Harlow Cricket Club's End of Season Review

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Will there ever be another cricket season like it? England became World Champions in the most unbelievably nerve tingling fashion that would seem far-fetched if found in a comic book. Several weeks later Ben Stokes produced an innings that will for the younger members of the club will be their equivalent of my generations Ian Botham moment in 1981. Cricket was front, middle and back page news. The Ashes were shared. Cricket was exciting, players with wonderful talent and personality. Children and adults alike captivated. We all knew it was the greatest of all sports but now the secret was out. Amongst all the hullabaloo, cricket in Harlow, at our great and historic club thrived, with home teams well supported, players mingling after matches to bask in their own personal glory or more likely to discuss the appropriate fine for some fielding indiscretion. Even the President donned his whites. 

 

©Harlow CC

For many at the club however, the 2019 season will be one of mixed emotions. Following the calamitous quadruple relegation that preceded it, this season saw all our sides highly competitive with three out of five adult XI’s going to the wire challenging for promotion. It was no doubt hugely disappointing that our two premier sides both lost out on the final day leaving only Rizwan Qayyum’s Fourth XI elevated for 2020 but on the whole teams were winning games far more often than in recent years.

 Work begun by Rehman Ahmed, under his leadership of the 1’s, was continued apace by new First XI skipper Ryan Jessey in terms of making our top players far more integrated with the rest of the club and improving the atmosphere and team ethos. Jason McNally and Sarfaraz Ahmed delivered and exceeded expectations both on and off the pitch and the club is to be congratulated on their recruitment. Alan Jones, arguably the most talented player produced locally in recent years, returned to the club before injury led to an untimely early conclusion to his season.  Rob Coldwell did a superb job again in supporting Ryan whilst forming a Second XI that showed a huge collective will to play for their captain and each other. Young players continued to progress throughout with 16-year olds in both First and Second XI’s and a Fifth XI crammed full of talented youngsters who went way beyond merely holding their own. Our Colts sides proved to be extremely strong with the U12’s reaching the semi-final of the county competition, the U13’s achieving the double and the U16 Match Play side only losing one game in five (yet somehow missing out due to a last day cancellation due to a damp pitch) along with other success in younger age groups. Joe Radford, Kobie Richmond, George and Alfie Jessey all saw their outstanding club form lead to selection for the county.

 A season then of some success laced with a dose of disappointment and regret and yet 2019 could and probably should be seen as the season the club got its heart back to match the magnificent facilities, improved yet further with the addition of the new mobile covers and picket fencing making it the envy of the league. Club stalwart, Cliff Clark, achieved well deserved recognition with his award for Groundsman of the Year award from Cricket World to cap over three decades of service to Harlow CC.

 April – full of hope and anticipation, plus its very cold

 Pre-season began in early April as the First XI travelled to Broxbourne for what has become a regular warm up. Perhaps warm up is the wrong phrase as it was thermals and hand warmers all round on a freezing day as Harlow ran out comfortable winners thanks to 79 from Mitch Howarde with the bat and a good all-round bowling display. It was 1’s verses 2’s at Marigolds seven days later, with Ryan’s first teamers chasing down the runs despite Rob’s side racing to 90 without loss with Ben Yeats making a fine half century against the First XI attack. In truth this internal fixture was probably the most testing of the build up as a week later a woefully weak Woodford Green XI were dismissed for 47 with Callum Sykes taking six wickets in a ten-wicket stroll that achieved virtually nothing for either side.

 The final Saturday of April saw competitive action for the first time with the First XI in cup action at League 2 Orsett & Thurrock. On reflection this game encapsulated weaknesses that were to emerge at critical times later in the season as, after a fine bowling display to dismiss the higher league side for 175, Harlow collapsed in the face of some hostile pace bowling on a damp strip limping to a demoralising 121 all out.

 

May – everyone are up and running with early victories

The Fifth XI got the competitive league season underway in style, refusing to allow an afternoon interrupted by rain and a hail storm to blow them off course, in defeating Bishop Stortford 4’s by 8 wickets as Jonny Allen (54) and Simon Tasker (46 not out) helped chase down 140 for victory. Elsewhere a McNally hundred at Epping saw the First XI complete their pre-season games with a

clean sweep of wins whilst the Second’s also beat Epping and Fours beat Thirds thanks to Asad Baig (72 not out) and an Ian Nuttall half century.

11th May saw everyone in full league action. That fragility with the bat haunted the First XI again as they stumbled to a hugely disappointing defeat at Stanford le Hope. Howarde, McNally and Sarfraz grabbed three wickets apiece in restricting the opposition to 191-9 but only Syed Hassan (40), Sarfaraz (22) and Yeats (19) made double figures as we fell apart in our reply posting a poor 122 all out to give the rest of the league a week’s head start in the points department.

 A John Perry half century helped the Second XI post 205 against Old Brentwood’s who were taken apart by Matt Hart on debut (4-23) as they succumbed to 50 all out. Fas Javed’s Third XI were second best at Woodford Wells but hung on for a draw with 4-40 from Tom Smith-Hughes and 63 with the bat from Millers skipper Dave Rogerson.  The Fours made a fine start with a good win on Spicers as Mustafa Zaman top scored with 43 as they chased down 156 against Hadleigh & Thundersley in a game restricted to 34 overs. The Five’s lost out to Hawks but showed what was to come for the rest of the season with 13-year olds James Forde and Ronnie Fuller both making 30 with the latter taking three wickets to boot.

