Knebworth Park Fourths got back to winning ways with a hard-fought win at Abbots Langley III on Saturday.
After winning a toss he would have been happy to lose, Knebworth captain Mark Folwell thought long and hard before deciding to bat on a wicket that looked like it would be difficult to bat on following the overnight rain, the theory being that it would only get more difficult as the day progressed.
Openers Dave Barwick and Tom Hills got off to a decent start on a slow wicket that offered variable bounce and plenty for the bowlers but then Hills (9), Gareth Jones (1) and Joe Elliott (8) were all out in quick succession playing far too early as the Knebworth top order found it difficult to wait long enough for the ball to arrive.
The key partnership of the innings came between Barwick and John Inman who progressed the score from a dodgy looking 58 for 5 to 96 for 6. Inman was cutting and pulling the ball well, Barwick was punishing the bad ball and the two manoeuvred the ball well to run singles.
When Barwick was out for a well-made 40 the innings slid towards closure as Knebworth lost regular wickets, including Inman who was unlucky with a ball that popped off a length and departed for a solid 26 runs.
Knebworth’s innings closed on 125 all out, and, although it didn’t look a huge total, it was certainly defendable if they bowled well.
Opening bowlers Joe Elliott and Mark Taylor did indeed bowl very well and, despite the introduction of Gareth Jones’ pace alongside Elliott, the Abbots Langley openers rode their luck and moved the score along to 52 for no wicket, most of the runs seeming to come off the edge.
Both batsmen were never comfortable against the speed of Elliott and Jones though and, once Elliot made the breakthrough by bowling the Abbots Langley captain with a beautiful delivery, suddenly a flurry of wickets had the opposition at 56 for 5.
This included Elliott twice being on a hat-trick after taking two wickets in two balls in consecutive overs.
Several Abbots Langley batsmen came and went as Elliott (4 for 31 from 9 overs) and Jones (4 for 15 from 11 overs) simply blasted them away, Elliott with his raw pace and Jones with his deadly away swing.
Abbots Langley still managed to get themselves close to the total and it took the introduction of youngster Kyle Roomans, making his debut, to finish the match by taking two quick wickets with the opposition 17 runs short.
The first was a great caught and bowled before he then clean bowled the last Abbot Langley batsmen. As much as nobody could have begrudged Elliot or Jones a five-wicket haul, it was great to see Roomans pick up the last two wickets with some disciplined seam bowling.
Knebworth seem to have several players hitting form as they move into the second half of the season and will be looking to build on a good win and further consolidate their position in the top half of the table over the coming weeks.