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North Middlesex earn first victory after shocking title contenders Ealing

Ed Bird recorded bowling figures of 5-37 for North Middlesex. Pic: Max Flego Ed Bird recorded bowling figures of 5-37 for North Middlesex. Pic: Max Flego

Monday, July 7, 2014
3:55 PM

A deadly display of bowling from Ed Bird and Joel Hughes gave North Middlesex their first win of the season as they edged a thriller against high-flying Ealing and moved off the bottom of the Premier Division.

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Joel Hughes has taken seven wickets in the last two matches. Pic: Max FlegoJoel Hughes has taken seven wickets in the last two matches. Pic: Max Flego

North Midd appeared to be in trouble after being bowled out for 114 at their Park Road ground in Crouch End.

However, Bird took 5-37 and Hughes claimed 4-41 to skittle the title-challenging visitors for 107 – giving the hosts a much-needed victory by just seven runs.

Skipper Tom Nicoll said: “It feels great to have our first win at last, and hopefully this will give us the belief to notch up a few more in the second half of the season.

“Ed Bird bowled two great spells once he found his rhythm, and Joel Hughes was outstanding yet again. The bowlers were supported by some good catching and fielding.”

Nicoll lost the toss for the seventh time in nine games and, having been inserted on a damp wicket, North Midd’s batsmen were soon in trouble.

Michael Clements (4) departed in the first over, and his opening partner Connor Nurse (5) followed soon afterwards – the first of four wickets for Sri Lankan seamer Ishan Ratnayake (4-34).

The experienced Evan Flowers and Joe Hewton steadied the ship for a while, taking the hosts to 54-2 off 13 overs at drinks.

But Flowers fell for 25 to the first ball after the resumption – that proved to be North Midd’s top score – and worse was to follow as Nicoll (1) and Hewton (9) joined him back in the pavilion at 62-5.

Adam Holmes and Joel Hughes batted sensibly and reached 80-5 at lunch, but Ratnayake then trapped Holmes (13) lbw and Matt Cracknell – one of three teenagers in the home team – managed just one before falling to off-spinner Kristian Martin (3-13).

Nick Brand and Hughes took the score past 100 before Hughes departed, having made a dogged 19 off 79 balls – and Brand (9) followed shortly afterwards while No 11 Bird went for a duck.

That left Charlie Yorke-Starkey on eight not out as North Midd’s innings ended on 114 after 46 overs – with extras being the second top scorer with 20.

The home side’s chances of defending such a meagre total looked slim.

However, Hughes had Ollie Wilkin (0) caught behind by Hewton off only the second ball of the innings – and Bird soon dismissed brother Mylo Wilkin (5), caught by Yorke-Starkey off a full toss.

When Hughes snared Luke Stoughton lbw for 12, Ealing were rocking at 20-3, and visiting captain David Holt then retired with a groin injury, while Bird removed Huw Jones (2) and Chris Wakefield (0), leaving Ealing 33-5.

Ahmad Elech was still at the crease, though, and he and Chris Glasper put on 40 for the sixth wicket before Glasper (14) edged Hughes to Nicoll at slip.

At 73-6 the game was finely poised, with Ealing only needing another 42 to win – but they suddenly found themselves 74-7 as Martin (1) was run out, with Brand throwing the ball to the non-striker’s end, where Nicoll whipped the bails off.

Elech and the incoming Ratnayake pushed the score up to 87 before Elech (33) was bowled by Hughes – and Ratnayake and No 11 batsman Jack Sheppard then reached 100 amid mounting tension, before Sheppard (6) became Bird’s fourth victim.

With just 15 needed for victory, the injured Holt returned to the crease to bat with a runner, only for Ratnayake (12) to fall lbw to Bird as North Midd narrowly won a memorable encounter and leapfrogged Finchley in the table.

Elsewhere in the Premier Division, Hornsey were defeated away at Richmond by 40 runs.

Captain Michael Philipson took 4-19 and Ed Wharton picked up 4-39 as Richmond were skittled for 171 in 47.5 overs – but Hornsey were bowled out for 131, with James Fleming (41) the pick of their batsmen.

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