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North Middlesex remain winless but captain is heartened by performance against Richmond

17:21 09 June 2014

Joel Hughes bowls for North Middlesex

Joel Hughes bowls for North Middlesex

Max Flego Sports Photography

North Middlesex’s quest for a first win of the Middlesex County League season goes on after they dominated their Premier Division game against Richmond but had to settle for a four-point draw.

A century stand between Connor Nurse and Andy Balbirnie underpinned North Midd’s total of 215-5 at Park Road, and their seam attack then put paid to the visitors’ hopes of challenging that target.

Richmond eventually decided to block out for a single point at 143-7 and, although the Premier Division newcomers remain at the foot of the table, captain Tom Nicoll was encouraged by their display.

“This was a much improved performance by the Midd and puts us in good heart for the crucial matches to come,” said Nicoll.

“It was great to see Andy Balbirnie and Connor Nurse batting so well together, and our seamers again showed how effective they can be, taking seven top wickets in just 40 overs.”

With the match reduced to 85 overs following an earlier downpour, North Midd lost the toss and were put in to bat, but Nurse and Balbirnie kept the scoreboard ticking over.

The pair reached 92 at the drinks interval, with Nurse (65) in particular unleashing some powerful shots, and Balbirnie (58) also passed his second successive half-century for the club.

The partnership eventually reached 119 – comfortably North Middlesex’s best of the season so far – before Balbirnie was caught at mid-on, and Nurse followed at 144-2.

Evan Flowers, Michael Clements and John Mills all departed in rapid succession and it needed a brisk knock of 41 not out from Nicoll, which included three huge sixes, to set up a declaration at the end of the 45th over.

Richmond’s run chase soon foundered as Joel Hughes (4-44) and Ed Bird (1-21) bowled with pace and hostility, extracting plenty of life from the pitch, and reducing the visitors to 18-3.

Wicketkeeper Joe Hewton took catches to remove Andrew Plummer (2), David Burton (5) and Andrew Lowe (0), but Middlesex youngster Ryan Higgins led the fightback with a classy knock of 42.

Although Higgins was eventually run out by an excellent throw from Nurse, Joe Smith (46) and Hugo Shephard (18) put on 55 for the fifth wicket to raise Richmond’s hopes of reaching their four-point target.

Seamer Maruf Chowdhury (1-31) broke the stand, dismissing Shephard leg before, and he and Hughes slowed the run rate, with Alex Arvanitis (5) falling to a superb diving catch from Nurse.

Hughes accounted for the dangerous Smith with a return catch, but North Midd were unable to dislodge Jack Porter (5no) and Tom Hemingway (4no), who held on to see their side to safety.

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