 The remainder of the month saw the First XI get their season going in the right direction. Ardleigh Green were well beaten at Marigolds thanks to a five-wicket haul for Sarfaraz and a McNally century. Woodford Green were dispatched comfortably with a consecutive Five-For from leg spinner Sarfaraz and wickets for Howarde and Monger who had been restored to opening the bowling, a move that was to consistently pay dividends virtually on a weekly basis. A Lee Jessey half century ensured a six wicket win despite the visiting 16-year-old off spinner taking a hattrick with three of the worst balls seen all season.

 Rob Coldwell’s Second XI also recorded a straight forward win over Ardleigh Green thanks to 4-31 from Waheed Azam, Zabi Hakimi (67) and John Perry (46 not out) as it became clear the 2’s were a side with significant first XI experience and team spirit likely to challenge hard for promotion. They faced a much sterner test the following week at South Woodford, who were later to lift the league title, but resilient middle order batting from Callum Sykes (41) and Charlie Coleman (37) ensured we secured a valuable draw.

 The 3’s were soundly beaten on Spicers in a one-sided game against Brentwood with all their bowlers going around the park to the collective tune of 296 whilst faring just as badly with the bat in reply making a mere 139 with only Max Baulcomb (28) making a contribution of note. Alarms bells were ringing when a week later they suffered an equally demoralising hammering by Hornchurch despite Ilhan Mustafa’s half century.

 In contrast, the Fourth team were flying high, pulling off gripping victories such as at Brentwood when a superb run chase led to a one wicket win as last pair Irfan Shoukat and Omar Qureshi added 11 vital runs to take the points after Biju Matthew had made 55 at the top of the order. Quickly installing themselves as the club entertainers, Rizwan’s side would have been shell shocked to lose at home to Woodford Green 3rd XI. Batting first Harlow racked up 296-5 in 40 overs and made an early declaration after a superb 123 from Asad Baig and 84 from Ian Nuttall. Sadly, handing the opposition an extra 10 overs to chase proved costly as the bowling unit had a day to forget as the Green reached the target in the 55th and final over with two wickets in hand. Nevertheless, a decent haul of bonus points saw the 4th XI riding high in the table as May came to a close.

 The Fifth XI continued the month on a very positive note as they consistently selected a team comprising of a majority of Colts, many aged only 13. One such young man, James Forde, started to draw attention to himself after a maiden 100 set the foundation for a big win against Birchanger. Jonny Allen (53), Zain Munir (41) and Shab Munir (33) all contributed to 277-4 and the day got even better for the youngsters as Kobie Richmond grabbed five wickets and Ronnie Fuller three securing a 149-run victory. The following week saw the 5’s leap into the promotion places after defeating Ilford Catholics away impressively defending 152. Paddy Matthews had saved the innings with 58 and a superb bowling effort led by Matt Fisk (3-20) bundled out the home side for just 128 as the Fives sealed a hugely encouraging start to their season.

 June- the first’s look unbeatable then they are!

 An odd month for the First XI. Three crushing victories were achieved but in fixtures against Epping and promotion rivals Leigh on Sea winning positions were surrendered that probably proved pivotal come the seasons end. Goresbrook were blown away on a fast Perth like wicket at May & Baker as our quick bowlers, led by Mitch Howarde 4-34, tormented the hapless home batsmen. McNally (40*) and Yeats (32*) comfortably saw the game to an early finish. Walthamstow were equally outplayed as Harlow rattled up 280-9, primarily thanks to McNally (82) and Rehman Ahmed (59), before the bowling unit of Riddell, Monger, McNally and Sarfaraz Ahmed all claimed wickets in a crushing 218 run win. West Essex fared little better on a dubious strip as McNally (6-22) and Riddell (3-38) hustled them out for 82 leading to another comfortable stroll that had the unique sight of McNally hitting his first ball for six and then being stumped of a wide to a medium pacer with the keeper stood back off his second.

 The games that hurt were both at Marigolds. On a damp and overcast day we posted 227-6 against Epping with Yeats (72), Rehman Ahmed (44) and McNally (43) getting the majority of the runs. At 59-4 Epping were in real trouble and a straightforward 25 points looked to be in the bag until a series of seven dropped catches allowed a partnership to grow of such dangerous proportions that skipper Ryan had to revert to his quicks to ensure a draw with the visitors making 216-8.

 League leaders Leigh on Sea also benefitted from our failure to close the game out as they fought back from 163-8 to eventually make 229-9 with number nine batsman, Adam Rendall, hitting a brisk 50 whilst benefitting from chances put down in the field. It was to prove so costly as despite being in a dominant position with the bat at 92-1 some clouded thinking led to a run out and other wickets falling to questionable shots put us under pressure despite opener Yeats making 61. Ryan Jessey (31) and Mitch Howarde (28) looked to have turned the game back in our favour with nine needed off the final over but only a single was added for the loss of three wickets as the points headed to the coast leaving the baggy greens third in the table and Leigh heading off into the metaphorical sunset.

 For Rob’s Second XI the month started in splendid fashion with three straight victories. Old Souths, Hadleigh & Thundersley and West Essex were all well beaten by convincing margins with contributions across the entire side. Zabi Hakimi let the way with the bat with top scores of 82 and 71 but both Syed Hassan and john Perry also enjoyed excellent form and Max Baulcomb also chipped in with some tidy middle order scores as did Callum Sykes. With ball in hand Jake Messenger took 5-38 against Hadleigh whilst Lewis Aldred consistently took wickets.

