Bishops Stortford’s captain, Dominic Chatfield, won the toss and elected to field first; a decision made partly on the basis that it was a green wicket, but mainly because Hertford’s batsmen were terribly short of runs. So it turned out, both of those theories would be disproved as the day panned out.
From the onset Jamie Riddle was soon into his best work, taking numerous boundaries off of Stortford’s opening seamers; on one occasion dismissing a delivery off of his pads for 6 towards the longest boundary. Riddle and Will Ray ticked along serenely at over 6 an over, recording their 2nd 50 partnership of the season after just 8.1 overs. As the 1st wicket partnership continued to progress, the signs were looking ominous for Stortford with both the wicket and batsmen playing nicely.
The change in momentum came when Chatfield introduced spin into the attack. Following a few tighter overs, Riddle was tempted into a heave to the short boundary which he top edged to the point fielder. His well-constructed knock of 47 from 57 balls provided the impetus for the batsmen to come. In at number 3 this week was Scott Ruskin who had been scoring well from down the order throughout the season. He and Ray continued Riddle’s good work, each trading boundaries off of the spinners before Ruskin was well bowled by Mel Hussain for 9.
Next, Ray was joined by Adam Carlson who batted well during what would be Stortford’s best spell of bowling. Carlson and Ray were steadily accumulating when the former became Hussain’s 2nd victim on the day, edging behind to the keeper for 11. In at 5 was vice-captain Benji Cowell who had batted well with Ray on several occasions during the 2018 season. The dynamic duo sensibly negotiated the tricky period of play before lunch, thus ensuring Hertford won the first session with 148 runs on the board, and importantly only 3 wickets down.
After lunch, run scoring became increasingly fluent as Cowell and Ray easily scored at a run a ball. With a big 1st innings score pending, Cowell (40) was caught when he tried to change gears, only to pick out the fielder in the covers. This wicket ended a busy 94-run partnership which came at a good rate during the middle overs. Cowell’s demise bought James Leather to the crease in a situation he is so well suited to. Leather batted with Ray, supporting him to his 2nd hundred of the season from 124 balls, containing 10 4’s and a lot of 1s. Despite looking to anchor the innings for the remaining 10 overs, Ray was out to the next ball he faced when he swept a leg side delivery straight to the fine leg fielder.
The next partnership was what transformed Hertford’s score from good to great. James Leather continued his fine start to the season by scoring freely while George Pavey struck the ball to all parts of Balls Park, on one occasion hitting a low full toss from Ballard into the nets. Redemption, right? Leather and Pavey had taken the score from 224-5 to 295 when Pavey was bowled by Simon Lindop. His 34 from 24 balls was thoroughly well deserved and absolutely fantastic to watch; a feat matched by Leather who closed out the innings by passing his 50 from just 35 balls. Hertford’s superb batting display saw them total 308-6 from their 60 overs. Mel Hussain was the pick of the bowling with 10 overs, 2-34.
Hertford knew during their change of innings debrief that even a score of 300+ was reachable by Stortford’s batting lineup which featured prolific run scorers - Eddie Ballard, Reece Hussain and Dom Chatfield. It was beyond their wildest dreams that these 3 would be dismissed with less than 15 runs on the board - but James Leather had other ideas. First, Ballard was trapped LBW to an in-swinging delivery; next Hussain was clean bowled behind his pads; then finally, Chatfield was brilliantly removed by a well-executed plan - Chatfield took on Leather’s well directed bouncer, only to pick out Johnny Underdown who took a good low catch three quarters of the way to the boundary.
At 14-3, Hertford were ecstatic and they were only made to wait another 30 more runs for the 4th wicket when Adam Bassingthwaighte (19) played Rob Slater’s first ball back onto his own stumps. Then, shortly before the tea break, the returning Tom Orchard got a ball to turn and bounce, inducing a leading edge from Joe Burslem (26) into the grateful hands of Scott Ruskin. While Hertford did not want to leave the field for the tea break, they did so with a spring in their step knowing full well they had dominated the first two sessions.
The day appeared too good to be true when, with the score on 68, George Pavey took a screamer to reduce Stortford to 68-6 - still 240 runs short of their unlikely target. Tom Orchard again extracted some bounce from his considerable height, drawing a flick towards leg slip Pavey who snaffled a one-handed catch through pure instinct and agility. This was, however, where the excitement would all-but end. Fine, pressure-resistant batting coupled with dreamy batting conditions ensured wicket-taking became increasingly difficult.
Hertford continued to knock at the door, though, and they were offered a glimmer of hope when Underdown removed Mel Hussain for 27, but the incoming batsman then similarly reapplied himself. At this stage Stortford were beginning to take advantage of the ultra-aggressive field, scoring boundaries freely which perhaps did the bowling figures an injustice. With 50 overs up and still 3 wickets required for victory, Hertford returned to their strike bowler James Leather for one final effort. Perhaps unsurprisingly given his impact in the game, Leather struck with his first ball when he strangled Travis Hussain down the leg side for a well-made 28.
With the door slightly ajar, seamers Knight and Leather gave it their all in favourable batting conditions, but it was just not meant to be for Ruskin’s men. Tommy Burslem scored a fantastic 103* in the circumstances, having come to the crease with his team in dire straits. Knight was unfortunate not to pick up a wicket having beat the bat multiple times, while his wicket-taking team mates finished with the following figures:
James Leather - 12 overs, 4-37;
Rob Slater - 8 overs, 1-22;
Tom Orchard - 11 overs, 2-43;
Johnny Underdown - 6 overs, 1-30.
Stortford finished a good game on 232-8 from 56 overs, 76 runs short of their target. Next week, Hertford face 3rd placed Potters Bar at Balls Park.