On a glorious Saturday, Hertford’s Scott Ruskin won the toss and elected to bat first; a decision vindicated by his opening pair. It was Jamie Riddle who was the aggressor in the partnership with Will Ray who was initially more circumspect. Riddle was particularly ruthless against seamer Shay Emerton, firstly dispatching him over the leg side and then back down the ground on several occasions. With a 50 partnership registered in next to no time at all, Riddle continued to dominate while Ray accumulated. Soon after Riddle passed 50 at a rate of a run a ball, he was dismissed when he picked out the mid-off fielder off the bowling of Simon Bridgewater. The good foundations laid by Riddle could not be continued by Hertford’s number 3, Richard Leather, who was adjudged LBW first ball.
In at 4 was Ian Harris who successfully rebuilt the innings with Ray following the mini collapse. Through a period of sensible, steady accumulation, Ray and Harris took the score from 72-2 up to 129 when the 3rd wicket fell. The man to fall was Ray who was on 49 when he fired a lofted drive straight back at Jamie Southgate who took a smart catch above his head. Still, the top order had done a reasonable job and with a run-rate touching 5 per over, the signs were promising for a challenging total, particularly given the in-form Ben Cowell was in at 5. For a period of time, Cowell and Harris ticked along merrily at a good rate until, with the score on 160, a Hertford collapse was about to occur.
The first man to go was Harris who hit Owais Shah straight to mid-wicket for 37. Then, with the score the same, Cowell was caught behind off the bowling of Australian Matthew Grant who would go on to torment Hertford’s lower order. The next partnership between James Leather and Adam Carlson was worth 27, but it would not be enough to take Hertford to beyond 250 – a score that seemed minimum in the conditions and against this opposition. Carlson (12) was stumped before Leather (15) holed out to Jamie Southgate. Between them, Ruskin (10), Knight and Orchard were able to take Hertford beyond 200 but when the last wicket fell with the score on 202, Hertford were disappointed given the position of strength they were in. Grant finished with figures of 5 overs, 5-30. Hertford were left rueing two things in equal measure; firstly the failure of the top order batsmen to kick on to match-winning individual scores, but also the lower order who could not kick on to take the score beyond 250.
Still, with 202 on the board, Hertford knew they had a fighting chance of causing an upset and this looked very much on the cards with the way Hertford’s bowlers started. With the score on 14, the aggressive James Leather was able to dislodge Louis Champion when his well-directed bouncer was gloved down the leg-side to Ben Cowell. Next occurred a crucial moment in the game when Leather, again, was able to find the edge of Owais Shah’s bat, only for the difficult chance to go begging at 1st slip. This was crucial for 2 reasons; first because of the significant credentials of the man to be relieved, but also because the fielder, Jamie Riddle, had to go to hospital to treat his badly dislocated finger, leaving Hertford with only 10 men for the remaining 46 overs. Everyone wishes you a speedy recovery, Jamie.
Despite the set-back, Hertford battled on with incredible heart and no lack of skill. The game really looked to be turning in their favour when Leather, Knight and Orchard managed to reduce Welwyn to 68-4. First, Knight had Blacktopp well-caught at slip for 9 before Leather had Southgate caught down the leg-side. Dan Orchard then bowled Hewitt through the gate – a familiar sight for Orchard’s team-mates over the last fortnight. With the game very much in the balance – Hertford needing 6 wickets and Welwyn requiring 134 runs, Andrew Nolan joined Shah in the middle.
This 5th wicket partnership proved too much for Hertford. Nolan was particularly aggressive, striking multiple boundaries on his way to 69 not out from just 63 balls. Shah on the other hand was happy to accumulate at slower than a run a ball until, with just 18 required; he decided to end the game with 4 consecutive sixes. This took him to his match-winning score of 96 not out from 96 balls – a classy and professional innings.
Herford’s points tally from the game ensured they now cannot finish bottom of the league, and have therefore avoided immediate relegation from the league. They can, however, still finish 9th in the relegation ‘play-off’ place. Next week Hertford welcome league-leaders Radlett to Balls Park, knowing that 1 victory from their remaining 2 games should all-but guarantee their survival in the top league for the 2020 season.