 Perhaps the most controversial incident of the entire season occurred in the fourth game of the month at Gidea Park & Romford. Harlow had made 216-9 with 67 from John Perry and 40 from Max Baulcomb leaving the game finely poised. Harlow appeared to be gaining the ascendency as the home side lost wickets in the chase when Waheed Azam appeared to take a fine boundary edge catch at a crucial stage only for the home players and supporters to claim he had overstepped the rope. The home players umpiring then chose to go with their own sides account and ignored the confirmation of a fair catch from our fielders. It was to win Gidea Park the game in the final over and come September was the difference between the two sides for the second promotion spot.

Unfortunately, the 2’s only had themselves to blame at Marigolds the following week against Westcliff. Having made 250, primarily due to Hakimi (82), Syed Hassan (48) and late brutality from Jake Messenger (38 not out) we had knocked up a winning total of 250-7 in 45 overs. Mid way through the visitors reply and six wickets down it all looked to be over but five or six relatively straightforward catches were spilled as the seventh wicket pair stole the win in the last over. A miserable end to a month that had started so brightly.

The form team of the month was the Third XI who achieved four wins and a draw in their fixtures. Even the draw must have felt like a win as they somehow defended 171 against Chelmsford who bizarrely concluded their innings three runs adrift with wickets in hand after every Harlow bowler went for around 3 runs an over or less.

Captain Fas Javed led from the front with scores of 110 and 54 whilst also taking 3-14 as Wanstead, Loughton, Shenfield and Harold Wood were all dispatched. Also performing well were Asad Baig with two scores of 40, Atif Mustehsen (69), Simon Baulcomb (68) and Harry Burton (50) all in the Harold Wood game whilst Amir Farooq took 5-16 in 9.2 overs against Wanstead and Tyler Dobson 3-17 versus Shenfield.

 June proved to be a very profitable month for the Fours as well with four wins and just a solitary defeat. Rizwan Qayyum made 54* to help chased down Walthamstow’s 142 all out for a four wicket win after Mustafa Zaman had earlier taken 5-24. Horndon were beaten thanks to half centuries by Haider Rasool and Mustafa Zaman along with a terrific seven over spell of 4-8 from the evergreen Dave Whelhams.

 The middle week of the month saw availability issues hit the side as they fielded a much more inexperienced XI than normal at Stanford le Hope and fell to a disappointing loss unable to chase down 162. Nevertheless, a strong double win to end the month against Frenford and Gidea Park saw Rizwan’s side right up there in the promotion mix. The Frenford victory was achieved almost single handedly by Amir Farooq, with the greatest respect to his teammates. Amir made an outstanding 121 out of the total of 227 all out and then helped himself to six wickets (6-37) to dismiss the opposition for 185. This side were starting to become the regular club entertainers with frequent superb comebacks and exciting finishes in their games. The victory against Gidea Park being a fine example, in all kind of trouble the innings was saved by a partnership between the skipper (49) and Nathan McCarthy (39) to scramble together 163. Ali Zahid (4-30) and Dave Whelhams (3-26) secured the points as Park collapsed towards the end of their innings.

 The Fifth XI continued their fine start to the season in the early stages of the month with two wins and subsequent honourable defeats couldn’t disguise the fact that a side packed with very young Colts, many aged 13, were competing on a par with much more experienced sides. Ronnie Fuller made 32 alongside numerous contributions from his teammates to beat Thorley 2’s with Paddy Matthews and Steve Peachey claiming three wickets apiece. Mark Green (79) and John Allen (66) provided the basis of the win against Albury with Russ Davies destroying their lower order with 4-20. Shab Munir made 43 at Tye Green in a defeat.

 What was becoming clear was the fact the side had an outstanding prospect in James Forde. The young all-rounder made two half centuries and snatched a fistful of wickets during the month as he came to the fore. His performances were to become even stronger as the season progressed.

 July – Jones is back with a blast!

Points dropped in previous weeks had meant the First XI were playing with little margin for error. At this stage every game had to be won, something they achieved across July with the exception of the final week when every game in the Essex League was postponed due to downpours.

First up at Marigolds was a very vocal Westcliff on Sea. In truth, Ryan’s side probably delivered their best performance of the season. Alan Jones hammered a brilliant 104 not out supported by Lee Jessey (50) and Luke Monger (41) as we made 277. An overwhelming display in the field saw us crush the promotion rivals, dismissing them for 132 as Sarfaraz took 4-11 and Monger 3-25. 

A week later and Jones repeated the trick making 134 in 112 balls supported by Rehman Ahmed (47) as we set Stanford le Hope 281 to win. It was a target they never looked likely to threaten as Sarfaraz helped himself to 6-47 with a brace of wickets each for McNally and Howarde.

©Harlow CC

Ardleigh Green away was notable for two things. Firstly, the fact they had left the wicket uncovered in wet conditions and then put us in to bat having won the toss. Secondly, for the fact that despite appalling early batting conditions, Jason McNally hit a club league record 211 not out as we achieved 329-7. With the ball every bowler took at least one victim before the skipper decided to finish the game early by bringing himself on to turn his arm over and proceeded to take 3-7 in 2.2 overs.

Back on track then for the time being in the First XI as the title race became a three-way shoot-out between Leigh, Westcliff and ourselves (spoiler alert -this doesn’t end well sadly).

