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Horspath's Houdini heroes pull off amazing win

25 Jul 2022

HORSPATH retrieved what appeared to be a lost cause for the third successive week to complete the double over Thame Town in Home Counties Premier League Division 2 with an unlikely 24-run victory at Church Meadow.
After recovering from desperate situations to earn draws against Oxford Downs and Wargrave in their last two games, Horspath's Houdini heroes went one better this time by claiming maximum points.
The visitors were once again in dire straits after being inserted with their top-order batting blues continuing as they crashed to 33-5 against a swinging ball, before being bailed out by their tailenders.
Robbie Eason, promoted from the 2nd XI, has long epitomized the club's battling spirit and he started the fightback in the middle order.
However, when he had made 29 he was bowled by Thame skipper Hassam Mushtaq, and the situation still looked bleak for Horspath at 78-7, while the home side shuttled substitute fielders on after Shaz Ul Haq suffered a leg injury.
The visitors reached lunch without further loss having added 12 more runs to their total. After the resumption, Will Hawtin, who had starred with 72 in the rearguard action at Downs, again batted well with Max Smith to make 27 before being trapped lbw by Mushtaq and leave Horspath 101-8.
Lloyd Belcher had come to the side's rescue in the last two weeks with knocks of 43 and an unbeaten 48 and he once more showed the technique and temperament required to help steer the visitors towards a total which put them in the game.
He shared a stand of 60 for the ninth wicket with Smith, who made his best Home Counties score of 38 before being bowled by Jonathon Jelfs. It was to prove the top score in the match and a vital innings.
Belcher and Will Eason had put on a league club record 75 for the ninth wicket against Wargrave a week earlier, but hopes they may repeat the heroics were dashed when Eason was caught and bowled by Mushtaq to leave Horspath 166 all out off 52.3 overs.
Belcher kept up his fine form by finishing unbeaten on 33, while Mushtaq was the chief destroyer with 4-51, well supported by Faisal Ali (2-28) and Dinushka Malan (2-48).
Despite their lower order rally, Horspath's total looked below par. However, their hopes were lifted when Eason made an early breakthrough with Michael Beard adjudged lbw.
The Horspath seamer struck again with fellow opener Jelfs caught by Belcher to make it 30-2, before skipper Patrick Foster (pictured) took centre stage with three swift wickets to leave Thame in trouble at 54-5.
Belcher increased the pressure on the hosts by removing Alex Browne caught and bowled to make it 63-6, and the visitors were in the ascendency.
Six runs were added before tea without further loss, and Horspath continued to be held up by Greg Jenkins and Mushtaq after the interval, before the former fell to Imraan Manack to leave Thame 95-7.
As with Horspath, the home side's tail was proving more resilient than the top order as Mushtaq and Farid Butt took the score up to 122 when the latter was trapped lbw by Eason.
Mushtaq and Ali kept inching the home side towards their target, but with Ul Haq playing no further part in the game, it meant Horspath needed just one more wicket for victory.
And Foster provided it with a peach of a delivery, pitching on leg and hitting the top of Mushtaq's off stump after the Thame captain had top-scored with a defiant 28 to leave the hosts 142 all out.
The Horspath skipper wheeled away to celebrate in his trademark aeroplane fashion with his arms outstretched before punching the air in delight, and being joined by his jubilant teammates.
Foster finished with admirable figures of 4-33 from 15 overs, while Eason picked up 3-47 and there was a wicket apiece for Manack and Belcher.
It was a remarkable win, which sees Horspath move up to sixth place ahead of next Saturday's home game against bottom club Tring Park.