Classy Sikandar is Stevenage’s hero
Victory over Potters Bar has left Stevenage in with a chance of pinching the HCPL Division Two East title. In a must-win game, all the forecasts were promising persistent rain from about midday onwards. Drizzle and low grey clouds shrouded the ground and
Victory over Potters Bar has left Stevenage in with a chance of pinching the HCPL Division Two East title.
In a must-win game, all the forecasts were promising persistent rain from about midday onwards.
Drizzle and low grey clouds shrouded the ground and the two teams during their truncated warm-ups.
A short break in the rain just before the scheduled start of play allowed hasty ground preparation and play to start on time.
Potters Bar batted first and prospered against the new ball despite a good opening spell from Gary Brown.
Until the introduction of Gareth Berg into the attack, Palmer and Norman (41) scored at a healthy rate and their 86-run partnership looked to have set Potters Bar in good stead for a commanding total.
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Berg bowled with good control and little luck and in tandem with Syed Ali Kazmi's spin at the other end was responsible for bringing the run-rate down to a manageable level.
The wicket of Norman, leg before to Azhar Ali, just before the lunch break provided further encouragement.
Potters Bar were 104-2 at lunch which was a livelier affair than normal.
It became clear that Palmer - who had progressed serenely, if a little slowly, to 59no - was going to retire hurt to be replaced by Kash Weeraratne, their big-hitting overseas player.
A number of questions were posed to the umpires as to whether Palmer was retired hurt or retired out.
The Stevenage team took the field with renewed vigour and focus and Potters Bar simply had no answer.
Ali (3-43 from 17 overs) was the initial inspiration, producing one of his best bowling spells of the year to dismiss firstly and most significantly Weeraratne and then Fraser.
Ali Kazmi worked hard to find the correct pace on a rapidly drying wicket and was rewarded with his first wicket, Stevenage's fifth, with the total on 139.
Despite a captain's innings of 34no by Lenny Cooper, the resistance was limited.
Ali Kazmi picked up a further three wickets to finish with 4-72 and although the return of Palmer (61no) prevented them bowling Potters Bar out, the final total of 199-9 was a disappointment.
Stevenage's opening pair of Brown and Tanweer Sikandar set about putting Stevenage firmly on the road to victory sharing a brisk 100-run partnership.
With the 50-run partnership up, Sikandar stepped on the gas and was absolutely brutal in his punishment of the spin bowling of McGee and then the new ball bowlers that followed. The new ball was responsible for Potters Bar's first wicket, Brown caught for 35 with the score on 103.
A 50-run second wicket partnership between Sikandar and Ali Kazmi (37no) took Stevenage to the brink of a vital victory.
Sikandar (96) was Potters Bar's consolation wicket, edging behind as he chased a wide delivery from Cooper in a failed attempt to hit the boundary that would have taken him to his second ton of the season.
By this time the only possible way that Stevenage might have failed to win was if the ever-darkening skies decided to rain.
To address this potential problem, Nas Ahmed (22no) took the initiative and played a number of impressive shots including an outrageous ramp shot for four over first slip off a delivery from Cooper.