A similar pattern for Rob’s Two’s as they were playing well but just not quite consistently enough for his liking with two wins and a defeat in the month. Orsett were overcome thanks to a brace of wickets each for Waheed Azam, Callum Sykes, Matt Hart and Sunni Ali. John Perry (61*) and Zabi Hakimi (42) continued their personal good form with the bat to see us to a four-wicket win.

It was followed however by a disappointing loss to Old Brentwood’s. Abdullah Farooq (3-25) and Zabi Hakimi (3-43) couldn’t prevent Old B’s making 234 and it proved too many as only Syed Hassan with 98 made a significant contribution. A fine innings from the opener who had earlier featured for the First XI and responded superbly to dropping down a side. A week later and he went even further with a wonderful attacking 118 helping us to an eight wicket win over Ardleigh Green. Waheed Azam had earlier taken 3-32 helping to restrict the visitors to 186 that Syed broke the back of almost on his own.

 The Third XI had an awful month in stark contrast to their previous five matches. Heavy defeats to Upminster, Woodford Wells and Brentwood in consecutive weeks saw them slide down the table but still clear of relegation danger. A paucity of runs probably was the principle issue with Asad Baig making the only half century across the XI in the three games. Tyler Dobson was arguably the pick of the bowlers with 4-49 against Upminster and 2-19 facing Brentwood.

The Fourth XI suffered a loss to Harold Wood by 6 wickets. Batting first, Amir Farooq top scored with 39, as Harlow made an under par 168. Wood comfortably chased the total down despite two wickets apiece for Mustafa Zaman and Myles Baldock. Rizwan’s side bounced back well though with consecutive victories over Hadleigh & Thundersley and Brentwood. On both occasions they did well to chase down scores in excess of 180 without too much concern. Riz himself made 98, finding support from Nathan McCarthy (38) against Hadleigh whilst Ian Nuttall top scored with 45 to surpass Brentwood’s efforts. The bowling of Syed Ali was key to both wins taking 4-32 and 5-28 with Myles Baldock chipping in with another personal brace against Brentwood.

Only two games for the Fives in the month due to weather. They upheld the honour of the club in defeating local rivals Harlow Town by 7 wickets. Oliver Allen and James Forde took two wickets each as Town were restricted to 160 all out. Half centuries from Shab Munir and Thomas Vello saw us home with ease. This was followed by a heavy defeat to Thunderidge despite Forde, Fuller, Ben Searey and Russ Davies all claiming two wickets whilst Forde also made 69 with the bat.

August – its getting nervy towards the important weeks of the season

You could almost feel the nerves building in the First XI camp as the season reached its critical closing stages. Although Goresbrook were beaten at Marigolds we almost got into a pickle chasing 173 and made heavy weather losing 7 wickets in the run chase. Waheed Azam and Mitch Howarde both took three wickets was once again our bowling unit did everything asked of them. It took a very well-constructed and careful 31 not out from Luke Monger to steer Harlow to the win as wickets fell at regular intervals.

©Harlow CC

One week later and yet again the side arrived at Epping to find the covers neatly packed away behind the shed allowing a heap of overnight and early morning rain to soak the square. In fact, so wet was the wicket that there were fresh foxes paw prints on a length, just what an opener likes to see! There was little disguising the tactic from the home side and the sporting Gods saw fit to reward the skulduggery as they won the toss and sent us in on a devil of a wicket. Unsurprisingly, it was a struggle but 38 from Rehman Ahmed, 32 from Ryan Jessey and a very entertaining 31 not out from James Butler ensured we posted 190 which looked enough in the conditions. Butler’s innings was notable for the superb running between the wickets alongside Mitch Howarde as the pair played tip and run off pretty much every ball. Added value was Butler’s straight six and as he jogged down the wicket admiring the ball heading over the sightscreen he managed to trip and pull off the most extraordinary summersault you are every likely to witness on a cricket field. The bowling quintet did their thing dismissing the home side for 140 with Howarde (3-28) the pick of them ably supported by Sarfaraz (3-40), Waheed (2-11) and Monger (2-38).

Next up an easy 20 pointer at home to Walthamstow who had been crushed earlier in the season by over 200 runs. Well no actually, they hadn’t read the Harlow promotion charge script. At 71-3 off 30 overs the Stow innings was about as interesting to watch as a session in the House of Lords occasionally interrupted by Harlow dropping opener Richard Braughan on four occasions. It was irritating but as he was batting at a snail’s pace no one seemed to mind too much until he suddenly opened up with Nick Porter batting at 5 to flay our bowling attack around the park. A potential score of around 140 maximum had grown to 210-5 and the all too frequent batting butterflies were flitting around the home dressing room one suspected. Butterflies or not, what followed was abject, as 17-year-old, fast medium seamer Harris Latif ripped through our batting taking 7-18 as we posted a season low (at that time!) 96 all out. A horrible defeat and suddenly we were third in the table with it all to do.

It couldn’t get any harder than a trip to champions elect Leigh on Sea the following week. I could cut and paste at this point. Bowlers did great, dismissing the home side for 170, with Howarde 4-57, Sarfaraz 3-36 and Monger 2-30. The batting then collapsed dreadfully and at 34-7 surely the entire season was over for the baggy greens. Step forward Jason McNally with immense support from Mitch Howarde. In the face of everything Leigh could throw at them they added a century partnership before Howarde fell for 47. Butler helped McNally add a further 30 but six more runs were needed to save the season. Number 10 Waheed Azam strode out to the crease and smashed two balls to the boundary and wondered what all the fuss was about. McNally walked off undefeated on 94, an innings of supreme class and character. A win that appeared to have rescued the entire campaign.

