Hemel Hempstead Town’s first XI have got their season back on track after a rocky start, with Saturday’s home victory over Dunstable giving them a second win in their past three Championship outings.
The 59-run triumph at Heath Park over fellow mid-table side Dunstable 1st XI pushed Hemel up into the top half of the standings, in fifth place.
It was their second win in three Saracens Herts Championship games, with the only loss coming against the runaway undefeated league leaders Hoddesdon, as it appears Hemel have turned the season around following two early losses.
The mood in the clubhouse has changed and spirits will be further lifted by the emergence of youngster Ed Langley coming through the ranks at first-team level.
It was a celebration day for Langley personally on Saturday after he scored his first Herts League first-team half-century with a score of 77.
Opening with Lewis Hodgins (55), Langley made the fourth new opening partnership for Hemel in their six league jaunts so far.
The score was all the more impressive as the batting conditions were tricky amid intermittent rain showers interrupting play on Saturday.
Hemel’s innings was reduced to 54 overs from a possible 65.
As is sometimes the case with these occurrences, being put in to bat by Dunstable’s skipper actually worked in Hemel’s favour as they had were able to put runs on the board first and build some pressure on the visitors.
Dunstable were allocated 40 overs to get their target of 191, while, similarly, Hemel had at least 40 overs to try to bowl them out.
The Dunstable chase was soon put on hold as Shidhu Kanade ripped out their top three batsmen.
And with the help of Parth Mehta (9-5-7-3), Dunstable were reduced to a troubling 60-5 after 24 overs with just 16 overs to go.
Number seven batsman Terry Carr was able to change the momentum when hitting 36 from 31 balls, but Hemel skipper Nick Hodgins saw him off, enticing his big-hitting to be caught by Charlie Hoskins.
Shidhu was brought back to take out two more batsmen to end with impressive figures of 12-4-35-5 for his first league five-wicket haul for the first XI since 2017.
Hemel wicketkeeper Tom Elborn took five catches behind the wicket, four off Shidhu, and skipper Hodgins’ final trump card was to give Brett Penny, unbowled so far, the penultimate over which resulted in a second-ball LBW against the last Dunstable man to give Hemel 30 points.
This Saturday they travel to seventh-placed Letchworth Garden City (won three, lost three) as Hemel aim to build a winning streak.
There was a crunching away win for Hemel’s second XI on Saturday against Harpenden III by seven wickets and with 15 overs to spare.
Hemel’s bowlers kept the hosts in check, with Ross Chapman taking 4-48 from his ten overs.
Will Hodgins (1-22) also kept it tight from his opening spell, while Matt Dale (2-16) picked up a couple of wickets at the tail.
Craig Weston was Hemel’s batting star as he smashed 89, including ten fours and five sixes. He was out when going for two more sixes to get his century, with fewer than 12 runs needed for victory.
It left Tom Waterton at the crease to hit Michael Voight for a big six to win the game.
The victory pushed Hemel up into fifth spot in Division 3B of the Saracens Herts League
They now face a tough test when entertaining leaders Potters Bar II on Saturday.
The Hemel Saturday third XI had the weekend off as their mooted opponents have now dropped out of the league.
They are sitting in third place in Division 6A of the Herts Saracens League and travel to seventh-ranked Old Cholmeleians this Saturday.
There was revenge, albeit narrowly, for Sandridge II who came up from Division 9B with Hemel IV last season and who Hemel beat both home and away last term.
Put in first on Saturday, Sandridge made 188-9 from their 45 overs, with Warren Bell top scoring with 54.
The pick of the Hemel bowlers were Dan Keene (4-34) and Vinnie Liddar (2-23), both from nine overs.
Darryl Barnett led the Hemel batting charge with 66, but after he was run-out only skipper-for-the-day Nic Benson (28 not out) could show any resolve.
After three wins to start the season, Hemel IV have now suffered three defeats in a row to slip down to third in Division 9A of the Saracens Herts League table.
They host bottom-but-one side Hertford IV on Saturday.
On Sunday, the first XI travelled to Eastcote in the Lords Chess Valley League Division Two and lost for the first time this term, going own by five wickets.
Hemel reached 266-5 after their 45 overs, but the hosts were able to chase down the total just four wickets down after 41 overs.
After three games, Hemel are in third place in the table.