Slough bounce back but skipper still wants top order to 'come to the party'

Slough’s Naveed Akhtar

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After successive defeats to Datchet and Henley, Slough bounced back with a much-needed two-wicket success over second from bottom Oxford on Saturday, however, captain Nadeem Syed is still waiting for his top order to come to the party this season.

Having restricted Oxford to 192-10 in 63.4 overs, Slough set about a run-chase that should have been relatively routine, however, after a flurry of wickets, the hosts needed their lower order to come to the rescue once again.

The win lifts Slough to sixth in the table, above Henley and Banbury among others, but in a congested league where everyone seems capable of beating everyone else, Syed knows it could have been better had his top order found some consistent form.

Naveed Akhtar was in exceptional form with both the ball and the bat for Slough on Saturday, taking 5-40 to restrict the visitors to 192 before returning to post a much needed 38 to nudge the hosts towards victory.

Rahim Akhtar opened with an impressive 51 before falling to Harvey Jupp (4-38), and Saif Zaib added 38, but having been 109-2 at around the tea break, Slough lost their concentration afterward sand slipped to 123-6. It's been a well-worn path for Slough's batsmen this season but, on this occasion, lower order runs dug them out of trouble.

“We did need to get a win on the board to put us where we are at the moment, which is mid-table,” said Syed. “It was a positive outcome for us, and I thought we played a good game.

“We bowled very well on that track and all the bowlers did their part.

“We restricted them to a reasonable total which we knew we could chase down. Having said that, after starting well and being on 100-2, we lost our concentration after the tea break, and we lost two wickets quickly after that.

“That put us under a lot more pressure to get over the line.

“That's been the story of our season so far. The top order hasn't come to the party and the lower order have had to come to the rescue.

“But it's a positive that we've been able to close out some difficult games this season with consistent lower order contributions. We’d like to build on that but need a bit more from the top order to do that.”

Slough visit fifth placed High Wycombe on Saturday looking to make up further ground on the Division 1 front runners. They may be a newly promoted side but, with other teams also struggling for consistency, they sit just 27 points behind current leaders Aston Rowant.

“I’m pretty relaxed and content with the situation we’re in,” he said.

“The only disappointment is I feel we should have won the first game against Finchampstead, which went down to the last ball.

“I’m content but I know it’s a tough league and if we don’t concentrate, we could get into difficult situations.

“We’ve got High Wycombe next. All the teams are there or there abouts with a clutch of teams separated by less than 20 points. Aston Rowant are clear at the top, but every other team has less than 100 points. It’s a good group of teams together and the next three or four weeks will tell us a lot.”

Slough were due to play their second Julian Cup match against Cookham Dean on Tuesday, having lost their opening group game against Stoke Green.

Reflecting on Slough's return to the competition after a lengthy absence, Syed said: “It’s a prestigious cup, but it is also a good opportunity for players to play their way into form ahead of the league matches.

“Sometimes nets practice isn’t enough. It’s a chance for us to play good cricket against good teams and it prepares us well for other challenges.”

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