©Harlow CC

The final First XI fixture at Marigolds saw the visit of bottom side West Essex. The message was clear. Bat first, smash 300 runs as quickly as possible and declare leaving enough time to bowl them out for a 25-point win. This week the batters feasted on the bowling. Yeats and Syed Hassan opened proceedings with 62 at better than a run a ball until Syed fell for 36. McNally joined Yeats and the scoring rate climbed to 8 an over before Yeats went for 57. Rehman Ahmed joined McNally and the rate went to 10 an over. Balls were being dispatched to all parts. Rehman off the pavilion roof and into the bowls green one that sticks in the memory. McNally made 104 and Rehman 71 not out all enabling Ryan to declare after 35 overs with the score on a club season best 331-4. After tea the one-sided nature of the fixture continued as McNally took 6-43 and Sarfaraz 3-32 in dismissing West Essex for 109. The only disappointing news on the day was hearing that rivals Westcliff had somehow escaped from 130-9 at Stanford le Hope to post 200 plus and had gone on to win by 16 runs. With one game left in the season Harlow were two points adrift of Westcliff with a trip to the coast for a promotion show down awaiting.

At the start of August Rob Coldwell’s Seconds were in third place in a tight league. They edged out Old Souths in a close game for an important win. Batting first Harlow made 228-7 with Jack Sykes (82*), Rob Coldwell (39) and Sunni Ali (32) leading the way. Souths got close but just fell short posting 216 all out as Amir Farooq took 3-23 and Sunni 3-58.

This was followed up by a hugely disappointing bowling performance against Hadleigh. Having made 240-9 in 45 overs Harlow were well placed thanks to another eighty from Jack Sykes (85) and 37 from Sunni Ali. Unfortunately, our bowling failed to produce as the opposition won by 8 wickets with the Tibbenham brothers both scoring unbeaten 70’s.

Much like the First XI, a fixture against West Essex was must win. Jake Messenger ensured it was to pass, twirling his way to 5-34, as they made 132 all out. Max Baulcomb hit 71 not out to produce a 6-wicket win. A week later it was the visit of second placed Gidea Park & Romford to Marigolds. A comprehensive display from Rob’s side avenged Waheed-gate earlier in the season. The visitors looked to be gathering a big score until spin at both ends cut off the flow of runs with Messenger again to the fore with 3-44. Regular first teamers, Charlie Coleman and Ben Yeats, produced the runs needed after dropping down from the higher XI. Coleman hit an outstanding 87 not out off just over 50 deliveries whilst Yeats blunted the new ball attack with a dogged 40. A huge win for the Second XI moving them into the promotion places with only two games to go.

Sadly, much like the Firsts were to experience a week later, a trip to Westcliff on Sea was to undo their season. With the seasiders in fourth place in the table one might have thought they would do everything possible to ensure a result. Alas, an inexperienced stand-in captain allowed his side to bat their entire allocation of overs making 254-8. A stiff ask became unreachable after early wickets and left with little choice our lads shut up shop to ensure the draw closing on 190-6 with Max Baulcomb making 77 not out and Jack Sykes 30. It was fingers crossed time that Gidea Park hadn’t won on the same day but the cricketing Gods were looking the other way and we received no help elsewhere. One game left and back in third place with promotion now out of our hands was a bitter pill to swallow for Rob and his side.

 For the Third XI the month heralded the opportunity to get a couple of wins to ensure survival in Third XI Premier Division for another year. They achieved the objective but not before getting a little too close to the drop zone for comfort. Defeat against Wanstead despite Kashif Latif taking 3-28, Harry Burton making 50 and Asad Baig 39 left the Three’s tottering a little before a much-needed win versus Chelmsford. Batting first Harlow made 210-7 with the skipper top scoring with 61 supported by Asad Baig (42) and Kashif Latif (40). A good bowling and fielding display saw a comfortable win with Tyler Dobson taking 3-26, Muhammed Faisal 2-9 and Dave Whelhams 2-26.

Two defeats in consecutive weeks plus other results elsewhere put the side in peril again however. A superb game against Loughton was lost by 10 runs. Chasing 249 we fell just short with Atif Mustehsen making 88, Abdullah Farooq 41 and Muhammed Faisal 34. A further defeat at Shenfield despite Tyler Dobson taking 5-19 and Dan Stone 3-77 along with an Ian Nuttal 42 put us fourth bottom and at risk with two games remaining. Thankfully, with no regard to potential last day drama, Fas’s side tore into Harold Wood’s batting line up on Spicers in the penultimate game, dismissing them for only 107 as Joe Riddell (5-27) and Mudasser Naeem (5-61) virtually did all the bowling. I could swear I heard the chuntering from the Spicers boundary edge on the other side of the pavilion! The consistently reliable Asad Baig made 39 to ensure a very welcome 6 wicket win.

The Fourth team were in great shape in the league and improved their position further with three wins to start August. Whilst a good all-round unit it was the strength of the batting that shone as 241-7 was made against Walthamstow thanks to an Ian Nuttall century and an unbeaten 45 from Ali Zahid. Zahid Habib (4-26) and Omar Qureshi (3-14) ensured the win. The batters went even further against Horndon the following week accumulating 264-5 thanks to the captain making 115, and as was becoming customary, excellent support from Nathan McCarthy with 31. Syed Ali capped a good all-round game with 26 with the bat and 2 wickets as the opposition fell short by 50 odd runs.

