Knebworth Park 222 all out, Old Albanians 177 all out
Knebworth Park clinched a vital win over Old Albanians, one place below them in the table, to boost their chance of avoiding relegation from Saracens Herts League Division One.
It brought them back-to-back wins for the first time this season after their win over bottom club Stevenage the previous week.
Their 45-run triumph came on the back of a strong batting display and on an awkward surface at Albanians this was then backed up by accurate bowling.
With neighbours Stevenage overcoming Chorleywood it lifted the Park up a place, taking them 24 points clear of the drop zone with two games remaining.
After being asked to bat first on a wicket where batting was never easy, Mo Asif and Adam Sergeant gave the Park a healthy start of 39 for the first wicket before Sergeant was trapped lbw for 20
Asif then took charge with the left hander scoring a superb 58 and with Haydon Bartlett-Tasker (19) added 63 for the second wicket. But after Asif and then Bartlett-Tasker both fell to the pace of Malik who went on to take 5 for 32, they were then followed by two further wickets as 102 for 1 quickly became 119 for 5.
Charlie Randall (41) and Tariq Umair (50) led a terrific recovery with a stand of 74 for the sixth wicket. Umair marshalled the tail after Randall was out, hoisting a six in the final over for his third half-century of the season before he was last man out, leaving the Park 222 all out.
That total soon became more priceless as opening bowlers Gareth Jones 1 for 15 and Randall removed both openers cheaply to leave Albanians 13 for 2, aided by a sharp slip catch by Sergeant..
A chancer’s innings of 55 from No.3 Hussain proved a problem as his procession of bold shots aimed over mid-wicket kept the home side in the hunt, helped too by dropped catches.
Asif picked up two wickets, one from a smart Jones catch, before Hussain’s innings finally came to an end to knock them back to 94 for 5.
Wasim Khalid hung on with a juggle to catch him off skipper Guy Warman, who again bowled a mean accurate spell of 1 for 27 off his ten overs.
Off-spinner Khalid picked up a wicket but the lower middle-order wasn’t finished and led by the impressive driving of Chris Dobson were still in the chase.
When Randall returned to the attack, batting though become an even greater challenge. He trapped Victor Starmaid lbw for 22 and followed up with his third wicket in his best bowling of the season in taking 3 for 29.
Dobson was left stranded on 33 not out as a smart Jones run out snatched the ninth wicket and Khalid, 2 for 37, wrapped it up the next ball to dismiss Albanians for 177 to complete a convincing win.
With four of the teams in the lower half of the table playing each other this Saturday, certainly one of the relegation places is in the melting pot in the division where not many points separate third from ninth.
The Park play host to Harpenden II in their final home game of the season.
A superb bowling performance put the Seconds in sight of victory against table-toppers Hoddesdon II before they slipped to a heart-breaking one-wicket defeat.
Teenage tyro Ollie O’Brien, pictured, produced his best spell of the season, claiming three wickets in a devastating opening burst as the Park tried to defend a total of 171-6. He was well backed by left-armer Neils Hart in reducing the visitors’ powerful batting line-up to 32-4.
The game see-sawed and could have gone either way. But with the gloom descending, a couple of smears across the line from Hoddesdon No.10 Max Murray sealed victory in the 49th over.
Earlier, the Park were sent in to bat on a wicket which looked chock-full of runs.
The batsmen made heavy weather of it against a decent seam attack not getting above three runs an over until past 40 overs.
Ian Pickering battled to hold the innings together, finishing unbeaten on 68 but never really hitting his stride even when well set. He was supported by cameos from Archie Stephens (28) and Alex Richmond (25) but the final total looked at least 50 runs shy.
However, the visitors, who crashed more than 350 runs against the Park at their postage stamp ground earlier in the season, found it just as difficult to get going.
Hart bowled one opener around his legs before O’Brien, bowling with pace and a bit of nip both ways, struck three times.
A half-century stand appeared to have put Hoddesdon in charge but the introduction of spinner Graham Fisher tied down the batsmen and induced two terrible hocks across the line.
Hoddesdon were soon scrambling to get home, throwing wickets away with suicidal running and another impatient attempt to go over the top.
O’Brien, who finished 3 for 21, returned with another threatening burst and was unlucky to see a very difficult diving chance go to ground in the covers, a tight LBW call turned down and a nick fly between slip and keeper.
A fumbled run out chance proved costly as No.10 Murray would have been out by some distance going for an impossible second.
Instead, he survived to hit the winning runs in a thrilling game from which the Seconds took 14 points and a great deal of pride.
Chipperfield Clarendon II 304-4, Knebworth Park III 201
A valiant effort from the Thirds wasn’t enough to stop them falling to defeat against Chipperfield Clarendon.
After winning the toss and electing to field, Park found wickets hard to come by however were managing to keep control of the scoring rate.
It was Karl Padalia (1-34) who eventually picked up the first wicket with the score on 105.
The highlight of the innings though was the performance of 12-year-old Essex county player Kobie Richmond, making his first senior appearance for the Park as he picked up a further two wickets to finish with outstanding figures of 2-14 from his 10 overs.
A wicket for Ben Childs (1-46) followed with Chipperfield on 194-4 with eight overs left. This brought the Chipperfield No.6 to the crease and he began to dismantle the Park bowling with boundaries being hit all round the wicket.
Despite Park trying everything, they were unable to stem the flow of runs as Chipperfield piled on 110 runs in their last eight overs to set Park a daunting 305 to win.
The Park response got off to a bad start as they lost a wicket in the first over but Danny Digweed and Matt Inman began to build the innings as they put on 104 for the second wicket before Digweed was dismissed for 64.
Inman (34) fell soon after but skipper Ian Woods continued to punish the loose Chipperfield bowling as Park continued to stay just below the run rate ready for a final assault at the high total.
It wasn’t to be though as wickets continued to fall and when Woods (66) was the 9th wicket to fall, Chipperfield quickly wrapped up the innings as Park finished on 201 from just 35 overs.
Arkley 71, Knebworth Park IV 72-6
A brilliant recovery by veterans John Inman and skipper Jonathan Cirkel enabled the Fourths to clinch victory in their friendly away to Arkley, to record back-to-back wins. Their league opponents Baldock had pulled out to concede the league fixture.
In chasing the home team’s meagre 71 all out, Phil Wheeler (19) gave them a good start before they slumped to 25 for 6.
It was then that Inman (10 not out) and Cirkel (33 not out) guided them home without further loss, the skipper hitting seven boundaries.
Earlier, James Roos (3 for 12), Bella Hopcraft (3 for 21) and Catherine Cirkel (2 for 5) were the main wicket-takers as they bowled out the home team for a meagre 71.