickly brought into the attack to try to stem the flow with a wicket or two, and would have done so with either luck or some elementary catching. He found neither and it took a great piece of fielding at mid-on by Tabrez to force a run out and give us a sniff. Bharat bowled with new found pace and Tabby joined in, ducking the ball about. When Tabby took a stinging catch at mid-off to remove Ward, whose 43 was a fine rearguard, giving Bharat his 3rd wicket, we were right in it. But Chappell and Fitzpayne held their nerve and saw Henley home by 2 wickets and with 10 balls to spare, which didn’t feel too bad, since at one stage they looked like knocking it off in 20 overs.