A superb century from opening batsman Peter Metcalfe laid the platform for Abbots Langley to reach their first Watford Observer Fourteen14 Shield since 1994 with a 26-run victory over Langleybury A last night.
Beaten finalists against Hemel Hemostead ten years ago, this will be Abbots’ fifth appearance in the climax to the competition. The club have yet to lift the trophy but they will hope to end that duck at Chipperfield Clarendon’s ground on Thursday, July 17 when they meet the winners of Wednesday’s second semi-final between Radlett and Watford Haidery A, who ended Watford Town A’s hopes with an eight-wicket win.
Batting first after winning the toss at Met Police Bushey’s Aldenham Road home, Abbots amassed a strong total of 181 for three off their 14, eight-ball overs.
Metcalfe was in excellent form from the outset, running well between the wickets to keep the scoreboard ticking over at a run rate of almost 13 an over and finding the boundary with frequency.
After fellow opener Ben Balmforth (3) had been dismissed with the score on 36, Metcalfe and James Davies (42) produced what was to become the pivotal partnership of the match of 67 for the second wicket.
However, the match was interrupted in unusual fashion during the fifth over when – for reasons best known to those on board – a helicopter landed next to the pitch before taking off again around 15 minutes later.
Davies looked set to reach his half-century before he was caught and bowled by Ross Channer (two for 44 off four overs). But there was to be no let up in the Abbots scoring as Barry Warner (13 not out) came in to help Metcalfe deservedly reach his ton, only to fall to the very next ball to Channer.
He finished with Bury's best figures, but none of their bowlers found it easy going with Richard Oxley proving particularly costly as he conceded 64 from his four overs.
Langley struck another blow in the first over of Bury’s reply when opener Mo Manzoor (1) was stumped by Balmforth off the bowling of skipper Matt Dunstone (three for 34 off four). That was to set the tone of what was to follow.
Fellow opener Richard Soulsby (50) and Josh Godden (18) then set about boosting their side’s hopes. Helped by a costly second over from Steve Wallis (nought for 35 off two), in which he conceded 23 including 12 extras under the competition’s four-runs-for-a-wide rule, Bury were ahead of the chase after four overs at 51 for one.
Unsurprisingly, Wallis was then replaced as Dunstone’s decision to bring on fellow spinner Nick Gurney paid rich dividends. After the skipper had produced a sharp caught and bowled to remove Godden, Gurney then accounted for Will Oxley (1) with his first delivery and went on to account for the majority of Bury’s middle and lower order as he finished with fine figures of five for 34 off four.
Richard Oxley (24 not out) did offer some late resistance as Bury at least managed to see out their full quota of overs but, by that stage, their opponents were already looking forward to the final.
Abbots could meet Haidery in the trophy showdown after they chased down Watford Town’s 151 for five for the loss of only two wickets with two overs to spare.
The one remaining Plate first round tie was also played last night after Bushey made light work of Rickmansworth, thumping them by 100 runs.
Last year’s beaten Shield finalists amassed 190 for four in their overs with openers Shahid Ashraf (41) and Michael Foley (46) setting the tone from the outset.
In reply, only two Ricky batsmen made it into double figures as they were skittled for 90.
Bushey will now meet Kings Langley in the first semi-final on Monday, while the second last-four clash takes place 24 hours later between Frogmore and Leverstock Green A.