Promotion was within grasp after a third straight August victory, this time Stanford le Hope undone by the bowling unit and Mustafa Zaman in particular with a five-wicket haul. Rizwan made 42 not out to surpass the 98 needed to win with comfort.  Victory at Frenford would seal a magnificent promotion and for some reason things went seriously off the rails. Players failed to turn up, cry offs and call ups plus a late start all combined to make a fairly substantial defeat an even worse situation. Amir Farooq took 4-35 and Ali Zahid 3 wickets whilst Syed Ali made 66 but in truth it was a bitterly disappointing day until later that evening when results elsewhere meant the gap had actually opened up in our favour somehow despite the events of the day. Oh, how the First and Second XI could have done with some of this external assistance.

Rizwan gathered his forces and a week later at Gidea Park the Fours sealed a hugely well-deserved promotion by beating the home side. Abdullah Farooq made a superb 99 only to be caught going for his maiden Harlow adult century but he had made a huge contribution to our 213 all out. With ball in hand Syed Ali (5-32) and Myles Baldock (3-17) swept us to promotion. Marvellous!!!

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The Fifth team achieved their final win of the season against Thorley 2nd XI. Oliver Allen and James Forde took a brace each with the ball before Johnny Allen struck 116 not out and Forde 44 not out to chase down 195 to win. A very fine effort. Defeats followed at Epping Foresters by ten wickets despite Forde top scoring with 33 before a final day loss against Hawks. The opposition racked up a 300 plus score with Oliver Allen and James Forde taking two wickets alongside Matt Fisk’s impressive 4-68. Our season ended with a highly creditable 238-4 with a ton from young Forde and 45 from Allen Senior.

 September – well its come to an end, mixed fortunes but a great season

The final day of the season then for our top four sides. The First and Second XI’s had promotion to play for whilst the Three’s and Fours were on the beach having achieved everything that was reasonably expected of them at the start of the season and in Rizwan’s teams’ case probably far exceeded what was hoped. Sad to say but whatever way you look at things it wasn’t a good day.

Riz and his promoted Fourth XI took on Harold Wood on Spicers and were soundly beaten. After the exertions of a successful campaign the team can be forgiven an off day but only Syed Ali (44) and Reece Galvin (30) made an impact with the bat as we totalled 150 all out. Wood easily knocked off the runs for the loss of a single wicket but this result could not take the gloss off a wonderful season for the side.

 With the target of staying up comfortably achieved for Fas the Threes travelled to Upminster looking to end on a high. The bowlers were excellent rolling over the home side for 154 with Abdullah Farooq 3-17, Mudasser Naeem 3-32, Thomas Smith-Hughes 2-22 and Dave Whelhams 2-28 grabbing the wickets along with an economical spell of 0-12 in 7 overs from Tyler Dobson. Sadly, the batting did not match the initial element of the match as only Mudasser (55) made more than 11 as we ended with a fairly disappointing 103 all out.

The Second XI were on Marigolds hosting bottom of the table, and relegated, Orsett & Thurrock. In his last ever game, Rob Coldwell made 30 alongside Atif Mustehsen (24), but it needed a fabulously destructive innings from Callum Sykes to lift the run rate and total to 238-5 declared. Callum struck eight maximums in his 108 receiving good support from Andre Riddell (35 not out).

Unfortunately, the opposition were in no mood to roll over and despite Harlow’s best efforts batted doggedly. Rob furiously rotated his bowlers to find break throughs and nabbed a wicket himself but there was no dislodging the visitors who stuck in to force a draw despite 2-31 from Joe Riddell. As it transpired even a 25-point win would not have been enough as Gidea Park won their game to clinch the final promotion slot.

The First XI headed off to Westcliff by coach backed by a good support. The toss was always going to the so critical as the team batting first would be able to get promoted by drawing and also avoid the undoubtedly pressure of batting second. Typically, and in keeping with most of the season, it went against us. Nevertheless, the bowlers again did their bit as only home captain, Peter Barnes (70), offered any long-term resistance. McNally was the pick with 5-47 but Howarde 2-62, Azam 1-39 and Sarfaraz 1-39 all bowled well.

At the tea interval the talk amongst the baggy greens was how poorly Westcliff had run (or in fact not run) between the wickets. Determined to pursue the quick single and rotate the strike was a good plan just when it came to it one that was not well executed. Both openers were run out leaving us 5-2 and suddenly one could sense the pressure bearing down on each incoming batsman. Frankly, things went from bad to worse as wickets tumbled, bordering on the embarrassing, and at 39-7 something truly incredible would have to pass to escape this mess. On this occasional, not even the talents of Jason McNally could provide relief from the carnage as he was last man out with a mere 73 on the board. A miserable day.

As Westcliff joined forces with neighbours Leigh to celebrate promotion Harlow were left to reflect on what might have been. It may be seen as a moot point, but both those sides had recruited three players each from Premier Division Southend on Sea for the 2019 season and many observers opined the division to be the strongest it had been for many years. Sides that had challenged for promotion the year before were all left way behind by the top three. Not a consolation of course but worth noting when considering how the First XI had performed.

