Aga’s on fire as Hampstead triumph away at North Middlesex
14:40 19 May 2014
Ragheb Aga led Hampstead to victory at North Middlesex with a crucial knock of 65 as the reigning champions picked up their first victory of the season in the Premier Division of the Middlesex County Cricket League.
After a false start the previous weekend, when rain forced most County League games to be abandoned, Hampstead got the defence of their crown up and running by beating their newly-promoted hosts.
Mubasher Hassan took 4-33 while Zak Khan clamed 2-18 to dismiss a young North Midd side for 158 at Park Road in Crouch End, and Aga then struck 65 as the visitors reached their target with three wickets in hand.
Asked to bat on a juicy wicket, North Midd lost their homegrown teenage opening pair, Connor Nurse (4) and Zulfi Azom (4), early on due to disciplined seam bowling from Khan and Aga.
Evan Flowers rode his luck for a while, surviving a series of appeals to post 26 before becoming the first of four victims claimed by young left-arm seamer Hassan, who also removed Michael Clements (3).
North Midd’s middle order failed to gain traction after a succession of promising starts – Tom Nicoll (14) and Maruf Chowdhury looked at ease before a suicidal run-out saw Chowdhury depart for a well- compiled 27.
The lower order showed considerable fight, with some explosive hitting from John Mills (17) and Nick Brand (32) adding some starch to the total before North Midd were bundled out for 158 from 54 overs.
Hampstead openers George Adair (26) and Rob Jones (8) started the chase positively with some early boundaries before Jones was caught by Flowers off debutant Joel Hughes.
The Geordie paceman and Nick Brand (2-31) applied the brakes and former Middlesex man Ben Scott was run out for 11, while Freddie Fairhead was snared lbw by Brand (2-31) and Adair was caught behind by another debutant, 17-year-old wicketkeeper Matthew Cracknell.
That left Hampstead 66-4 and, although Hassan and Aga steadied the ship and added 40 runs together, Hassan (14) fell to a diving outfield catch from Flowers off the bowling of North Midd skipper Nicoll (1-32) and the game was up for grabs.
Nicoll’s bowling continued to provide chances for the home side, but after surviving a drop at slip, the class of Aga (65) took the game away from North Midd as he became the only player in the match to post a half century.
He was eventually caught by Nicoll of the bowling of Ed Bird (2-32) but Liam Hughes (5), Charlie Cooke (16 not out) and Archie Fellowes (0no) took Hampstead across the line.
The chairman of Hampstead’s playing committee, Nick Brown, said: “We’re happy to have won, however it should have been more comfortable.
“We were very good with the ball. Ragheb and Zak took control from the start and North Middlesex were never able to get anything going.
“We’re also very pleased with the contribution we are getting from Mubasher with the ball. He has always been capable of getting wickets, but this season he has added more control and if he can continue as he has started he will get a lot more overs this season than last year, which will help up spread the bowling load.
“To lose seven wickets on a good surface chasing 160 was disappointing, we are much better than that. I liked our aggressive approach, but without Ragheb scoring 65 we may have turned what should have been a routine win into a defeat.”
North Midd captain Nicoll said: “Hampstead are a quality side and they thoroughly deserved the win, but we had our chances and there is no doubt that we can compete at that level. We are a talented young side with a lot of improvement left in the tank.”