Nas scores big for Stevenage first XI

Stevenage consolidated third place in the Home Counties League by having the better of a competitive draw with league leaders Radlett. They claimed 16 bonus points to Radlett s eight on Saturday. This not only closed the gap between Stevenage and Radlett

Stevenage consolidated third place in the Home Counties League by having the better of a competitive draw with league leaders Radlett.

They claimed 16 bonus points to Radlett's eight on Saturday.

This not only closed the gap between Stevenage and Radlett but put them closer to Welwyn Garden City who sit in second place and who visit Stevenage this Saturday.

The toss went Radlett's way and they chose to field first in the expectation of picking up early wickets with the new ball on the pacy grassy wicket.

This decision clearly placed a lot of pressure on Radlett's experienced new ball attack of South African Shane Burger and Stuart Browne.

But Stevenage's young opening batting partnership of Gary Brown and Tanweer Sikandar prevailed.

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They shared in a 64-run partnership and spoke volumes for the pair's technique, concentration and maturity at the crease. With the ball swinging and seaming prodigiously for the first dozen overs, the Stevenage boys played with appropriate care and application.

A combination of the bowlers losing their patience and the new ball losing its hardness and shine resulted in runs coming more freely.

Sikandar was particularly harsh on anything short from Burger and with Brown rotating the strike effectively with 20 overs completed the run-rate was up at three per over.

A drinks break allowed Radlett to regroup and a clatter of wickets fell in the space of 10 runs with Brown first to depart for 15, followed by Syed Ali Kazmi and finally Sikandar for a high quality 44.

Nas Ahmed and Gareth Berg, the engine room of the Stevenage batting line up, were then allowed to express themselves.

The pair matched each other shot for shot and run for run punishing every bad ball and a fair few good balls as well.

They compiled a Home Counties League record fourth wicket partnership for Stevenage of 162, surpassing Rob Austin and Andy Burroughes' 131 made against Hertford back in 2000.

The partnership ended with Berg holing out off the part-time seam of Gray for an imposing 81 with the total on 236.

Ashley Bayes joined Ahmed at the crease and the latter completed his second century in three innings before becoming Burger's third and final victim with 125 runs to his name.

Mark Sinclair and Bayes (27no) saw the total to 309 from the 60 allocated overs and so ensured maximum batting points for Stevenage.

With the pitch having flattened out under the hot sun, taking all 10 wickets would not be an easy task. Two absolute sitters dropped in the infield before fifty was on the board did not help their cause.

Azhar Ali claimed a wicket before the tea break but after the interval a third chance was spurned.

Haden Smith and Robbie Smith cruised to a 100-run partnership, successfully seeing off both Berg and Ali Kazmi and maintaining a brisk run-rate in doing so.

The introduction of the off-spin of Bayes (2-34) proved to be a way back into the match and his dismissal of both Smiths in the space of 16 runs put them firmly back in charge of the match.

Two run outs left Radlett on 185-5 with only survival on their minds.

Ali, who bowled exceptionally all innings (25-7-74-2), picked up his second thanks to a sharp catch at slip by Ahmed to leave four wickets required from the last 10 overs.

Radlett boast the longest batting line up in the league and with the ball thrown to Berg for the last five overs from one end they were grateful to have Burger and their opening batsman from the earlier league encounter, Fielden, at the crease.

Neither survived to the end of the innings, Fielden bounced out, gloving a steepling delivery from Berg to Ali Kazmi at slip, and Burger well caught low down by Ahmed at leg gully off Berg.

This left Radlett tottering on the brink of defeat but their captain Chippeck toughed it out with support from number 10 Hegarty who survived an over from Berg to finish on 205-8 and draw.

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