On their day, the best side in the league with the best player in the league in McNally, but with a fragility to their batting that only ever surfaced batting second. In fairness, there were so many positives from the season with the team clearly winning far more often than not, the excellence and impact of McNally & Sarfaraz, the emergence of 16 year opener Ben Yeats, the consistency of Rehman Ahmed with the bat, the return to the club of keeper James Butler and the strength (in depth) of the bowling unit with Monger, Howarde and Waheed Azam all consistently returning good figures backed up by the likes of Joe Riddell, Lewis Aldred and Callum Sykes who all featured at various stages of the season. The 2019 season also saw the return of Alan Jones. A prodigious talent, who made two centuries before falling victim to injury that ended his season prematurely. Ryan Jessey is also to be congratulated on the spirit in the side and collectiveness of the group.

 

So, on the whole a positive season for the club. One promotion, well done the Fours, two promotion fights going to the wire and no relegations was certainly a step forward from 2018. Regular watchers of the cricket produced at the club would surely recognise the greater strength in depth than recent years and off the field we have a togetherness to be proud of. The facilities are amongst the very best in the entire league. A credit to everyone involved in their inception, development and maintenance. With a fair wind 2020 should be a good season.

Other Headlines From 2019 Season

McNally Breaks First XI League Batting Record

Jason McNally’s innings of 211 at Ardleigh Green was not only an astonishingly brutal assault but a remarkable performance on a damp wicket in a game where the next highest score on either side was 38. Frantic searches of the record books established it to be the highest First XI innings in league cricket on record at Harlow CC. It also transpired it was the single highest individual innings across all divisions and levels of the Essex Senior League all season. Jason also ended the season as the highest run scorer in First XI Division 3 with 831 runs.

©Cricket World

 Cliff Clark Wins Groundsman of the Year Award

Club stalwart, Cliff Clark, had his years of fabulous service to the club recognised at Lords in the form of the Cricket World Groundsman of the Year. Cliff joined the club as a player in the 1970’s and became groundsman around 30 years ago. He has overseen the development of the Marigolds strip, rated one of the best in the Essex League, along with the development of the second playing area on Spicers Field. Representatives from Cricket World and the ECB visited the club and were hugely impressed with his work and tireless commitment to the club. Cliff enjoyed a day at crickets’ headquarters, accompanied by club president Alan Howick, where he received his award. 

Club President Keeps A Promise !

Over the winter, club president, Alan Howick, made a promise and it was one he intended to keep. "Pick me for the Overs versus Unders fixture and I'll be there".

 I doubt he could have foreseen having to field for 40 overs during the middle of the afternoon on the hottest day of the year but that wasn't going to stop a man who has cricket running through his veins.

 A slightly spritelier Howick first played for the club in under 18's cricket in 1965. His professional commitments ensured that he enjoyed most of his playing career in Sunday cricket rather than the rough and tumble of league fixtures.

 Nevertheless, his love of the game hasn't diminished over the years and he's a regular fixture during games at Marigolds and one can only presume that he surveys the scene with a huge degree of satisfaction with the transformation of the ground under his tenure.

 Resplendent in his whites with the added touch of colour from an 'interesting' choice of belt Howick took the field and instantly made the decision in keeping with any wise old cricketer - to field at deep cover / mid-wicket under the scoreboard for the entire innings in the shade. Not that meant he wasn't in the game as the young Colts peppered his boundary at various stages. Many balls were stopped, often with the use of his boot or ankle, and maybe the odd one just crept through but he did his job manfully and to the very last ball.

 After a quick tea and change of innings who better to open than the President himself. Clapped onto the field in a guard of honour by the Colts side. Off the mark with a sharpish single Alan clearly decided if it was in his ark it was going to go as a cold beer awaited. Evie Matthews hadn't quite read the script by nipping out his middle stump but deep down one suspects it was just what the boss wanted.

Sarfaraz Break First XI Wickets Record

Sarfaraz Ahmed underlined his value to the club with forty-three First XI league wickets in the season surpassing Andy McGarry’s previous record of 41 wickets set in 2010.

 Affectionally known as Frazzell to his teammates, the quiet but hugely popular left armer was a key reason in the First team’s promotion push having joined the club from Fives and Heronians at the start of the 2019 season.

 Below, another Coldwell boundary

©Harlow CC

Club Facilities Improved yet Further in 2019

The envy of many opposition sides, Marigolds, improved even further during the course of the season with the addition of a new picket fence running the length of the Pavilion (which was given by the Vice Presidents Club) and new mobile covers for the main strip (funded by HCC). The fence is a picturesque addition, universally well received whilst the covers proved their worth within days of arrival as midweek downpours had little effect on the wicket ahead of a crucial First XI fixture.

©Harlow CC

Captain Rob Retires

The final Second XI game of the season saw Rob Coldwell retire from playing after 18 seasons at the club. There is little doubt he was one of the most successful captains over the past few decades achieving consistent success.

 Despite his notable batting success, Rob will probably be remembered as a captain who achieved unparalleled success. In nine seasons as a skipper he won FIVE league titles and was denied a sixth in the infamous points deduction travesty involving Town. Even when not securing top spot his sides finished third on three occasions and fifth once.

 Over the season in conversation with young players playing in our senior sides it was very noticeable how many credit Rob with having a big impact on their careers at Harlow. His ability to remove pressure from them in a supporting and encouraging fashion enabled the likes of young talented players to thrive, become successful and ultimately move up the club - many reaching the First XI.

 A man with cricket running through his veins, it’s difficult to imagine Rob not having some connection to the game he loves, and he already has plans to watch a few games and maybe do a bit of umpiring. Whatever he decides to do, Rob leaves with our collective thanks for all of his efforts over the years and we wish him a very long and happy cricketing retirement.

