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Nicoll hails North Middlesex’s ‘unbelievable’ transformation after securing survival

PUBLISHED: 13:28 25 August 2014 | UPDATED: 13:34 25 August 2014

North Middlesex captain Tom Nicoll (centre) celebrates with team-mates. Pic: Max Flego

North Middlesex captain Tom Nicoll (centre) celebrates with team-mates. Pic: Max Flego

Max Flego Sports Photography

North Middlesex captain Tom Nicoll has hailed his side’s “unbelievable” transformation after they secured Premier Division status with a sixth win in eight games.

Connor Nurse bats for North Middlesex. Pic: Max FlegoConnor Nurse bats for North Middlesex. Pic: Max Flego

The Park Road club, promoted to the top flight last year, looked doomed to drop straight back down after failing to win any of their opening eight matches, from which they gleaned just seven points.

But a seven-run victory over championship-chasing Ealing in early July sparked an astonishing revival – and from being no-hopers, North Midd are suddenly fourth in the table.

Their latest success, a tense two-wicket win over struggling Brondesbury on Saturday, wiped away any lingering fears of relegation – but Nicoll feels the Ealing win was undoubtedly the turning point for his team.

“If you look at last season, we didn’t win for the first six games and then we won seven or eight in a row,” said Nicoll. “I think our team’s quite confidence-based.

“It takes a win to get us going, and that first one against Ealing was absolutely massive – it changes something in you. After that our batsmen started hitting a bit of form.

“To chase down 230 on a turning wicket shows how far we’ve come, I’d say, from being rolled out for under 100 quite a few times in the first half of the season.

“It’s unbelievable and I’m so proud – to secure our place in the league is quality. We know what to expect now and we can certainly push on from here.”

North Midd’s recent success has been built on a strong youth system and that was in evidence on Saturday as two of their former colts – Connor Nurse and Nicoll himself – scored half-centuries to steer their side home.

“We set up an academy about three years ago and all those boys are playing in the first, second or third teams,” said the North Midd captain. “Just this week a young lad of 14, Joe Cracknell, scored 87 from 40 balls in the 2s.

“You’ve got people in the first team like Connor, myself and my brother Will, Matt Cracknell and Nick Brand – we’ve all been playing here since we were kids.

“We really believe in that foundation of having a good colts set-up and good coaching and we’re reaping the rewards now.”

Nicoll lost the toss at Harman Drive and Brondesbury opted to bat, but they were soon in trouble as James Overy (6) fell to Joel Hughes (3-75) with 10 on the board.

Brand (2-17) then accounted for both Will Vanderspar (1) and Hugh Gimber (5) as Brondesbury slumped to 31-3, but Simon Butler led their recovery with a classy knock of 87.

Chris Blake (38) and Tom Shaw (36) both offered Butler solid support as the home side progressed to 166-4, but Hughes claimed two more wickets and Jaron Semper (2-49) finally secured the scalp of Butler.

Sam Smith struck 28 before he also fell to Semper and the Brondesbury innings eventually closed at 232-8 after 60 overs.

North Midd made steady progress in reply and, despite the losses of Michael Clements (12) and Evan Flowers (11), both to Adam Wilson (2-67), Nurse (65) and Adam Holmes (35) put on 64 for the third wicket.

Smith, who bowled tirelessly, trapped Nurse leg before, but Tom Nicoll laid into the Brondesbury attack with relish and he and Holmes took the visitors to within 60 runs of their target.

However, Smith (4-70) bowled Holmes and had Hughes (10) caught at mid-wicket and it was down to the Nicoll brothers to guide their side past the 200 mark.

Even then, there were nerves in the North Midd ranks when Fosbraey (2-41) bowled Tom Nicoll around his legs for 56 and then got rid of Charlie Yorke-Starkey (6).

Brand (4) fell to Smith with five runs still required, but Semper (4 not out) and Will Nicoll (11no) managed to scramble over the line with 11 balls to spare.

Brondesbury’s survival hopes now hang by a thread and they could use a favour from North Midd when they host neighbours Hornsey, who are also in the relegation zone, this weekend.

Nicoll hopes a derby victory could even keep his side in with an outside chance of the title, adding: “If we can get another 10 points against Hornsey, you never know, do you?

“I’ve got a lot of respect for Hornsey, I have a lot of mates who play there and I’m sure we’ll have a good game. It could be a season-changing game for them as well.”

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