Rain stops Herts in their tracks

Reece Hussain made his debut for Hertfordshire in the draw with Norfolk. Picture: Jamie Pluck Reece Hussain made his debut for Hertfordshire in the draw with Norfolk. Picture: Jamie Pluck

Thursday, July 10, 2014
10:02 AM

The British summer at its most capricious robbed Hertfordshire of their first three-day win of the season and Harpenden all-rounder Ben Frazer of a fairy-tale ending to his Minor Counties Championship career when a torrential downpour brought a dramatic end to the match at Harpenden on Tuesday evening.

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Herts were 92 runs short of victory with 50 minutes plus 17 overs left, and Frazer, in imperious form, was on 81 when the rain started during the tea interval on the last day. It initially stopped after 30 minutes, but just when the ground staff were removing the covers it returned with a vengeance to flood the square in minutes, leaving no option but to abandon the game as a draw.

It was a desperate shame for Herts, who were looking to bounce back after a disappointing defeat away to Staffordshire the previous week and who dominated the game throughout.

Herts made two changes to the batting line-up after the Staffordshire game, with the prolific Hertford batsman Steve Gale playing his first county game since 2010 and 18-year-old Reece Hussain making his debut. Hussain, the nephew of former England captain Nasser Hussain, has come through the Hertfordshire age-group system and is a pupil at Felsted School.

Norfolk made a flying a start after winning the toss and choosing to bat, but lost their way hopelessly against the miserly bowling of Harpenden trio Will Jones, Nick Lamb and Ben Frazer.

Jones was hugely unlucky to go wicketless, but put severe pressure on the batsmen and ended up with figures of 20-8-45-0. Lamb, getting the ball to swing beautifully, took 3-50 from 17 overs, while Frazer put in a superb marathon spell of 36 overs to return the stunning figures of 4-43.

The trio put Norfolk behind the clock and when Jamie Southgate, the Welwyn Garden City all-rounder, picked up the final two wickets, Norfolk were all out for a below-par 197 in 86 of their 90 overs.

Gale and Bishop’s Stortford opener Eddie Ballard got Herts’ reply off to a fluent start, putting on 65 in 16 overs before Gale fell for 40 (55 balls, eight fours) to bring Hussein to the crease for his debut. He played with great composure to build the foundations of a solid first-innings lead. Together with captain Nesan Jeyaratnam (26) and Frazer (43 off 58 balls) he helped Herts up to 211 before falling for a patient 59 made off 171 balls with eight fours. Importantly he had shown the ability to bat for 60 overs.

George Scott, the Potters Bar all-rounder, with 26, and Harpenden keeper Alex Spencer, with 27, took Herts up to 274-8 at the end of their 90 overs.

Norfolk’s second innings was built around a patient century from former Derbyshire and Durham batsman Gary Park, who made 109 from 257 balls in a total of 292 all out. The wickets were shared around, with Jones taking three, Southgate and Frazer two each, and Lamb, Scott and young Sawbridgeworth left-armer Ben Waring one each.

The one drawback was a leg injury to Gale, sustained while fielding at short-leg, which ruled him out of the second innings.

Chasing 216 to win, Frazer moved up to open with Ballard as Herts decided to set an aggressive tone for the chase. Ballard fell early, but Scott, also moved up the order, and Frazer played beautifully.

Frazer was in dominant form, his unbeaten 81 coming off 79 balls and including 10 fours and one effortless pick-up six. Scott was moving through the gears and had reached 43 off 75 balls with six fours when the rain came.

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