The MCC & CCC Teams line up before their match
The MCC & CCC Teams line up before their match
©Harlow CC

High Profile Cricket Comes to Marigolds

The superb facilities on offer at Marigolds continued to draw representative cricket to Harlow CC during the season. The club maintained its honoured position as the home of the Hertfordshire Ladies County side and large crowds regularly attended their fixtures most notably when entertaining the visiting Dutch national team.

 The Club Cricket Conference (CCC) and the MCC played their annual fixture at Marigolds in August. Home players, Jason McNally and Andre Riddell making appearances for the CCC who, on the day, were well beaten by the side from the home of cricket. On a remarkable day, our highly talented U11 side also faced the touring Californian Cricket Association under 11 side on Spicers.

 Club Presentation Evening

October saw two superbly organised presentation evenings for the Colts section and the following night a sit-down meal event for the adult sides. Huge thanks must go to the efforts of the Baxter’s and the Sykes’ in particular for the work in staging these evenings.

Allyson Jessey was awarded the Clubman of the Year for her work alongside Sonia Raraty and Yvonne Raraty in establishing the Saturday morning breakfast club as well as the provision of teas for the 5th XI and I’m fairly sure she was roped into scoring at various points this season as well. Very well deserved.

Andy Yeats won the Sam Deards Trophy for producing this type of nonsense and then getting it circulated to an ever-increasing audience through the local media and beyond through Cricket World as well as recording the fortunes of the First XI from the darkest corners of the scoreboxes of Essex.

 Tracey Sykes, Jo Hart and Shelia were given public thanks and flowers for their tremendous efforts in various organisational and photographic enterprises which add an enormous amount to the fabric of the club.

 Retiring captain Rob Coldwell was made a life member of the club to mark the end of 18 years at Harlow that included nine very successful seasons as captain.

Players of the Year

1st XI      Jason McNally                                                                   U9          Lawrence Forde & Freddy Crook

2nd XI     Jake Messenger                                                                U10        Jack Fuller

3rd XI      Asad Baig                                                                          U11        William Forde

4th XI      Syed Ali                                                                              U12        Joe Radford

5th XI      James Forde                                                                      U13        James Forde

                                                                                                          U15        Abdullah Farooq

U21        Callum Sykes                                                                      U16        Paddy Matthews

U18        Matt Hart



Colts Clean Up!

Sadly, not the dressing rooms but the WEDCB trophies.  The U11 won a league and cup double as did the U13’s. The U15 won their league whilst the U16 side won the Indoor League over the winter. In addition, the U12 side reached the semi-final of the county competition which in itself was a tremendous achievement.

A number of Colts received Jack Petchey Awards as did Steve Terrington (Leaders Award) for all his tireless efforts coaching and organising Colts cricket.

Playing Records 2019 Season

 

First XI 

Total Runs                                                                               Total Wickets

 

Jason McNally                         831                                          Sarfaraz Ahmed                      43            (Club Rec)

Rehman Ahmed                      376                                          Mitch Howarde                       32

Ben Yeats                                356                                          Jason McNally                         32

Highest Score                                                                         Best Bowling

Jason McNally                         211* (Club Rec)                      Jason McNally                         6-22

 

Second XI

Total Runs                                                                               Total Wickets

Syed Hassan                           406                                          Jake Messenger                      20

Zabi Hakimi                             366                                          Sunni Ali                                  16

John Perry                               343                                          Lewis Aldred                           16

Highest Score                                                                         Best Bowling

Syed Hassan                            118*                                        Jake Messenger                      5-34

 

Third XI

Total Runs                                                                               Total Wickets

Faisal Javed                             363                                          Tyler Dobson                           23

Asad Baig                                351                                          Dan Stone                               19

Atif Mustehsen                       324                                          Thomas Smith-Hughes           14

Highest Score                                                                         Best Bowling

Faisal Javed                             110                                          Tyler Dobson                           5-19

 

Fourth XI

Total Runs                                                                               Total Wickets

Rizwan Qayyum                      456                                          Syed Ali                                   21

Syed Ali                                   304                                          Mustafa Zaman                      20

Nathan McCarthy                    262                                          Ali Zahad                                 15

Highest Score                                                                         Best Bowling

Asad Baig                                123                                          Amir Farooq                            6-37

 

Fifth XI

Total Runs                                                                               Total Wickets

James Forde                            628                                          James Forde                            20

Johnny Allen                           425                                          Matthew Fisk                          14

Shaban Munir                         251                                          Oliver Allen                             14

Highest Score                                                                         Best Bowling

Johnny Allen                           116*                                        Kobie Richmond                      5-19

 

 

                                All Senior League Cricket Combined

Leading Run Scorers                                                                                               Leading Wicket Takers

Jason McNally                         831                                                                          Sarfaraz Ahmed                      43

James Forde                            628                                                                          Amir Farooq                            37

Syed Hassan                           563                                                                          Mitch Howarde                       32

Asad Baig                                513                                                                          Jason McNally                         32

Rizwan Qayyum                      456                                                                          Tyler Dobson                           23

Johnny Allen                           425                                                                          Waheed Azam                        22

Atif Mustehsen                       400                                                                          Luke Monger                           22

Ben Yeats                                396                                                                          Syed Ali                                   21

Rehman Ahmed                      376                                                                          Mustafa Zaman                      21

Zabi Hakimi                             366                                                                          Jake Messenger                      20

Most Catches (Outfield)                                                                                         Most Dismissals (WK)

Reece Galvin                           12                                                                            Andre Riddell                          20

 

 


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